All That Remains – Overcome

Let’s face it – as much as I was a fan of this “new wave of American metal” or “metal-core” when it was first emerging, some of it is losing steam. With Killswitch Engage becoming more commercialized to bands contributing their songs to the soundtracks of popular “horror” movies, I’m starting to get the feeling that this whole trend is going the way of “nu-metal”. Not that there aren’t any talented bands left in this “metal-core” thing. Take for instance, All That Remains. Fronted by Phil Labonte, formerly of Shadows Fall, the band’s rise in popularity was well paced. By the third album, The Fall of Ideals, the members had perfected a formula that would undoubtedly win them tons of fans. It was their most accessible album to date, and it probably still is. Now, they are on the heels of Overcome, a slight step away from the more commercial sounds of their last record, but a step into the unknown for the rest of their career.

The first departure you will probably notice comes through in the production value. This is a raw record compared to The Fall… and they pull no punches in the start of “Before the Damned”. It’s a little too straight forward in its delivery and the song loses its steam after the first chorus. You really feel yet another growled verse then sung chorus coming on and it’s not too exciting. Then, they follow with “Two Weeks” which begins like your typical melodic All That Remains song. What proceeds takes you off guard though: instead of growling, you hear Labonte actually singing throughout the whole song. Sure, you hear growling in the background, but it’s a refresher to have Labonte’s powerful voice take front and center. Their are hooks all over this song and they are somewhat prog influenced – yet another interesting addition to the formula.

The strong melodies continue in “Undone”, a typical metal anthem further heightened by Phil’s voice. Not that his vocals make anything less derivative, but it’s really hard to resist them nonetheless. What’s unfortunate about this song is that it sounds almost just like the last one, albeit with slightly different hooks and it runs a little shorter. If there was any one song I could point out that might have been a b-side on The Fall of Ideals, it would be the heartfelt “Forever In Your Hands”. It definitely does fit this set a little better and is a good song, but it’s not as powerful as the title would infer. Next, comes the first single “Chiron”; a decision I respect because it is not only one of the best songs on the album, it also isn’t an obvious choice. “Days Without” again follows a formula, but all isn’t lost as it draws you in with its opening riff. “A Song of the Hopeless” starts off like a ballad, yet just before the first minute is up it explodes into a metal breakdown. Considering this mix of styles, it could have been a much stronger song, but the power is lost after a while.

“Do Not Obey”, “Relinquish” and “Overcome” are three outstanding tracks. They really showcase what All That Remains is good at: speed, melody and strong vocals. Sure they are pretty straightforward and follow that classic “verse/chorus” formula but they emanate with a breadth of confidence that I know this band has. “Believe in Nothing” closes the album, but it’s too little too late. This is a Nevermore cover, and if they really wanted to impress they would have closed the album with their own power ballad.

So, there were some hits and some misses on this band’s follow-up to a somewhat commercial success. The group is slowly moving away from their metal core chains, but what will that mean for future releases? As long as finding their identity means we’ll be getting solid metal records, that’s fine by me. Labonte has too powerful of a voice to waste.