Review Summary: Big disappointment. Buy only if you're a complete fanboy, as this is one of the biggest let-downs of the year.
As far as metalcore goes, All That Remains is certainly one of my favourite bands. With The Fall Of Ideals, they even came close to obvious competitors Shadows Fall, songs such as "Six" and "This Calling" being easily among the best they had ever created. They were on top of the underground metal scene, and even some of my incredibly mainstream orientated friends had begun to listen to them without my recommendation. But where to go from there?
All That Remains are mostly noticable for two things- Phil Labonte's high pitched screams and (in The Fall Of Ideals) for having one of the best drummers in metalcore, possible in metal full stop. In my mind, Phil's typical mid pitch screams only ever sounded decent at best, but at least they never sounded strained, and his clean vocals were at least decently emotional, if not perfect. A good way to describe his vocals is typical clean metalcore, but with a fantasticly high scream and a decent mid range growl. At least, it was- Everything about him seems to have gone downhill here, especially the high pitched scream, which is always mixed very low thanks to the fact that it sounds incredibly strained. His attempts at growling are now going lower, which to some fans may seem like a blessing until they actually here them. Everything about them sounds fake and forced, and while I've never been a great fan of growling, I can still appreciate good death metal vocals. None of that is to be found here. His clean singing has also lost almost all the emotion it used to have, though he can now hit higher notes, it is far overused, every single song containing his singing, and nearly every time sounding fake. The songs on the album are extremely vocal-centric as well, which doesn't help at all. Most of them follow the same pattern of Phil's clean voice being layered several times with some screaming or growling in the background to help power up the low mixing, then the same in the chorus, with the occasional song being driven by death growls. It's hard to decide which is worse... On the one hand, "Before the Damned" is mostly growling, and is one of the album's worst, but "Undone" is equally bad, being mostly clean vocal driven. The production on his voice doesn't help either, and they even resort to using the dreaded distant singing bridge in a few songs. All their talent for breakdowns has now disappeared, and the voice has lots to do with that.
The guitars are simple, revolving almost without exception around dull, cliched bottom string, not-even-worthy-of-the-title-of-chugging riffs and basic harmonising. The same tone is used for every song and every solo, making potentially decent songs such as the part-acoustic "A Song For The Hopeless" much less touching when they decide to throw some supposedly emotional solos into the mix. "Believe In Nothing", the album's compulsary ballad, is ruined by yet more unemotional soloing despite parts of actually good singing from Labonte. Everything on this album has been done before, and many times at that. Generic distorted riffs are the name of the game, and overused harmonies fail to even come close to saving the bands' most uninspired performance yet. The bass, while audible, only seems to follow the guitars, and doesn't even merit two sentences written about it. The one thing I can't fault about the album is, obviously, the drumming. The double bass is hit a few too many times, but boy is it well done! The drumming actually acts as the album's hook nearly all the way through, and is really the only reason I'm still writing this review. If only the rest of the band could reach the level of the drums, this album would be somewhere near a 5 star. Suffice to say, they don't, and the drummer is left sounding like he is on a completely different world to his bandmates.
The album has perhaps two gems hidden beneath the poorly written, generic, repetitive and incredibly similar songs which the album consists of. "Two Weeks" begins with a riff that makes you think the album may have just hit a false start with "Before The Damned", the layered vocals in the verse acting as interesting rather than annoying and a genuinely emotional and catchy chorus courtesy of Labonte. The guitars in the bridge fail to impress, however, and make me want to skip to the next song, but since there's nothing more worthwhile to see in the next, I'm forced to stay with this one. The distant vocals nearly destroy the bridge completely, but they are, luckily, only a brief annoyance, and a final chorus definitely makes this a good, if not great song. The other gem is "Chiron", which features the best riff on the album, an interesting experiment with harmonisation. Everything about this song is great, from the fantastic drumming and the average-yet-impossible-to-hate bass to Labonte's best scream of the album. A beautiful acoustic passage is even added in for effect, leading into the album's best (and only decent) breakdown and solo. The voice is definitely on tip-top form here, apart from the brief distant vocals at the end of the bridge. It's a shame that the rest of the album is so similar to it, since it doesn't stand out so much as do everything the rest of the album fails to do well.
On a final note, the production is far too polished with the new producer. Labonte's voice is over-layered far too many times, and the exact same (poor) tone of the guitars makes me want to bite someone's head off! This is a massive step down from their previous success of The Fall Of Ideals- Only buy if you're a MASSIVE fan.
This was probably a really poor review. I've been a little lazy recently, so it'd be no surprise if this isn't that good of a review. Hope I got my point across, though. It's much shorter than all my other reviews, probably because I didn't have much to say apart from 'it's crap'.This Message Edited On 09.20.08
I just find that the whole album only jumps out at me once in the whole thing, and that's the chorus of Two Weeks. The rest of it just bores me loads, which is a real shame, since I really liked their other albums (I only got This Darkened Heart a few days ago, and got BSAS and this yesterday because they were really cheap in one of the CD shops in town). I've listened to every one of their albums at least several times, and this is the only one I dislike at all, really.
I like your review. I think I like the album slightly more than you do, and although I agree with the staff rating more, your review is a far better explanation of your rating. And it seems that you actually understand what overproduced music is....whereas the staff reviewer actually thinks that The Fall of Ideals had more overproduced vocals...
The vocals on this album are too layered, too overproduced, have too much chorus/reverb...and worst of all, too much producer intervention. Anyone who has seen them live (seen them 3 times) can tell that the previous albums lack the vocal production because his voice sounds nearly identical without effects and major reverb being used in their live show...I'll be interested to see how they compare to the new songs in concert and how obvious it is that effects are being used.
Aside from a few minor nuances in your review, this seems to continue the trend of user reviews being far better than their staff counterparts...and I say this after admitting that I don't even completely agree with your rating.This Message Edited On 09.21.08This Message Edited On 09.21.08This Message Edited On 09.21.08
Thanks for all the great comments I'm probably just very bitter about this album because I nearly broke my CD player in despair when I first heard Before The Damned thanks to Phil's growling. I can still slightly enjoy this album, but TDH and TFOI are two of my all time favourite (in a loose sense, they're no where near classics, but two of the albums I ENJOY the most) albums, really, so I'm probably judging this a bit harshly.
It's great that my reviews are getting good feedback, I thought I would just use this site for commenting and reading, but I saw a fairly empty gap in the Eminem section, and I got really into writing reviews from there. I do know that my reviews are almost the opposite of concise, and I hoped this was an improvement (apparently it was ).This Message Edited On 09.21.08
Weird, I just read your soundoff for that album*Duh Duh Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh*. Ummm thats hard to say since I have't listened to Shogun yet. I've had this sitting on my itunes for a couple of days now and I'm finding it really difficult to get through even two songs at a time. Pretty generic stuff and I see no room for potential or even growth on this disc. Its like they're painting themselves into a corner.
nah, Paulo and Corey are great, Travis and Matt are just decent though. And the band as a whole needs to learn how to write their own music, or just improve on the Ascendancy formula, that might be good cuz that was a pretty solid album n all and obviously the Metallica formula isnt working. How has everyone heard the Trivium album already anyways, I couldnt find it using that stuff sputnik does not condone. =/