A ‘War’ Within?
All That Remains’ mix of melodic power metal and screaming death metal is a complicated paradox, especially with their polarized latest, A War You Cannot Win. It’s nothing new for their songs to showcase distinct elements of plodding, pounding rhythms and ear-bleeding growling versus fine melodies over complex riffs. But in War, their sixth release, the “death” never gets too deadly and the “power” never gets too powerful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they compromise in a happy medium.
War begins with “Down Through the Ages,” launching in with of couple stanzas of Phil Labonte’s guttural vocals before it slows down to a catchy sung chorus, featuring Labonte’s controlled and even pleasant singing voice. Lest you attempt to favor one, they overlay each other later in the song as if to announce, “harmonization is futile!” But as the album continues, the pop side begins to shine through, not only in the music but in the subject matter, as well. “Stand Up” is designed to be shouted at and by crowds, joining together to agree we have all “come too far just to fade away.” “What if I Was Nothing?” starts out uncharacteristically mellow, so much so that to delve into screaming Labonte would be distracting, especially alongside his crooning a line like, “What if I was nothing, girl, nothing without you?”
The guitar work of founder Oli Herbert and relative newcomer Mike Martin shines, especially on the acoustic moments like the 20-second “Intro” and the longer instrumental, “Calculating Loneliness.” The title track finishes the album on a strong note with a speedy and efficient antidote to the unexpectedly lighter leanings of War. All That Remains doesn’t need to decide which band they want to be, but a more even balance could mean an overall less confusing experience.