Oct 062010

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 . . .) Continue reading »