Thursday, August 12, 2010

All That Remains - Overcome

 A lesson in exponential decay

I've mentioned in the past that I find All That Remains to be one of the very few metalcore bands that are worth one's time. Well, I have been proven wrong once again, as 2008's Overcome ranks as not only by far the band's absolute nadir, but also one of the worst albums of the year. All That Remains has never been the peak of creativity or musicianship, but they've always been able to craft catchy or memorable tunes at the very least, and yet here I can't remember a single fucking song. I have complained about the previous album, The Fall of Ideals, being formulaic, generic, mediocre, and nigh indistinguishable between tracks, and I genuinely feel that the band could be an incredible melodic metalcore band (wow, that tag makes me cringe just by reading it, but I feel they could've pulled it off) if they would let the riffs evolve, loosen up the structure of the songs a bit, and allow the guitarists let it all hang out and shred to their hearts' content. It seems like the band actually heard my thoughts and considered answering my prayers, but instead they decided to bound and gag them, beat them with frozen trout, and then incinerate them. I'll never understand their steadfast stubbornness on the subject of change. They refuse to progress, they refuse to evolve, and each album just gets more and more formulaic and restrained.

The vocals on Overcome are the exact same as the last three albums, metalcore screams for the verses, clean for the choruses, and the obligatory overdub on the final chorus. The riffs are the exact same interchange of fast chugging chords and melodic death metal At the Gates/In Flames rips that we've been hearing for well over a decade now. I'm being 100% honest when I say that pretty much any song can be randomly picked out and it would define the words "generic" and "mediocre". Absolutely nothing has changed since the last album, except everything seems toned down and held back. The harsh screams are lackluster and uninspired while the clean vocals are whiny and lack conviction. This is All That Remains by numbers as performed by 15 year olds. At this point in the review, I would usually reach back to a song and give a concrete example as to why I make the claims that I do, but I seriously can't decide which song to use as an example. They are all boring, all formulaic, and all weak. Somewhere down the line, this band lost their balls. I firmly believe that there is a very thin line between an abundance of balls and a lack of brains. The more I listen to this album (and the entire back catalog), the more I realize that they were actually uncomfortably nut deficient from the start, thus making them brainless and babydicked. What's worse is that this is the point in their career where it becomes the elephant in the room. This is where I finally realized that the band has tucked in their collective scrotes (or stitched up their vag; can't forget about the bassist!) and completely submitted to the pressure of the mainstream. Wussified metalcore is what sells, not balls out thrashing metalcore. The masses want brutal breakdowns! The kids want anthems about heartbreak! The wallets of the youth do not open for innovative or intense, they open for the masquerade. A good friend of mine recently described Whitechapel as "the heaviest band in existence", and that is what the people honestly believe. The mainstream metal has two camps in where the money is/was made in recent years, and that is the overtly crushing and retardedly downtuned buffoonery of deathcore and the metal-lite and whiny metalcore. The latter ship has honestly seemed to set sail in recent years, but All That Remains never got the memo. I understand what I'm implying, but believe me when I say that this movement they seem to be trying to ride on was a commercial style ala the hair bands of the day. How mainstream has brutal death metal ever been in America? How's about European speed metal? How long have these styles been around? How long have they persevered? You see what I'm getting at? Digression aside, I'm sure y'all can see what I'm saying. Overcome is a safe release in a commercial genre, no matter how withering the scene may be.

I feel I must make special mention of the cover of Nevermore's most boring and radio friendly song ever written, Believe in Nothing. I believe that there is a right and wrong way to cover a song, depending on whether the song being covered is a metal song or not. Since Believe in Nothing is a questionably metal song by a metal band, it's a little difficult to categorize. This is a straight port, no modifications at all. The drums are the exact same plod as the original, the solo is a note for note transcription with no added flair, and the vocal performance is exactly the same (even the subtle nuances in the background). If anything, it's actually more boring and whiny. I really like Nevermore, but this was easily the worst song anybody could've picked to cover, especially when it's a band as painfully mediocre and afraid of pushing any envelope as All That Remains.

And yet throughout it all, there is one aspect of this album I have yet to criticize, and actually thoroughly enjoy... the solos. Of all my thoughts and hopes that the band brutalized and immolated, they seemed to take a special liking to that one particular one, and decided to spare and harness it. Oli and Mike are undoubtedly in top form here, finally fully utilizing those once latent skills that I always knew they had. There isn't much that one can describe about solos, unless of course they are laughably bad. Although most of this dungpile is indeed indistinguishable, the harmonized solo in the debut single, Chiron, stands as probably the most impressive showcase and one of the only enjoyable moments on the whole album. Sadly, this is essentially the only positive aspect of the entire album.

All That Remains is done, over, kaput. They've been silently building their coffin ever since the beginning, but this blatant show of artistic death was their act of crapping in said coffin and nailing the lid. As much as I wanted to like this album and band, as much as I've tried to look past the mediocrity and embrace the empowering message of the music, I just can't look past it anymore. If you were previously a fan of this band, then this probably won't change your mind, although the overabundance of the clean vocals could scare away those that preferred their metal side. If you hated them beforehand, then this will only reinforce your opinion. And if you were on the fence like me, Overcome will most likely shove you over to the haters' side. I'd say avoid this like the plague.

RATING - 13%

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