Review: All That Remains – A War You Cannot Win (2012)
Legendary metalcore band All That Remains has the distinction of being a band that appeals to a largely secular audience, whilst keeping it cleaner than a lot of their contemporaries in the scene. A War You Cannot Win is more of what the band has become known for. It is straightforward metalcore at its finest. The album isn’t without its attempts at radio hard rock though, an element which emerges with mixed (mostly poor) results.
“Down Through the Ages” wastes no time with epic extended introductory crescendos (although they would have been acceptable), instead jumping straight into the Tim Lambesis-esque rough vocals (As I Lay Dying-like, not a rip-off). There isn’t a clear verse/chorus/verse structure here, even though it seems like there should be at first. “You Can’t Fill My Shadow” begins as a pure assault, but transitions with a twinge of relief during the verses before turning up the double-bass again in the chorus. A squealing solo reminds me of a bridge to a classic Demon Hunter song (just my impression – it is likely that this could apply to several metal bands).
The clean vocals tread dangerously close to the Creed realm in the start of the anthemic “Stand Up,” but the song quickly recovers into an enjoyable, if a bit generic, jam. This wouldn’t be a metalcore record without the breakdowns, which are used effectively – not too much, nor too little. This archetypal use of breakdowns is exemplified in “A Call To Non-Believers.” The major misstep of the album is the power-ballad written-for-radio tune “What If I Was Nothing.” It’s a catchy song, but All That Remains should stick to metal. I can totally understand an emerging rock band writing for radio – but an already successful band doing so? Confusion ensues. “Sing For Liberty” brings us back into metalcore haven with a hook that makes up for the debacle that is the previous track. The record ends in much the same way it began, but sandwiching the melancholy interlude “Calculating Loneliness.” There isn’t much else to say about the record because it’s bread and butter metalcore with a hint of radio-rock thrown in. That said, with few exceptions, the record is very well put together and fun to listen to. New and old fans ought to enjoy this latest chapter in the All That Remains saga.