All that Remains goes to ‘War’ on sixth album
Along with Killswitch Engage, All That Remains has been one of Massachusetts’s metal titans for a decade. The band’s sixth release, A War You Cannot Win, attempts to incorporate elements of the revolutionary metalcore performed on the group’s sophomore and junior efforts with the more radio-friendly sound exemplified on recent releases. By striving to stretch its sound to satisfy fans of both styles, ATR’s latest work fails to obtain the level of depth that initially won the band so much attention.
Coming out on Election Day, much of the band’s latest album addresses themes of freedom and solidarity — quite understandably so, considering vocalist Phil Labonte’s outspoken belief in the right to bear arms. Labonte expresses these themes creatively: For instance, in “A Call to All Non-Believers,” he accentuates the beginning of lines in the verses by growling command verbs such as “fabricate,” “calculate” and “subjugate,” giving the passages a dark, revolutionary intensity.
Oddly enough, growls dominate the album’s harsh vocals, with Labonte’s screams seldom surfacing for even a syllable. The choral lines of “Down Through the Ages” similarly harp on struggle with Labonte singing, “It’s come down through the ages / Don’t let it fall away.” Although these and other choruses fail to conjure up the fury of emotion of past albums, the occasional auto-tuning of Phil’s singing is more evident and almost offensive considering the soaring cleans on previous releases.
Labonte’s lyrics on tracks that diverge from the album’s major themes to focus instead on romance come across as dry and lifeless. He sings: “What if I was nothing? What if this is true? / What if I was nothing, girl, nothing without you?” on the ballad “What If I Was Nothing?” Shoving songs containing phrases such as these between ones about struggles for independence can confuse listeners who expect either one solid theme from an album or a different one in every song.
Though the instruments complementing Labonte provide a fair share of tonal diversity, they are similarly restrained by ATR’s goal of broadening its audience. Mike Martin introduces innovative riffs in songs such as “You Can’t Fill My Shadow” but does not achieve the melodic complexity of 2004’s This Darkened Heart; his playing is more reminiscent of later albums.
Although Shannon Lucas’ drumming effort in The Fall of Ideals remains unparalleled, drummer Jason Costa is certainly capable of the frequent tempo changes the latest album’s heavier tracks demand. Similarly, bass guitarist Jeanne Sagan contributes to the metalcore feel of tracks such as “A Call to All Non-Believers” and “Sing for Liberty” but takes a backseat role to the guitars in softer tracks such as “Asking Too Much.” Oli Herbert is perhaps the most improved in the instrumental department, bringing a sedate guitar solo to “Down Through the Ages” while asserting his familiar, triumphant tone on solos such as the one in “Just Moments In Time.”
Although five of ATR’s six albums have been produced by Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage’s lead guitarist), the band’s sound has changed with each release. Perhaps with A War You Cannot Win, the group is trying to find a balance, or perhaps they are simply trying something new; either way, they remain unable to match the levels of passion marked by their 2004 and 2006 releases.