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

Bring Me the Horizon – That’s the Spirit

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Bring Me the Horizon are, what, the 3rd Metalcore act to abandon the genre for Nu Metal? It used to be the opposite.

The change Bring Me made is amazing. Linkin Park will be name-dropped in almost every review of this album and they should be. There is a similarity in sound, but what they both have in common is the desire to re-invent themselves. When this guy blasted songs from Sempiternal I was shocked at how different it was. When I blasted “Happy Song” a different guy was shocked it was the same band.

What is it in fame that causes some artists to fall apart, and others to aim high? It seems that with every new album, Bring Me are trying to justify their existence and popularity. They don’t try to justify it to people who dislike them because they’re not Iron Maiden. They know “Pray for Plagues” is barely worth being a demo. I still think the only reason it got popular is because of that porn sample in the end.

So That’s the Spirit is another reinvention, but it sounds necessary. It doesn’t sound like an exercise to impress anymore. Sykes talked about this being a concept album about depression. Now, whenever artist talk about their albums having a concept they tend to bullshit (even if the concept exists). Sykes’ statement isn’t complete bullshit, though. The album sounds way more sincere than anything like it.

Reaper

Speaking of depression…

The orignal Nu Metallers didn’t understood their emotions. They just vented them. That makes for great music to work out to, but there aren’t many songs to point to and say ‘this is sums up the feeling’. The revivalists had time contemplating their emotions while blasting Slipknot. Like Islander and My Ticket Home, Bring Me’s are more focused on a certain subject or emotion.

That’s how you get the brilliant “Happy Song”. The lyrics sum up the reason such loud music exist. We sing a little fucking louder and it doesn’t solve our problems, but it sure makes us feel better. Sykes sound desperate to break out of the depression in the chorus (Notice how he emphasizes the word ‘fucking’. It sounds necessary this time). Then he moves to subdued vocals, admitting that he has no idea what to do with the storm in his head. The song ends with a breakdown and Sykes screaming the album title like he knows it doesn’t help but it’s better than nothing. It’s a song about fighting the depression that still acknowledges we can’t really get rid of that storm

The album can easily be divided to songs that get close to the song, and those that get a little lost. Nothing here is outright bad, but sometimes the idea of moving to melodic Rock gets the better of them. It’s weird to hear “Happy Song”, “Throne” and “Oh No” next to “Run” and “What You Need”. The latter songs sound like B-Sides that got big hooks but no conceptual focus.

The band is talented enough to make these songs worth blasting. Sykes’ vocals deserve a praise. He clearly sounds like a vocalist who only discovered melody recently. There’s an aggressive edge to his voice. He doesn’t need the Deahtcore growls anymore. His vocals with the thundering vocals in “Happy Song” are enough to make it sound heavy as a really heavy thing.

On the more conceptual half, the band sounds unstoppable. You’ve heard songs like “Follow You” and “Throne” before, but not like this. There have been many empowering songs, but few like “Throne”. Like Islander’s “Counteract”, it doesn’t sound angry. Sykes sound pretty happy on the verses. Covering it as a happy Pop song should be easy. On the former he’s transformed to a wimp who can’t help being attracted to someone that’s bad for him. He performs the song with all the vulnerability and hopeless the subject deserves. It’s the complete opposite of “Throne”.

Some songs land right in the middle. There is a great fuck-off song buried somewhere in “True Friends”. The punchline sure sounds good over such loud guitars, but all the other lyrics sound like they were copied from songs by lesser bands. It’s hard to believe some people still write lines like “It fell apart/right from the start”. Some just sound like B-Side, like the aforementioned “Run”. Nothing in it makes you want to turn down the volume, but it lacks something special. It’s just a good Hard Rock hook.

Even if it couldn’t utilize its concept in all the songs, it’s still a great Nu Metal album. It’s the sound of a band who experimented a lot, and now want their songwriting to carry them. They use their sound to enhance already good hooks. Even if there’s a gap of quality between songs like “Oh No” and “What You Need”, everything is worth spinning at least five times. Let’s just hope Bring Me won’t pull a back-to-basics record. They have too much personality and melodic talent to churn another Deathcore record.

3.5 happy songs out of 5