All That Remains - A War You Cannot Win
Record Label: Razor & Tie
Release Date: November 6, 2012
All That Remains might be remembered for more than what I generally associate them with, as the release of their sixth full-length begs to differ that the band has done more than break through with the release of The Fall of Ideals. Six years later and very much on their two-year cycle of pumping out albums, the band returns with another very characteristic effort in A War You Cannot Win – lacing their aggressive attack of barreling percussion, winding guitars and often versatile vocals for a strong mix of heavy and catchy without completely abandoning one in favor of another. Though perhaps the melodies aren’t always quite on target in the flow of their songwriting, the impressive musicianship keeps these songs afloat when the band’s ability to craft songs doesn’t quite shine as much as it should.
Opening with a wavering track of high-flying choruses and searing licks in “Down Thru the Ages”, All That Remains sets us up for an interesting introduction to this record. The mellower moments of this track hint towards later spots in “What If I Was Nothing” and “Calculating Loneliness” – albeit not with the flair of an acoustic guitar those tracks seem to be insistent in harnessing. No, the slicker moments of this record have their ups and downs, whether it is the simply poppy riffs of “Asking Too Much” or the clean-sung spots of “Not Fading” where the guitars just don’t have the fire they could display even when the tone of the song seemingly asks for something less aggressive. Not that every time the band pulls back it’s a disappointment, but more often than not the choice to open up Phil Labonte’s cleans ends up falling more into the misstep category than anywhere else.
But on the punching moments of this record – and let’s be clear, they certainly aren’t in that short supply – the band hits hard enough to keep this record from completely sinking in the wake of some roughly penned ‘huge’ moments. “A Call to Non-Believers” kicks a chunky riff into your head as Labonte deploys his fiery growl with expected execution, while the chorus does his clean voice right without overusing it or completely watering down the riffing in the process. An even better display of musicianship, especially from drummer Jason Costa, the titular ender makes even better use of the band’s talents with an anthemic feel and some digging guitar melodies to back the strong drumming backing the proceedings. While it isn’t high octane from front to back, this is the song that channels both sides of things in a fair balance of dynamics and musicianship where at other times on the album things seem a bit lopsided or misfired.
It would be a bit unfair to keep comparing this band back to their breakout LP, but at times it is undeniably tough to not look back and see where this band has come from. While they seem a bit toned down at times on A War You Cannot Win, All That Remains still shows flashes of the catchy aggression they’ve become known for – and for what it’s worth, this record doesn’t change that fact.