Thursday, November 1, 2012

All That Remains - A War You Cannot Win

Three hundred and twelfth verse, same as the first

My god, I don't know why I keep doing this to myself.  I realize it isn't productive at this point, everybody knows that I don't like All That Remains.  Everybody knows that I wish Phil Labonte would shut his goddamn mouthflaps, that Oli Herbert would join a band that doesn't suck, that somebody in the band would have a musical idea more radical than "Let's just do This Darkened Heart again, except let's get slightly poppier again and keep ripping off Strung Out and hope nobody notices".  I've said all this three times now, and a fourth review really shouldn't even be necessary.  But goddammit yes it is.  If All That Remains is going to keep on releasing crappy, derivative, poppy metalcore-lite, then I'm going to keep telling everybody how much they suck.  I didn't even know they had a new album until roughly an hour before I started writing this review, believe me when I say I couldn't care less about the band if I tried.  I don't sit here all hawkeyed waiting for another opportunity to poke at these guys with a stick, they just keep coming back for more, each time with less effort than before.  And with the least amount of effort displayed so far, here we have their sixth album, A War You Cannot Win.  They're like the musical equivalent of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Nobody likes them except for their niche little home crowd, and they consistently suck.

All the problems from the previous three albums are still here, and unironically this is the third straight album with this lineup.  This is not a coincidence.  They have been using the same five brains to write the same songs with the same problems and they are showing absolutely no signs of reversing the trend.  These riffs are the same dry, poppy melodeath inspired garbage that they've been spoonfeeding us since 2006.  The sad thing is that The Fall of Ideals is actually my favorite All That Remains album, and it still kinda sucks.  I mean, This Darkened Heart was... okay I guess.  It was really samey and dull overall but it was catchy and "The Deepest Gray" is one of the first metalcore songs I heard that I actually liked all the way back in 04, but since then they've just given up on being creative in any way.  The Fall of Ideals is just as samey as anything before or after it, but it's the most focused and most infectious of all of their albums, whereas Overcome and ...For We Are Many just plodded through inconsequentially.  A War You Cannot Win has once again just kinda happened, with nothing helping it stand out amongst the rest of their material.

This is the biggest problem with any given All That Remains album, the songs within the album are all very similar and are structured and executed identically.  If there's anything at all that's different about this newest album, it's that there are more clean vocals by volume than any other album.  The choruses are all cleanly sung still, but now more of the verses are as well and the cliched layering of cleans over screams are more prevalent as well.  But that alone doesn't really help it stand out at all because every fucking song sounds like the song before it.  This is impressive because this is an entirely valid complaint and somehow there are still some notable differences, like "You Can't Fill My Shadow" is rather breakdown heavy whereas "Stand Up" is a light, pop metal attempt at an anthem and "What if I was Nothing?" is essentially just another cover of Nevermore's "Believe in Nothing".  In fact, a good portion of the tracks here sound like they could be the slower, more radio-friendly Nevermore tracks like the aforementioned "Believe in Nothing" or "The Heart Collector".  And I have to point out I really like "The Heart Collector".  I think it's one of the best modern radio-tailored pseudo-power ballady metal songs written in the 00s, but dull regurgitations of it just end up sounding like "Believe in Nothing", which is a plodding and boring song that sounded like it took as much time to play as it did to write.  All That Remains here gives us "What if I Was Nothing?", "A Call to All Non-Believers", "Asking Too Much" and others in this style and it's just dull and shitty and not interesting at all.

Oh yes, I've spent the last paragraph comparing them to a poppier and more boring Nevermore, but readers of my last ATR review should remember that I chided them mercilessly for ripping off Strung Out so egregiously.  Well that hasn't changed either, (I mean look at their goddamn logo now, at least they're being more upfront about it nowadays) as Phil's vocals sound so much like Jason Cruz's nowadays that the last couple albums may as well have been titled Exiled in Oblivion and Blackhawks Over Los Angeles.  The less metal elements are becoming more and more prevalent, whereas it's been the opposite with Strung Out, who started as a punk band.  Blackhawks Over Los Angeles is basically just a much, much better version of Fall of Ideals, and I urge fans of All That Remains to listen to pretty much any Strung Out records from The Element of Sonic Defiance onwards.  You'll see the similarity and the veritable canyonesque gap in quality between the two.  They're obviously a huge influence on All That Remains and it's gotten to the point where it's gone beyond influence, and even beyond aping, they're straight up cloning themselves at this point.  The light melodeath riffing, the poppy clean vocals and choruses, the only real glaring difference is that Strung Out seems to stick to less optimistic lyrical themes. 

You all knew what this album would sound like, you all knew what the problems would be, but that doesn't excuse A War You Cannot Win from sounding the way it does and having the problems it has.  They try less and less with each successive record, and somehow they keep charting.  All That Remains fans, I legitimately do not understand you.  Never changing your core sound is fine (I'm a raging Vader fan), but never getting creative within your songs, never trying to put a new twist on anything, never even sounding passionate for what you're doing?  That's inexcusable and lazy, and that's what makes this so deplorable.  It's bad enough that it's dull and boring AND bad all at the same time, but the fact that this is the sixth time we've been given such a product from this band is just absurd and actually makes me hate it even more than I would if this were a different band.  The best part about A War You Cannot Win is that when it's over, the new Allegaeon album starts playing on my iTunes.  All That Remains, please stop.  If anybody claims to be impressed by this new album, dangle some keys in front of their face and see if they freeze up in glee.

RATING - 11%

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