All That Remains – Madness

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At the same time, this album both signifies All That Remains as a talented rock band who broke away from their genre and copycats who have no future besides spewing typical, Serious Rock cliches. Perhaps the album title is fitting, but that would mean the album is actually interesting. It isn’t.

Since I’m writing about it, let’s try to find something fun to say about this. All That Remains aren’t a bad band. Recently they abandoned Metalcore and just did whatever they wanted, so you got songs like “A War You Cannot Win”, “True-Kvlt-Metal” and “This Probably Won’t End Well”. None of these songs was particulalry original, but they were all fantastic. The band slammed. They sung their melodies with conviction, each part stood on its own while connected to everything else. Melodic parts didn’t exist to contrast the heavy parts, but to co-exist together. The band seemed quite content to be in their place. How else to explain the joy of “True-Kvlt Metal”, which had such victorious spite or “War” where they replace Lostprophets in making victorious rock? This new freedom allowed “End Well” to sound so vulnerable.

They still sound free. Across the first four tracks, there’s a roaring Metalcore track with no melodies and all breakdowns. Then they switch to an ordinary combination of their previous styles, while “If I’m Honest” – one of the few good things here – moves to a cocky Country rock thing. It’s impressive how each song sounds distinct, how the band throw themselves at the ideas and prevent the song from blurring into one another. Each has their obvious place and it’s exactly what I expect from a band this far into their career.

Focusing on song ideas never lets up. Even in their ballads, “Back To You” is intimate, quite and low-key whereas “Far From Home” is huge. Normally I’d say this is the ideal place for every old rock band to be. My description sure say the band is the opposite of washed up, and this is more varied than A War You Cannot Win. Yet it’s far worse, and if that one signaled the band finding their purpose, this sees them losing it.

It’s not the old Rockist case of being too varied. The best songs here – “If I’m Honest” and “The Thunder Rolls” stray the most from the genre. The problem is that the band has no good songs, only good ideas. I’m not sure whether it’s more funny or more sad how hard they try in “Safe House” yet completely miss the point. When the breakdown chorus arrives, it needs something more vulgar, more ridiculous than “Welcome to my safe/Do you feel safe now”. Where’s the swearing? Where’s the explicit bragging? Plus, the screaming is closer to low Death Metal growls than Hardcore Punk shouting. We all know that nothing makes the crowd want to shout along more than growls you can’t understand. Every metalcore band improves once they adopt intelligble screams. The song becomes an exercise in seriousness, a desperate attempt to prove these guys aren’t silly partygoers like Five Finger Death Punch.

It gets worse from there. The title-track is about how politics is pretty bad. You can tell by the music video. Although there’s a decent melody buried there, the chorus is a reptition of its title with zero melody or rhythm or swagger. Again, it’s very serious as if that makes for depth. More hilarious is their attempt at seriousness at all. No one takes this type of music seriously. Its essence is theatrics, being overblown and exaggerating emotions because we can. “Far From Home” misses that because it doesn’t go all the way with textures to capture the beauty of always being close to home. Singing with a serious tone is supposedly enough, but it isn’t.

Worse, there is no purpose in thos experiments. When they made “War” or “Kvlt”, the band sounded like they were really into being cocky and telling everyone to fuck off. Finally they sounded like they found something to be passionate over, something more than merely making music. The only song that captures this sense of purpose is “If I’m Honest” and that’s only because it’s the same “I’m a bad motherfucker” narrative, only with acoustic guitars. Although I appreciate the emotions behind “River City”, the good ideas are a sacrifice for a ‘deep and serious’ image.

Many of the songs have quite a killer sound, but the problem is in the lyrics. A kind of a dissonance appears. You want to mosh and party, but all you can conjure in your hand is the band scowling on stage. Whoever thought of the lyrics for “Trust and Believe” should stop using the English language. The song has a great melody with screaming vocals, but the lyrics are too serious. If your idea of fun is shouting the words “trust and believe” – which are already quite trite in rock music – you need medication. The victorious swagger of past albums is gone.

Only two songs stick out and are worthwhile. “If I’m Honest” has been mentioned already. It’s a mid-tempo acoustic rocker that brings back the cockiness of old records. Another highlight is the closer “The Thunder Rolls”, which is a Garth Brooks cover. Yeah, I didn’t see that either but the band does throw themselves with conviction at their ideas, even if their pointless. So the cover ends up hinting that maybe the band should borrow more from Country. Everyone in the song pushes themselves further – you get atmospheric solos and Phil sounding like he’s drinking his last beer watching Megaton blowing up. Perhaps in a good day “Back To You” will also work, its low-key and warm sound is a refreshment after the over-seriousness of everything else.

The band still sounds capable and they play everything with passion, but there is no point to this music, nothing to unify it besides telling you these guys are serious. In an interview they said they’ll go in a more electronic direction but nothing like that is here. It’s an album of cowardice, of trying new ideas but never taking them to the extreme and keeping the serious facade. “Safe House” needed bass wobbles. “Madness” needed more melody, more texture. Oh well, better luck next time.

15. trust out of 5 believe

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Disturbed – Immortalized

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At this point, Disturbed aren’t even trying anymore.

They’re barely trying to impress critics with their ditching of Nu Metal. When Believe first came out, it was pathetic. Disturbed tried hard to impress people by ditching rapping and electronics, as if removing elements from your music is somehow a hard thing to do.

The further they got into their career, the more serious their music became. Disturbed don’t make silly Hard Rock. You get nothing like Drowning Pool’s “One Finger and a Fist”. That’s a vulgar song about not giving a fuck with a half-rapped chorus.

Everything on Immortalized is sung with pseudo-operatic vocals whose sole purpose is to make you take the band seriously. Fun songs have melodies. Pseudo-operatic singing just stretches the syllables instead of letting the melody come through. That’s how bad it is. If Disturbed hoped that their melodies woulde carry through their boring sound, now they don’t even have that. They hope that kids will be impressed by stretched syllables.

Don’t narrow-minded metalheads care more about wanking guitar solos, rather than vocals? It’s not like Disturbed went full technical. There’s a grinding riff in the title track and bragging lyrics in “The Vengeful One”. At its heart, it’s a Nu Metal record. They just stripped Nu Metal of everything that made it fun. Just when you think you get a dance song in “You’re Mine”, Draiman comes in with all his humorlessness. That reminds me of that David Guetta song about being titanium. There’s no parking on the dancefloor and no seriousness in dance music. Stop that crap.

“Fire It Up” is the record’s most rotten apple. Draiman discovers marijuana. I’m happy for him, but musicians have worshipped weed from before Cypress Hill. Still, listening to that song will make you think smoking weed is a serious activity for serious people and that you’re not allowed to laugh while high. “When I fire it up, I feel like serenity is mine”? The verses make Draiman sounds like he’s nothing without weed.

Maybe that’s the problem. Disturbed ran out of ideas and so all they have is weed. Now, I’d be interested to hear a Disturbed album that’s all about smoking weed. “Fire It Up” has more life in it than anything here. Most of the album is typical anthems about nothing played with a straight face. There is Dark Ambient music with more fun than this. I have no idea how you can fuck up a song called “Who Taught You How to Hate” but that’s Disturbed for you.

1.5 vengeful ones out of 5

My Ticket Home – To Create a Cure

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I was pretty sure Strangers Only was an attempt to bury this record. It also has screaming and singing, but it’s so determine to not be Metalcore. It’s vulgar. It has Hip-Hop rhythms. It crushes most Nu Metal and finds the best way to say ‘Bullshit’. Looking at this album’s title and their name, there’s no way this can be anything other than generic Metalcore that sounds big and that’s it, right?

“A New Breed” is a really good song. It thunders and the chorus is both melodic and aggressive. It uses big words to tell the world the lead singer is going to do whatever he wants (or so I think. You can’t really make sense of it). All is generic and ordinary in Metalcore-opolis until you get to “The Truth Changes if We Both Lie”. The melody is really good. The musicianship sounds as epic as it should and there’s no screaming.

My Ticket Home aren’t really trying to make metalcore. They listened to the bands, noticed what they’re trying to achieve and aimed for that. Metalcore, with its breakdowns, serious attitude and poetic, nonsensical lyrics can be good at sounding epic and big. It may not end up as meaningful as Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it sure makes you want to rewatch it with it blasting in the background.

So the band’s aim is not to provide breakdowns and catchy hooks. It’s to provide an epic atmosphere, and they add what suits it and leave out what doesn’t. It works on “A New Breed”, but if they’ll have to only use clean vocals (“The Truth Changes”) or those atmospheric guitar lines Screamo bands like (the beginning of “Beyond”) they’ll use it.

In a way, this brings My Ticket Home closer to the overblown Post-Hardcore of A Skylit Drive and Hopesfall. They don’t go their fully. They lack the quirks and the spontaneity. These bands had big fun with the structures. My Ticket Home stick closer to the traditional thundering guitars and stadium melodies. Their softer moments sound like they took a soft from a Metalcore song and extended, which is great.

This approach makes this one of the more interesting Metalcore records around. It makes me wonder why I haven’t bothered with the genre more. It only backfires on them on the aggressive track. Aggression needs chugging riffs they can ride. They need a steady groove. After all, they exist for moshing or headbanging. “Beyond” and “Motion Sickness” aren’t sure whether they’re Pianos Become the Teeth or Parkway Drive. The band doesn’t decide. It doesn’t stick to the melodies buried under aggression of Pianos, and it doesn’t want to just slam like Parkway Drive. The result is just a lot of noise.

Melody is the dominating force here, and it always sounds like the big budget film Hollywood will never make because they’re too stupid. The lyrics can be nonsense – “How can you heal if you don’t have any scars?” but Sean sings them like they’re the culmination of a lifetime. They’re also less loyal to the structure. Most Metalcore bands keep the screaming in the verses and the singing in the chorus, but the band puts everything everywhere. It’s an approach that’s more reminiscent of Nu Metal. It’s no surprise they went there eventually.

This almost makes me wish they’d continue this path. Metalcore is rarely interesting. Either the bands lean closer to Post-Hardcore (A Skylit Drive) or they’re Trancecore (I See Stars). Anyone else tends to sound like a Nu Metal without the fun factor. Just listen to Of Mice & Men’s terrible first album. Then again, the slightly different approach hints at the brilliance in Strangers Only. Although that one is the better record, this is still worth hearing if you have a tolerance for Metalcore.

3 cures out of 5