My comrades and I started this site in part as a protest against the watering down of metal, and metalcore in particular, by the infusion of indie/pop-style clean singing. We wanted to focus on extreme metal. As we said in our description of the music we’d be covering here: “Mostly, we like it fast, punishing, cathartic. Purely instrumental metal, if done right, fits the NCS bill. But if someone opens his or her mouth in a song, what comes out better be growling, screaming, or squealing.”
But we also conceded that there would be Exceptions to the Rule — bands we liked despite, and even sometimes because, they punctuate their music with occasional clean singing. We listed Opeth and Mastodon as examples, but we could have included others, like Katatonia, Amorphis, and Soilwork.
Once upon a time, we would have included All That Remains. But the release of 2008’s Overcome was a disappointment to us. From Behind Silence and Solitude to This Darkened Heart to The Fall of Ideals, the band moved from a predominantly melodeath sound into metalcore, with increasing use of clean singing. Still, despite that progression, we were still big fans of The Fall of Ideals. On the other hand, Overcome crossed the line.
The aggressive instrumental backdrop was still there, and Phil Labonte still made use of growly howls and piercing shrieks, but the overall tone of the album was more radio-friendly than the band’s preceding releases, and the single “Two Weeks” seemed overtly calculated to achieve crossover success. With nothing but clean singing in that song, it actually broke into stratospheric territory on the mainstream rock charts and helped land Overcome at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 list with sales ultimately topping 240,000 copies. Given our peculiar tastes, however, for us the band’s trajectory was headed in the wrong direction.
And yet, when Razor & Tie offered us the chance for an advance listen to the band’s forthcoming fifth album, For We Are Many (scheduled for release on October 12), we couldn’t resist. Old loyalties die hard, and besides, Phil Labonte had been quoted as saying that the album would include “new twists and turns,” and we were curious. Would the strong taste of success lead the band further along its progression toward the forbidden lands of hard rock, or would we see a course change? (more after the jump . . .)
At a high level, For We Are Many contains most of the same ingredients used in the making of Overcome — the alternation between harsh vocals in the verses and clean singing in the chorus, tightly integrated and hard-hitting rhythms as executed by drummer Jason Costa and bassist Jeanne Sagan, and attention grabbing guitar leads and solos by Oli Hebert and Mike Martin. And in the main, the songs are still defined by catchy melodies and infectious hooks.
But are there any “twists and turns”? Has there been a departure from what we thought was a too-formulaic approach to the song-writing on Overcome? Is there more in store for masochistic metalheads like us who enjoy being mercilessly punished by our music?
We are pleased to report that the answer to all these questions is yes. With the exception of the closing track, a mid-paced ballad called “The Waiting One”, which features acoustic guitars at the open and close, the songs are uniformly fast, with jolting rhythms and rapid-fire riffs, and in many identifiable ways, For We Are Many has spun the aggression dial up a pleasing number of notches.
The brief opening track “Now Let Them Tremble” foreshadows the changes to come, with bursts of sawing guitar and martial hammering followed by a throat-rending Labonte howl. The title track that follows includes Gothenburg-style chords and deep gutturals in the vocalization. “Some of the People, All of the Time” is marked by staccato rhythms and pulsating riffs, a screaming guitar solo (one of many on the album), plus a big breakdown that includes more of those abyssal gutturals.
The backward turns on the album reach their crescendo on “Dead Wrong”, a song that honestly can be labeled death metal: It’s fast and pummeling, with tremolo-picked sawing in the guitar leads, deep, resonant bass riffs that rattle the ribcage, and death-metal growls that sound positively evil. It’s downtuned, dissonant, and quite pleasing to our pointy ears. Yes, even on this song there’s some clean singing, but it’s a raspy, bluesy style that fits nicely with all the howling and growling.
There’s plenty of thundering drumwork and merciless pounding on the toms in songs like “Hold On”, which generally features a heavy-as-shit bottom end to accompany the catchiness of the melody. And did we mention the screaming guitar solos? Oh yes, Oli Hebert still delivers the goods, and you’ll get your shred prescription amply filled on this album, with particular stand-outs in “Some of the People”, “From the Outside”, and “Faithless”.
We are happy to report that there’s nothing on the album like Overcome’s “Two Weeks”. Every song on For We Are Many includes growls and howls, and nothing seems so overtly designed to infiltrate the ranks of active-rock radio. On the other hand, the album still includes offerings of metalcore-standard with high-pitched Labonte crooning that will appeal to Overcome lovers. “From the Outside” and “Keepers of Fellow Man”, in particular, sound like metalcore songs from 4 or 5 years ago. Of course, for us, they’re the least interesting offerings on the album.
We mentioned the closing track, “The Waiting One”. It represents a marked change of pace, with acoustic guitars, generally subdued clean vocals in Labonte’s middle range, and quiet interludes. Yet even “The Waiting One” builds in intensity, and it seems destined to become a sing-along magnet when performed live.
In a nutshell: Fans of Overcome will still find much to like among the 12 tracks on For We Are Many, but for those of us who’ve been pining for All That Remains to turn up the brutality dial, the new album delivers a satisfyingly amped-up dose of aggression, too. It’s a blend of metalcore and melodeath that continues to display All That Remains’ trademark brand of catchy melodies while inflicting plenty of hammer-blows to the head.
All That Remains is now touring with As I Lay Dying and Unearth, and we’ll be front-and-center when they play Seattle later this week. The band will be heading to Europe for dates in November and December.
All That Remains is continuing to make the title track from the new album available for free download for those who sign up for their e-mail list. You can do that at this location. A bonus track called “Of the Deep” (which we’ve not heard) is also being offered to people who pre-order the album on iTunes.
Here’s the title track from For We Are Many, and below that is “Hold On”, the first single.
UPDATE: All That Remains has just released the official video for “Hold On”, so we’re now featuring that first, followed by the title track.