[19 October 2010]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
One simple lesson learned four years ago has now paid off hugely for All That Remains. While the majority of its early 2000s peers, including Unearth, As I Lay Dying, and Shadows Fall, have since struggled to take their music to the proverbial “next level”, the Massachusetts band has done so with resounding success, all because it figured out that even in metal one little hook can make all the difference in the world and can catapult a group from as also-ran to mainstream success. Already an accomplished act prior to 2006 thanks in large part to their ability to fuse New England metalcore and Swedish melodic death metal, they still needed to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Their third album The Fall of Ideals did just that, as vocalist Phil Labonte added some startlingly good clean vocals to offset his already effective hardcore scream, all without compromising their heaviness and technical dexterity. Coupled with a bevy of songs with enormous hooks, the album went over huge, far outpacing the sales of the band’s previous records.
While not quite the watershed moment that The Fall of Ideals was, 2008’s Overcome was nevertheless a very worthy follow-up. Producer Jason Suecof played up the band’s heavier side more, while at the same time the album yielded a pair of genuine active rock hits in “Two Weeks” and “Forever in Your Hands”. There aren’t many bands who can hold their own alongside their extreme metal peers and still fit right in on the Warped Tour or alongside a band like Disturbed, but All That Remains have pulled that off over the last four years with ease, and the longer they go on, the better they become at seamlessly meshing both sides in their music.
Such is the case with For We Are Many. Although they’re back with The Fall of Ideals producer Adam Dutkiewicz, the catchy side of the band is actually downplayed even more this time around. Not that they’ve given up on melodies entirely, but, instead, those melodic payoffs are more subtle, making room for some considerably more aggressive fare. A case in point is the opener “Now Let Them Tremble/For We Are Many”, which sees the quintet in full At the Gates mode, with guitarist Oli Herbert tossing out nimble, melodic riffs atop a furious thrash backdrop and Labonte providing more guttural death growls than we’re used to hearing from him. “Some of the People, All of the Time” is dominated by off-kilter tempos reminiscent of Gojira and some flashy staccato riffing before devolving into a doom-inspired coda. The melodic chorus on “From the Outside” is less an audience sing-along and more an understated melody that offsets the melancholy arrangement tastefully.
Still, there are hooks aplenty on this record; it just takes a while for them to creep up on you. Buried deep in the album, as if trying to downplay the mainstream appeal, first single “Hold On” has all the makings of another commercial success: Interweaving not-too-complex, not-too-fast guitar melodies with the rhythm riff, its approach is streamlined by Dutkiewicz and bears a strong similarity to his own band Killswitch Engage, as Labonte displays some of his finest singing to date. “The Last Time” has the nuance of post-hardcore without pandering to that crowd, while the classy “Won’t Go Quietly” could fit on In Flames’ great Clayman album. “Keepers of Fellow Man” has Labonte delivering the kind of rousing, self-empowering choruses he loves to sing, and “Faithless” explores dynamics more skillfully than the band has done before.
For We Are Many closes on a high note with the ballad “The Waiting One”. They chose to close Overcome with a rather unimaginative cover of Nevermore’s “Believe in Nothing”, but this time around, they’ve written a song of their own in the same vein, a confident slow-burner that will test the open-mindedness of their more metal-oriented fans. A big, overwrought chorus, harmony vocals, and a flashy, George Lynch-esque solo by Herbert shift this sucker into unabashed power ballad territory, making it a sure-fire active rock smash. The track caps off an album that shows yet another side of this ever-evolving band. So while it doesn’t knock our socks off like The Fall of Ideals is, it takes its own sweet time to win us over, which can often be just as gratifying.