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The Tokyo Showdown

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Average Rating
★★★½☆
(18 Reviews)

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  • I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for a while, but a recent overinduglence in live albums and a slightly limited budget kind of hindered my progress for a while. However, after a bit of time, the In Flames bug began biting again, and I realized it was time to and reacquaint myself with some quality melodic metal. Soon after, a copy of Tokyo Showdown was in my hand and I eagerly awaited my trip home to prepare myself for a thrilling and dynamic live performance…To my surprise, that performance never exactly came, at least not the one I was expecting. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled in the past by all the excellent live releases I’d picked up by Dream Theater, Iced Earth, etc., but after careful scrutinizing I’ve come to find this album overall pretty darn average, which is a real shame because I’ve never needed to say that about an In Flames release before, and I was really hoping the day would never come. In Flames is a special band, and for me (and most of their fans) their albums meet special requirements, and an album of merely average quality is simply not acceptable. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised In Flames would even release a live disc which so blatantly reeks of poor production and shoddy development.I guess for starters I’ll try to cover the pros (or pro, really). For one thing, with a few personal preferences aside, the set list is excellent; In Flames certainly know what their most powerful songs are, and they know what people want to hear. There is a bit too much of an emphasis on the last 2 albums over their previous material, but these albums were awesome anyway, (not to mention this IS the Clayman tour; a multitude of songs from that album is to be expected) so it shouldn’t be too much of a complaint. Most In Flames fans should be reasonably satisfied here.Now, to move on to the album’s overwhelming flaw: the horrible production. I’m not really sure where the root of this problem came from, the sound quality of the band’s equipment at the concert, the quality of the recorder used, or the mixing finesse in the studio, but this album sincerely lacks the punch and power of a quality recording job. I am of the opinion that In Flames were having some problems during the actual show, as each song has it’s own specific problems. The lead guitar drowns out the rhythm immensely in certain songs, and vice versa in others. Anders Friden’s vocals are positively buried under the playing of the band the majority of the time, and certain harmonies are barely audible. Perhaps all this could be forgiven if the band had come out and played a blistering performance and won over the crowd, but even that isn’t the case here. Some of the band’s best solos and harmonies are chopped in half on certain songs, or heavily shortened for no apparent reason, there is abolsutely no improvising or any signs of instrumental creativity present, and certain sections of songs are removed entirely. Many fans may be shocked to know that the compelling and captivating acoustic melody at the beginning of Moonshield is completely gone, as is the electric and acoustic guitar interplay towards the middle of Gyroscope. These changes are uncalled for and incredibly disappointing. One reviewer stated that Anders Friden is as cold as ice interacting with the crowd, and I couldn’t agree more. Although I’m sure his mastery of English is obviously far from complete, we easily find ourselves 3-4 tracks in to the cd before he even says a WORD to the audience, and that’s just unacceptable.Speaking of the audience, they hardly show any enthusiasm to the band at all, a half-hearted cheer at the beginning and end of a song is all you hear, and not a peep from them is heard during a single song. You’d think they got lost on their way to an arts and crafts fair and wound up here by mistake. In fact, I’m starting to even wonder if this was an actual concert at all, or the sound of an audience cheering was added to the beginning and end of every song.I know there is some harsh criticism here, but I feel it’s necessary to any In Flames fans who have come to expect the same level of quality from their music as I have. I hold the band on a high pedastal, which up until now has not been shaken. The whole album is just so poorly produced and most likely rushed it’ll make you wonder if In Flames even oversaw it’s development in the first place. If you, like me, are searching for a quality In Flames performance, see them live for yourself instead when they come near your area. The show I attended contained far more energy and showmanship than anything heard on this album, and for right now it’s the best way to see what In Flames are capable of. As for this album, I’m giving it 3 stars, and I think even that’s generous; if it were any other band I wouldn’t be anywhere near as merciful. Buy one of their studio releases instead.

    Posted on December 15, 2009