Wednesday, November 7, 2012

All That Remains: A War You Cannot Win

So... I've only been writing this blog for three months, but by now, I've been pretty much fully converted.  By that I mean that as soon as I put this album on this morning, I realized without a shadow of a doubt that I am finally starting to REALLY LIKE a lot of hard rock and soft metal (which is where I would place All That Remains on the continuum, although others might disagree), and not only that, but the baby LOVES it, which is evidenced in his adorable head-bobbing every time I play anything with a metal guitar (I'm still hoping Dethklok's Brendon Small babysits.  have I mentioned I love him yet today?  either way, consider it mentioned).  Unfortunately, despite my enjoyment of the genre, I'm still not able to take it very "seriously", a fact which few besides Mr. Small himself would probably appreciate (this band included - believe me, you'll see why).

Anyway.  Obviously, since I've only just embarked on my journey of metal-enjoyment, I'd never heard of All That Remains before today.  As soon as I cued up the album, however, Rhapsody informed me that "their brand of aggressive, nu/death/heavy metal vocals and complex, prog-rock guitars has won them a serious following", and it didn't take very long for me to figure out why.  As mentioned, their guitars are indeed complex, and the vocals aggressive, but the recipe is more detailed than that.  For, although the record begins with death-metal growling and hammering drums, it soon mellows into hooky guitar riffs topped by more emo vocals, a formula that is employed in almost every song.

And oh, how it is employed!  By the time I hit song #2 on this album ("You Can't Fill My Shadow"), I had already given the voices names, calling the sweet, melodic one "Emo Boy" and the death-growl "Cookie Monster" (granted, he sounds like a very angry Cookie Monster), and I couldn't help but delight at the way the two dueted (like on said second song, where Emo Boy croons "You'll never fill my shadow" and Cookie Monster agrees hungrily "No you'll never/No you'll never").  It was also around this time that I began to suspect that this band, too, is a Christian band, especially when Cookie Monster was sadly absent from third track "Stand Up", which made vague-but-self-righteous lyrics like "Stand up, stand up we were right" sound more emphatic and possibly religious.  A search of Wikipedia and the Interwebs proved me wrong quickly though: according to this interview with guitarist Mike Martin, lead singer Phil Labonte is actually just very political, or more specifically, into "the redneck sort of thing – no government, a little more anarchy".  Apparently redneck political fervor sounds a lot like religious zeal, at least to me.

It's not just the I-have-a-cause intensity that gives this record a different edge than many others in the same genre, however, it's also the content of the lyrics.  First, we have the love songs, like on "Asking Too Much" where Emo Boy laments "I'm not going to find you/Outside of my door/But damn I wanna let you in/I know I'm asking too much/And you'll never be mine again", and "What If I Was Nothing", another Emo-Boy-only track where he delivers lines like "What if I was nothing/Girl, nothing without you/So what if I was angry/What did you think I'd do/I told you that I loved you/Girl, nothing without you" (this song was doubtless made possible by the bag of ginger snaps Emo tossed in Cookie's direction prior to recording).  Then, since Labonte is also so political, we have tracks like "Sing For Liberty" which opens with Cookie Monster intoning "You fucking cowards" (well, according to me - according to dvdlyrics he's actually saying "You should pick the words") before Emo Boy tells us "I have such pride/In the land I thought was mine/I can't deny", and "A War You Cannot Win", an indignant guitar-fest which is surprisingly cogent considering how little sentiment it actually conveys (lyrics here).  So, while I may have been picturing Cookie Monster plowing through a pile of snickerdoodles every time Emo Boy piped up (side note: I'm pretty sure they're the same guy, maybe someone can tell me for sure), I enjoyed the record quite a bit.  Not quite this much:

but quite a bit nevertheless.

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