I first encountered All That Remains with a plastic guitar in my hands. My fingers burned and locked up as I failed to keep up with the ferocious yet achingly melodic “Six” on Guitar Hero II, and just like that, my love for metal music officially crystallized. Then on my 20th birthday, I attended an ATR show, where lead singer Phil Labonte presented me with a drumstick as a birthday gift. Thanks again, Phil.
So it really sucks to say this, but ATR’s new album Madness just isn’t that great.
Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of brilliance. Opening track “Safe House” is deliciously merciless and when the rapid-fire vocals first kicked in, I actually had to check my phone to be sure it hadn’t skipped to a Slipknot track. As Phil screams, “Do you feel safe now?” again and again, creepy chimes play in the background, creating a demented, predatory vibe. “Madness” is a solid 5FDP-esque addition with a timely message, and “Rivercity” tells the moving story of Phil trying to contact his then-wife when she was stationed in the Middle East as a Marine.
But unfortunately, the highlights end there. “If I’m Honest”, “Far From Home” and “Back To You” are so purposefully radio-friendly it almost makes you cringe. I can respect a heavy band that wants to go light from time to time but I can’t support songs this formulaic. They’re so bland and indistinguishable from other bands’ work, if you had played them for me and asked me to guess the artist, I would have had no clue.
“Open Grave” doesn’t have the speed or structure to support its heavy vocals, with drums and guitar just coasting along. And as for final track “The Thunder Rolls”, there’s no easy way to say this, but…
All That Remains did a Garth Brooks cover.
They do add a female vocalist as a nice touch, but overall the cover is a wasted opportunity. Rather than a major creative reimagining, it’s basically the original with a thin metallic crust. It feels like they went “Hey, we need one more track for the album…” so they picked a song out of a hat, tweaked a few things and recorded it within the hour.
All That Remains has gotten some flak over the years for leaning away from their original heaviness, but the real problem is that they’re not leaning toward anything interesting. I’m still a fan of the band, but I do hope the next album shows a renewed commitment to, if not going heavy, at least a unique sense of self.
Madness Track Listing:
01. Safe House
03. Nothing I Can Do
04. If I’m Honest
08. Open Grave
09. Far From Home
10. Trust And Believe
11. Back To You
12. Never Sorry
13. The Thunder Rolls
Run Time: 50:14
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Check out the track “Madness”