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All That Remains - The Order of Things

Apoch_Weiss   (135 reviews)

Posted: 03/05/2015 | Comments: 0 | Rate:

A lot has changed since All That Remains came together back in 1998. Initially started as a Melodic Death Metal meets Metalcore act, the band has undergone a number of changes. Some of those positive ones led to the highly infectious albums This Darkened Heart and The Fall of Ideals. However, the more commercial success the band found on the latter of those two, the more it seemed to alter the progression of the band as a Metal entity, poorly switching gears in recent years to more of a Modern Rock entity. This unleashed some of the group's worst, such as their previous outing A War You Cannot Win. Well, the five-piece from Boston, Massachusetts returns with their seventh full-length outing, The Order of Things. Bland title aside, is it more of the garbage that was forced out on their previous 2012 effort, or is this any degree better in comparison?

While many long time fans have essentially given up hope on the band ever returning to their roots, The Order of Things does at least provide a little closure in that, not only can All That Remains still create the music that initially put the on the map, but are finally coming into their own as well. This full-length is a mixture of main stream Rock staples that are at least handled with a decent amount of care, especially as far as the production quality goes, as well as littered with a few that throw back to the band's glory days. Unlike the wretched output of A War You Cannot Win, this one is approached knowing exactly what it is overall: Modern Rock. The crisp quality has just enough bite to the accessible distortions on the guitars, the drums are fairly crisp all around with a lower volume bass kick that isn't completely drowned out, and a bass guitar presence just a little louder than that. Sadly, there's still a great deal of auto-tuning found on both the male and female singing throughout the entire release. For the most part it's hidden well enough through restrained ranges and louder music, during songs like the Alternative Rock ballad piece "For You", it's impossible to ignore thanks to the empty sections and more ecstatic approach for emphasis at certain parts.

The Order of Things sounds nice, but, for the most part, it ends up as robotic as it can be generic. With a few exceptions, this whole thing comes off as if the band just didn't really care beyond the random impressive guitar solo or few Melodic Death Metal cuts. "No Knock", for example, finds the band channelling more of a Hardcore approach, but it actually winds up more like filler. It's good for what it is, but there's no life to it, greatly taking away from any authority the riffs, barren drums, or harsher vocals try to achieve. However, as far as getting its point across goes, it does this better than "Tru-Kvlt-Metal" and it's approach on conformity, which ends up a jumbled mess. It's an odd mixture of early All That Remains Melodic Death Metal circa-This Darkened Heart with hints of Anthrax and modern Soilwork. But, if you just listen to it without trying to extract any sort of meaning or point behind it, this does wind up a basic, yet enjoyable track with a decent amount of aggression at times.

And then you have "Pernicious", which tries to take on a bit of a Progressive Rock touch with more of a laid back sound that [to this listener] comes off a bit like Reggae at times. It's an interesting mixture with forced Hardcore hostility and rougher shouting that treads dangerously into Rap territory for the main verses. It tries to do too much all at once, but, even then it's still not that bad, really. Even the one-chord breakdowns have a nice progression towards the bass guitar heavy conclusion that has a little extra atmosphere you wouldn't really expect to be present on this album at all. Meanwhile you have the following track "Bite My Tongue", another more Rock oriented track with a little extra depth thanks to lyrics tackling alcoholism, showing traces of acts like Slipknot without the harsher vocals. While the song has meaning, it lacks the power all around to make it come off as being sincere, weaving a great disconnect with the listener over the context of the song and the reason behind it. With music a powerful tool in self-analysis, this is a missed opportunity to try to reach someone who may be blind to this very dependency, instead leaving a generic performance that comes off more like make believe.

But, it's when the band channels their The Fall of Ideals-era that it makes some of the most enthusiastic and endearing performances. "A Reason for Me to Fight" suffers a bit from the aforementioned Alternative Rock production quality, but that definitely doesn't take away from the infectious Melodic Death Metal hooks that are reminiscent of songs like "This Calling" and even "Two Weeks". There's some nice complexity behind the main verses, not to mention a good deal of emotion behind the vocals in the simpler, but still surprisingly powerful chorus that, again, puts the auto-tuning in full due to the guitars not quite being as rich as they should be to mask it other than the guitar solo that actually treads into Neoclassical Heavy Metal territory. Even "This Probably Won't End Well" throws back to that era, more on par with the latter of those two examples, but still winds up an incredibly addicting track despite being a little more on the robotic side at times when not bringing in that extra technicality to the instruments or the execution of timing signatures that gradually speed up.

And with that comes the realization that, really, All That Remains seems to be regretting the choice to be more mainstream. Every song that doesn't call back to the grouop's early sound comes off like the members are just going through the motions, recording only because they need to fill an obligation or pay the bills. But, when it comes to the song with more of a Melodic Death Metal touch, you can tell they're loving every second of it. "Victory Lap" even drops some of the Modern Rock material after a while, as if looking for an excuse to expose listeners to something a little heavier. The song has a good deal of melody that eventually brings in some traditional eighties Hard Rock values, and it works out great to make a catchy song with a little extra energy. However, Phil's shouting and rougher growling appears at the most random times, standing out as the most enthusiastic aspects from a man who is having a blast doing them, a passion from him that we haven't heard since before ...for We Are Many dropped.

By the time you reach the end of The Order of Things, you'll have suffered a mild case of whiplash. This new album is all over the board as far as the styles introduced, though the band does successfully manipulate them into a catchy Modern Rock and Metalcore offering that shows the desire to go back to the band's roots. Everything this five-piece has gone through over the years is incorporated here, and it's a surprisingly cohesive mixture that leaves even the most commercialized tracks catchy enough to linger in the most seasoned of Metal fan's memory, held back only by the robotic and flat performances, especially the vocals, that litter many of the songs that don't tackle any semblance of Melodic Death Metal. Put bluntly, aside a few that come off as filler, or are just poorly executed, The Order of Things ends up an all around fun album that shows promise of progressing back to the group's glory days. So, before immediately shrugging off this new All That Remains album as a waste, or condemn it for the many nineties elements or bands like Three Days Grace it can channel, approach it with an open mind and see just what your preconceptions almost caused you to miss out on.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.

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