Review Summary: Bringing home the bacon: All That Remains rebounds!
All That Remains have made a rebound. Gone is the shaky track record that spanned over a half-decade, beginning with 2012’s A War You Cannot Win,
as they have created their most proficient record since 2010’s For We Are Many.
The near-complete return to the sound that defined The Fall of Ideals
and This Darkened Heart
is a welcome departure from the style of largely-underwhelming Madness,
which was brought down mostly by its sterile production, abuse of “electronic enhancements,” and frivolous flirtations with neo-country music at its worst. Whatever your opinion on the band’s misfires over the past half-decade is, you can be rest assured that Victim of the New Disease
is easily their best release in years. While most of the content here isn’t new territory for the band, the music feels far more fresh when compared to the dime-a-dozen djent wannabes in the modern metal scene.
The guitarwork from late lead guitarist Oli Herbert is some of the most skilled in his career, which was tragically cut short a few weeks ago. The solo in “Alone In the Darkness” is one instance in which his ingenious leads shone; its subtle approach gives off a sense of brevity, yet it defies expectations by lasting a while longer. Herbert had a knack for emotional melodies and loved the atmosphere that clean guitar passages can create, as presented in the ambience between “Wasteland” and “Alone In the Darkness,” as well as the first 40 seconds of “Everything’s Wrong.” The level of creativity on display rivals that of The Fall of Ideals,
despite not being as steadily energetic. Its entire vibe bleeds darkness; among other notable tracks, the aura created in “I Meant What I Said” proves it, with its song structure going from one style to another seamlessly. The back-to-basics strategy All That Remains have implemented works to its benefit; this is easily the most inspired Labonte and co. has sounded in a very
Phil Labonte’s vocals have never been technically amazing; while his screams have matured and become more robust with age, his clean vocals have often been a key point of critique, which was proven on Madness;
autotune and other effects obviously marred his performance. The production here has been stripped back to a level similar to For We Are Many,
sounding more organic than in recent memory; this style supplements his moodier takes on “Everything’s Wrong” and the chorus of “Broken” and allows his ruthless screams to dominate tracks like “Blood I Spill”, “Misery In Me”, and the title track. Ballad “Just Tell Me Something” features Asking Alexandria vocalist Danny Worsnop and creates almost a duet-like dynamic between Worsnop and Labonte. As amazing as the heavier tracks are, their duet with Worsnop is easily a standout moment; it shows a stark similarity to “What If I Was Nothing” from 2012’s A War You Cannot Win
and manages to best it in nearly every way.
If you couldn’t tell from the song titles, the lyrics primarily center around the emotional turmoil after a difficult breakup; in particular, singer Phil Labonte’s 2017 divorce. As a result, the album is filled to the brim with a deep sense of catharsis; after all, the album title itself seems to make the implication that unrequited love is the “new disease.” As has been proven in the past, and if that isn’t totally obvious already, All That Remains excels when they apply their maximum potential. Ofttimes, that excellence will reveal itself when tension is high. Juvenile as a hook like “Fuck love / It only goes away / There's no god damn good in this goodbye you made me say / Don’t love ever again” may be, its sincerity discerns it from other recent attempts. “Fuck Love” is All That Remains at their most dramatic; what follows is more restrained. “Everything’s Wrong,” “Just Tell Me Something,” and “Alone In the Darkness” step away from the complete vitriol expressed on the album's opener; other ragers like “Wasteland”, “Blood I Spill”, and “Misery In Me” still retain a more rational ethos. Labonte has never been much of a poet though, so be sure to expect some cheese with that brutally honest whine.
There still remains room for growth on a purely sonic level; however, comparing this to Madness
is like contrasting a frozen, three-week-old tenderloin to a freshly-cooked filet. The music behind cleanly-sung “Everything’s Wrong” and the chorus of “Wasteland” could have been remixed with a more powerful tone; perhaps the producers could have taken notes from the Adam D playbook. On their predecessor, drummer Jason Costa’s lines sounded painfully artificial, especially on lead single “Safe House”; here, the drum mix is at a slight imbalance despite sounding more authentic, making it difficult to accurately tab out drums for numbers like “Fuck Love”. Alas, the production is secondary, as the music itself is incredible. As a fan who started with A War You Cannot Win,
fell off the train when The Order of Things
released, and was further repelled by Madness,
sometimes I wonder if my relative inexperience with the band has made me not trustworthy enough to say anything. However, All That Remains has officially won me back, dropping what will easily be considered one of the strongest releases of their career. Oli would be proud.
Rest In Peace, Oli Herbert. 1974-2018
Highlights: “Everything’s Wrong”, “Wasteland”, “Alone In the Darkness”, “Just Tell Me Something”, “I Meant What I Said”.