Review Summary: One Thing Remains is a terrific mainstream-rock gem from the past decade.
Default is unfairly referred to as being an alternate version of Nickelback. They're a lot better than that and I think this album proves it.
I mentioned in my "Foo Fighters - Wasting Light" review that I'm a fan of simplicity. If anything, one of the things that I love so much about this album is that it's so consistent with it's brand of simplicity. A track like "Get Out Of This Alive" is as heavy and aggressive as it needs to be and never goes overboard with either one. A big problem with their past two albums was that they were never consistent with the overall flow of the album and only survived on some strong tracks ("Wasting My Time", "Who Followed Who"", etc.). Then again, a couple of strong tracks don't make a good album when the rest feels like filler.
"All Is Forgiven" is a track that I once couldn't get past listening to because it's just so damn catchy. Thankfully, I decided to listen to the album itself, in it's entirety, for the very first time ever and it really clicked. Once the third track rolls in, it is Default at their best. In "It Only Hurts", for example, it feels like there's a lot at stake in the lyrics sung and you're completely invested in it because of the rising choruses and atmospheric instrumentals which adds to the overall confidence that the band must have to make some of this material work. The instrumentals are incredibly effective in songs, such as "Beautiful Flower", because when you have lyrics that are potentially cheesy on paper, "My beautiful flower / You got the power", it really helps to have something to connect to and every department has their moment in the sunlight.
Even "Count On Me", which was produced by Chad Kroeger, feels sincere when it could have been throwaway radio-singles for bands like Daughtry, Hinder, Seether and/or Nickelback.
The song does get extremely motivational with it's lyrics, like the bands above have all tried to pull off (either to success or failure), "You know that life ain't over yet / I'm here for you so don't forget / That you can count on me to carry you till you carry on", but lead vocalist Dallas Smith pulls it off successfully with his unique voice: which sounds both rough, yet sympathetic in his delivery. Even at some points in the album where it does not completely work out for the better, the band pull through. For instance, the second track, "I Can't Win", is relentless with it's instrumentals, until it reaches a climax which allows Dallas to take a breather and give pleasant expectations for the following tracks. Still, the track adds diversity to the album and shows that the man can most certainly handle some of the more aggressive tracks (another example being the title track).
The album itself is wholly made of catchy, yet simple, beats and doesn't get fancy. It feels comfortable where it sits in it's genre and it succeeds with that. The best example I can use for that is the final track, "Found My Way Out", which tugs heartstrings as soon as the chorus arrives: "It's hard to forget where or who we are / And I can't find where we were / You know you're dragging me down / One day I won't be around / Who will follow you now / If I could I would / Find my way out". The song is easily the best on the CD and offers perfect closer an welcome repeats. Even throwaway lines like "I'll take black or white over grey" leave an impact because of the band's faith in what they know they can achieve. The song packs a powerful punch that speaks for the rest of the album.
If you look at Default as being yet another less-popular version of Nickelback... when you look at their past two albums (The Fallout and Elocation), you're right. However, it's time to move on. One Thing Remains is a record that simply rocks. The tracks don't vary too often, but there's enough diversity to keep a fan of the rock genre satisfied. While this may be the best that the band gets to do, at least we're left with something special.
Thank you, Default.