on November 6, 2012
Two years have passed since For We Are Many graced metalhead Ipods everywhere. Most agreed the album was a step in the right direction away from 2008's "Overcome." For We Are Many possessed DNA and residues from acclaimed - Fall Of Ideals -- with interesting twists. A War You Cannot Win showcases technical riffs, anthemic chords, and great solos. However, all the sharp tunings cant revive it from repetition. A War You Cannot Win falters on ingenuity - you've heard this album before.
I praised FWAM in 2010; you can find my review of it in my profile. A War You Cannot Win doesn't push forward nor captivates. My main focus - Adam D. I don't discredit his ability to produce technical albums. In the past, he's produced groundbreaking records. But where ATR sees it as "tradition," or "comfortable," only impedes their growth. They needed to depart from Adam and get someone with fresh eyes and ears. Consider As I Lay Dying's decision to get a new producer (Stevenson) - "Awakened" -- kicks and stomps through mud and unsheathes a scathing assault on the senses. The album hoists AILD's sound to a new level while remaining close to their routes. With Adam, ATR knows the environment and the process. Even though Adam is meticulous and calculated; it doesn't pay off this time. An outsider could look in. The best critiques come from those beyond the common norm.
Phil sounds great - undoubtedly. He has a powerful voice and a brilliant range. But more so on this record, his lyrics seem to stem from the likes of an angry teenager. Some of these songs would sound better if the lyrics were completely different (You Can't Fill My Shadow). If you speak of relationships, make it feel "desperate." The best vocalists are ones whose vocals transcend lyrics - not the case here. It just seems they said, "Ok, Phil scream the stanza, then sing the chorus. Check. Done."
Out of the entire record, I enjoy listening to about three songs. But to quote my friend, an avid believer in ATR - "It's not even like I want to like the album, it's just that it's impossible to listen to." It couldn't be more valid for AWYCW. All That Remains has the ability/capability and skills to create dynamic sound. In fact, they should carry the torch. The album just doesn't "dare" to do anything. It doesn't push you to razor's edge, and leave you in suspense. Things just happen, repeat, and end. Most songs repeat the same pattern over and over again, leaving your with this cluttered sensation ("Didn't I just hear that?").
Out of all my gripes, this by far irritates me the most -- Layering. I've always had faith in ATR to make another song like "Weak Willed." I got a taste of it with "Dead Wrong;" Phil's low range gave me chills. His voice can descend to levels, untamed by most - so why not use it? In AWYCW, there are times when you can hear his deep lows, but for some reason, they thought it be necessary to mask it with singing (Sing For Liberty, You Can't Fill My Shadow, A Call To None Believers, A War You Cannot Win). I believe that ATR didn't want to take the risk and create some deep, heavy, vocals and abandon the layering. They are trying to appeal to too many people. Just make it heavy, that's what we want.
I await the day when I hear a song that tops "This Darkened Heart" or "Weak Willed." ATR is by far the best band to keep metal alive by engineering some resonating scathing music. AWYCW has some interesting guitar riffs, and great solos - but it falls apart in the end like an ending to a found footage film. It brings the level enjoyment down because you know as a fan, what they are capable of. AWYCW is the b-side to FWAM. Although there is a theme, it doesn't hold your interest for long. There still is no better closer than "Indictment." They rehashed "Waiting One" with another oddly placed ballad. The album is confused and I wonder, "How could they think this is ready for release?"
Back in the summer, when first I heard "Down Through the Ages" I kept my reserve. Then "Stand Up" dropped and I was underwhelmed. "You Can't Fill My Shadow" hit and I knew before the album came out, I was in for no surprises. I am an avid believer in ATR, and the sound they CAN make. This album doesn't epitomize their legacy - nor breaks new ground. "This Darkened Heart" still ranks high at the top along with "FWAM, FOI, and overcome." AWYCW is worth a listen to any ATR fan. But you may find yourself in an odd predicament of "Man ATR, I've seen you live and I know you're better than this." I don't disparage them for their technicalities, just ingenuity. It's a war you can manage.
on November 14, 2012
I loved The Fall of Ideals. It's probably one of my favorite albums of all time as it was one of those rare albums where every single track is good... I never skipped a thing. When Overcome released I was a little torn as it seemed they went a little softer to be more radio friendly, but there were still some very good tracks there. It just wasn't the perfect album that TFOI was.
After Overcome came For We Are Many, and even though it sounded like they were TRYING to be a little heavier it just wasn't working anymore. Nothing struck me as well thought out and not a single song was memorable. A War You Cannot Win sounds like a white flag being waved in the camp of ATR. They've given up... they're done. What a mindless waste of such talent.
on November 26, 2012
All That Remains began their career as a Metalcore band known for fusing elements of Hardcore music with Melodic Death Metal. Blazing riffs, incredible drumming, harmonics, solos, sweeps, and powerful vocals that moved the listener with every passing second. Starting off with their debut album "Behind Silence and Solitude", the band dipped their toes into the beginning of what be an excellent next set of years ahead of them. Following up their debut album, the band released my personal favorite All That Remains' album, "This Darkened Heart".
With this second release, the band began to expand upon the original sound they had created on the previous record, adding more depth and dimension to their overall sound. This album displayed the band's first venture into the addition of clean vocals, and the mix was done perfectly, blending greatly with the sound the band had created. The addition of clean vocals showed that the band could make hard and heavy music, yet retain melody and hooks at the same time without compromising aggression. The band followed up "This Darkened Heart" with their most critically acclaimed album, "The Fall Of Ideals". Once again, the band continued to mesh aggression with melody, creating a perfect blend that set All That Remains apart from their peers who either relied solely on harsh vocals (example: Parkway Drive) or relied more on clean vocals (example: Bullet For My Valentine). Instead, All That Remains had a unique style that drew listeners in for the perfect mixture of the two sounds.
Fast forward a few years and the band had begun to dip into the wrong end of the sound spectrum, leaning and catering more towards a softer overall sound and style. "Overcome" did not bring the same level of aggression and heavy metal onslaught that fans had come to expect from the band after listening to the prior two releases. "Overcome" took the bands balance of 80% harsh vocals and 20% clean vocals and had made everything almost 50/50. This trend was actually slightly corrected on the follow up album "For We Are Many". "For We Are Many" contained a much better balance of sound (although still leaning towards a more "radio friendly" sound), the album saw a return of classic All That Remains traits such as low grunts, and just more of an overall presence of harsh vocals all around. It was a small step in the right direction.
"A War You Cannot Win" was a complete 180 degree turn from the small steps the band had made in "For We Are Many". The latest All That Remains album sounds like a mixture between All That Remains and a really bad Evans Blue or Breaking Benjamin rip-off (who are actually two of my favorite alternative bands of all time). Abandoning any trace of identity the band already had, "A War You Cannot Win" is like someone's identical twin getting a sex change in order to try to differentiate themselves from their identity, in a sense, All That Remains now has a major identity crisis. Wanting to get more radio play, the band's new style consists of roughly 80% clean vocals and 20% harsh vocals, the complete opposite of what the first three albums in their discography sound like.
There's nothing wrong with doing clean vocals, if you do them properly and it fits with the remainder of the content being presented. Bands like Evans Blue have made a living out of making amazingly smooth tracks within the alternative genre. However, All That Remains struggles to find themselves a good footing in the alternative style, and instead it just sounds more forced and fake than anything else. Hints and traces of autotune are present, especially on the track "Asking Too Much" where there are several sections of the track where you have to sit and ask yourself, "Is that really Phil Labonte? It sounds nothing like him!" and not in a good way either.
The lyrics on this album can also be a bit too much to handle at times. Phil Labonte has written tracks about relationships and love in the past, "Tattered On My Sleeve", and "Not Alone" are great examples of previously recorded tracks where All That Remains managed to write love songs yet retain aggression and heaviness. On this album, the listener feels like they're being exposed to a boy band meets metal band mixture. Trying to count the amount of times Phil says the words "love" or "girl" on this album is a daunting task and it just doesn't feel like "All That Remains". Basically, what little was left of All That Remains has been put on life support.
The entire album is a disaster, there are several tracks worth listening to if you're as diehard of an All That Remains fan as I am. Stand out tracks include "Down Through the Ages", "You Can't Fill My Shadow", "A Call to All Non-Believers", and "Just Moments In Time". These tracks give some hope to fans that a small piece of the band is still alive within the mainstream induced coma the group has slipped into recently. All four tracks bring forth a more well rounded mixture of heaviness and melody, similar to what the band had done in the past. However, since tracks like this are few and far between on "A War You Cannot Win", the album doesn't flow properly, doesn't have a true sense of direction, and feels misguided and rushed in an attempt to garner more mainstream audience approval.
on November 7, 2012
After listening to this album I feel like ATR is trying to please too many people. I really really wanted this album to be great, after Stand up came out I was very unimpressed It seemed to be lacking any true mark of ATR.
I did enjoy the Vocals to an extent, most of it unfortunately seemed like they were going threw the motions, or watering down the content for a wider audience. I found myself zoning out many times threw out the songs at points they all seemed like the same song to me. I wish that they would not have overlapped the singing and Phils voice in several of the songs, what a travesty.
I felt like the album was more of an extension of Overcome to try and reach a wider audience, there are still parts that give me goose bumps, but they are few and far between.
The instruments felt somehow weak and just not up to snuff for an ATR album. There are a few songs with excellent instruments in them, overall though I did not feel the passion that was in it in the first couple of albums.
Overall it felt watered down and very disappointing for me.
on November 6, 2012
Sometimes bands take positive feedback from the wrong sources. In this case, ATR has taken signals from their increased airplay on radio rock. To the music's detriment.
On AWYCW, Phil's presence is greatly increased and Oli's is greatly decreased. Much more singing, much less power metal, more political lyrics, far fewer standout melodies, more barking, but less heaviness.
ATR has had substandard tracks in all of their major releases. This is an entire album of them. Each track tries almost to be a power ballad in some way. I know that's been metalcore's weakness, but it is indulged to the extreme here. It's the clearest critique I can provide of AWYCW -- that and it's just plain boring.
Some bands care about success more than metal. They don't last long. ATR is on the path to neither.
on March 14, 2013
I really stand corrected when I said this album was OK in my original review for this album. Because that's really not the case. This album is just TERRIBLE. Phillip LaBonte's screaming is WAY TOO annoying. On every track that is supposed to be "heavy", he lets out a very throaty high-pitched scream that instantly bothers me. Especially on A CALL TO ALL NON BELIEVERS which has a horrible message and the most trite lyrics of the album. At least three of the songs end without a third chorus, and just end with a bunch of nonsense before leaving the rest of the song hanging. If you're really wanting to do this stunt well, at least make it seem like the song is complete. Don't just leave it hanging like that! The only two tracks that are what ALL THAT REMAINS should be doing are STAND UP and NOT FADING, and now after talking about this album's flaws, those songs are becoming stale. I really did not think that ALL THAT REMAINS could stoop this low after making three excellent albums in a row. Please, ATR, if you ever come across this review, go back to making good songs such as KEEPERS OF FELLOW GREED, BEFORE THE DAMNED, and THE WEAK WILLED and never make another album with this revolting, horrendous garbage on it.
Rating: 0 stars/5 stars
on November 28, 2012
I was a huge ATR fan during the Darkened Heart and Fall of Ideals days and then I'm not sure what happened. To me, Overcome was a departure from their stronger sound in past releases, but i figured it was a commercial phase and it would pass. I even liked most of the songs on that album, but it didn't seem like a step forward after such a solid release with Ideals. Then For we The Many came out and it just felt....unoriginal and stale. I felt like a band with this much talent should be expanding technically and they just weren't. I barely gave it a listen past 2 or 3 times. So, now I had my hopes in the fact that they'd put out something solid. As I Lay Dying just put out a killer album as well as many of their peers so i figured it would fire them up and.....it didn't. Seems like the same stale, predictable commercial metalcore sound. Phil's vocals seem like an auto-tuned version of themselves and the lyrical content just wasn't doing it for me. To be honest, I probably won't be investing much more money into this band.
on March 25, 2013
I am a long time fan of ATR, I was even able to accept their lighter album Overcome. When I purchase an ATR album I know what I am getting and always excited to hear new innovations they've incorporated. This album I didn't find much. No hard feelings guys but you could have done better. I don't mind the melodic metal songs like stand up, I don't mind the fact that they put a completely unnecessary intro in the middle of the album, what i do mind is the fact that there was really nothing new to this album. I don't know if it was rushed (Which i suspect), or you guys just didn't feel like writing but it shows through on this album. I'm not saying not to buy it but beware you may just walk away disappointed. I know they're not done, and I won't be swayed from buying future albums, I just hope the next release has some more heart put into it. Until than I will find the silver linings of this album, and store it into my collection, but i can't promise its gonna get to many listens down the road.
on November 23, 2012
I have been an avid fan of All That Remains since This Darkened Heart. I was somewhat disappointed with Overcome due to the fact their sound had gone to a more radio friendly way but thought it was simply a one album phase to get more recognition. For We Are Many somewhat brought back the old aggression but still lacked the one aspect of ATR we have all come to love and that is Phils' screams. I did not purchase this album but have listened to the sound clips and can already tell I made a great choice in not doing so. ATR have gone on to reach a softer audience and more power to them but old fans of their first 3 albums might as well move on to other bands. It is a terrible shame that so much talent has removed the very aspects of their music that got them to this stage.
on November 21, 2012
All That Remains. Few bands could ever hope to possess the talent and technicalities that this band is capable of. I picked up "This Darkened Heart" the day it was released, and I will honestly say I found it largely boring and unimpressive, at a time when Alive or Just Breathing hit the public. Then "The Fall of Ideals" came out and I was hooked hard. I attribute that to two major things; Michael Bartlett's departure, and Phil's improved clean vocals. Bartlett, while a decent drummer, did little more than keep the beat, and that held ATR back. Shannon Lucas is an outstanding drummer, and his acquisition opened so much more possibility for ATR. This is why the band chose to replace him with someone just as capable, if not more so, in Jason Costa. Personally I believe "Overcome" was ahead of it's time, and stands as ATR's best album to date, and certainly residing in my top 10 all time albums. "For We Are Many" still being a great album, was a slight step back from TFOI and Overcome, in my opinion.
Now, to "A War You Cannot Win." My biggest gripe with this album is that ATR has severely dumbed down it's complexity and skill. These musicians are so incredibly talented, and they are capable of so much more than what appears here. I am a metal drummer. I consider Jason Costa to be the holy grail of metal drumming. I can usually only play one, MAYBE two ATR songs per album, and poorly at that (save This Darkened Heart, which I can play half asleep). I can play about half of this album competently on the drums. I should not be able to do that with a post-Bartlett ATR album. Jason is severely holding back his skill. And this general theme can be applied to the whole band in some way or another, including some pretty effortless-feeling lyrics.
Additionally, about half the album is just not memorable. I've listened to it with undivided attention in entirety about 9 times now, and I can only recall about 75% of the album...and only about 20% on the 2nd listen through.
That said, it does grow on you, and it's not all bad. The album is divided in half-rock, half-metal. I am not a "metal or nothing" guy. I enjoy my rock just as much, if not more at times. The rock songs on this album are more memorable than the metal songs as a whole. I will say that "Not Fading" is in the top five songs I've ever heard from All That Remains, and it is a perfect blend of rock and metal. Absolutely amazing, desperate, hopeless, somber, emotional song. Very few songs can convey the right mood independent of the lyrics. The ones that do are gems, and I've been on a journey to find a band that does that with every song. I've yet to find that, but this is one of those songs.
Anyway, let's talk about the tracks:
1. Down Through the Ages (Metal): 5/10: Definitely the weakest opening track of any ATR album. It's alright, but honestly after 9 playthroughs, I really can't ever remember much about it.
2. You Can't Fill My Shadow (Metal): 4/10: I would say this is the worst song on the album. Again, it's alright, but it's not memorable, and the solo is quite annoying.
3. Stand Up: (Rock): 7/10: This song reminds me of when Finger Eleven released "Hypnotized" and totally changed their style. It doesn't sound like it, but it has that party-rock song feel to it. That said, it is catchy and I enjoy it, though probably my least favorite of the "good half" of this album.
4. A Call to All Non-Believers: (Metal): 7/10: This is a good metal song. Though again, keeping with the theme of the album, it takes a while for you to remember it. I would say this one will grow fully on the listener around listen-through number five. The intro is brutal and awesome and the chorus is very fun to sing.
5. Asking Too Much: (Rock): 9/10: Great rock song. Probably my 3rd favorite track on the album. Some of the lyrics are a little silly "(I'm not gonna find you outside of my door, but damn I wanna let you in)", but the message still comes across powerfully and the instrumentals do a great job of setting the mood.
6. Intro: (Acoustic): 0/10: Bad idea guys. Really really stupid idea to have a 25 second intro mid-album. This should have been played as the intro to the next track, but ON the next track, like "And Death in My Arms." Doing it in this way makes us angry because we thought we were getting a full ATR song, but it wasn't, which really makes this album 11 tracks, not 12.
7. Just Moments in Time: Metal: (6/10): I am just now starting to like this song. I love astrophysics, so the meaning of the song is cool to me, but this one takes a while to grow on you as well. I would say you will fully enjoy this track around the 9th playthrough, which is why I give it a 6.
8. What if I Was Nothing: (Rock/Country): (8/10): In all honesty, if you removed Phil's vocals and put Brad Paisley or Tim McGraw over the music, this song would be on the country top 40 mainstream rotation. This is by far the sappiest and slowest ATR song ever created. That said, it is a nice side of ATR, and I'm not going to condemn it because it's borderline country rock. I'm actually ever considering it for my wedding song. 6th favorite song on the album.
9. Sing for Liberty: (Metal): 9/10: Song is awesome. By far the best metal song on the album. Great chorus, great vocals. My 2nd favorite song on the album. I give it a 9/10 only because, again, it takes a few listens to grow on you. However, once it does, it's a solid 10/10.
10. Not Fading: (Hybrid Rock-Metal)(10/10): Amazing, beautiful, emotional, atmospheric, phenomenal, well-made song. Easily in the top 5 songs ATR has ever created, and one of my favorite all-time rock/metal songs. This song means the world to me. It is the definition of a quality rock/metal song. This song alone makes this album worth a buy, and it really carries a large majority of the album from being below average. Few songs make your eyes watery from the instrumentals alone...this is one of them.
11. Calculating Loneliness: (Acoustic): (4/10): This is a quick 2 minute instrumental acoustic interlude, and it is what I call ATR's attempt at being Opeth, and it works...until 30 seconds in, when the guitars start the fast strumming. It feel like they didn't know what to do after that, so they improvised with a tired, basic and unimaginative strumming pattern. It does recover after a while, but that section is just too cookie-cutter and forced to save it. That is a riff that if I had written I would have said, "Nope, something else needs to follow that opening." It's clearly album filler, and makes the album 10 tracks, instead of 12.
12. A War You Cannot Win: (Metal) 5/10: This song is okay, but it's another one I just do not remember much of, even after 9 playthroughs. I dislike Jason Costa's choice of drumbeat on the chorus. I think the high-hat and the off-beat snare hits do not work with Phil's vocal pattern and would have made the chorus stand out more if it had more of a 4/4 approach to it, and less 16ht note hi-hat hits.
This all being said, as a whole, this album is the definition of average, in my opinion, with "Not Fading" and a few others keeping it from mediocrity. I would say that this album is ATR's second worst album, in front of This Darkened Heart. That said, there are some gems to be found, but the album takes entirely too much work to enjoy the majority of. If you're willing to put in that work though, pick it up. Otherwise I'd say just download the good ones.