All That Remains will deploy “A War You Cannot Win” on Tuesday, Nov. 6, a likely non-coincidental Election Day missive.
Throughout “A War You Cannot Win,” singer Phil Labonte sounds pissed off about both encroachments on his freedom and the general public's apathy toward those infringements. “Take back your freedom,” he rasps on “Sing for Liberty”; “I won’t follow commands. I won’t meet your demands,” he declares on the title track.
But “A War You Cannot Win” is not just a political album. In a quickly paced 40-minute record, All That Remains touches on personal relationships, philosophical musings, and broadly stated rants and chants. And there are plenty of stylistic leaps to meet the variety of topics.
If anything, Springfield-bred All That Remains has developed into metal’s mutt that can kick the ass of purebreds. Labonte handles the death growls and crooned clean vocals, typically bringing them together in tunes. Lead guitar player Oli Herbert provides the glue holding together a batch of songs that runs from the commercially slick hard rock of “What If I Was Nothing” (which sounds like it fell off of a Staind record) to the bile-splattered thrash of “You Can’t Fill My Shadow.”
Herbert and Labonte are the quintet’s remaining original members. Neither the guitarist nor the singer performs like he is satisfied taking All That Remains down one particular road, so they manage to lead All That Remaions all over the place and still hold together the group's identity. The band’s original metalcore blueprint was way too sparse for Herbert’s guitar style, which takes in the grandeur of power metal and explosiveness of modern metal. Likewise, Labonte is too charismatic to just hunker down in a metal bunker mentality and be on constant attack mode.
|Drummer Jason Costa, singer Phil Labonte, guitarist Oli Herbert, bassist Jeanne Sagan, and guitarist Mike Martin|
It’s good hearing a band take risks, and here it’s clear that All That Remains can alienate the metal fans with songs that are too clean and smooth as well as shove away the more mainstream rock fans with songs that evolve into spastic displays of jarring vocals and punishing rhythm work. Some may argue that “A War You Cannot Win” bows to commercial tastes, but if that were the case it would not nearly be as diverse as it is. Rather, this is a band ignoring expectations, and doesn’t topple for it.
There’s little chance that every song will appeal to every listener_ I can do without the “don’t worry baby, it’ll be all right” shit_ but All That Remains doesn’t linger on any one point for very long, and at the very least you can appreciate the raw talent at work in the band.
All That Remains will be playing Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Palladium in Worcester, MA. Metalocalypse’s Dethklok headlines and Machine Head is also on the bill. Show time is 7 P.M.