|Alternative Rock, Metalcore
Razor & Tie Records
November 6th, 2012
Release length: 39:19
One of the issues that has plagued All That Remains over the years has been the production. It’s as if each album becomes more digital, and more sterile. Sadly, A War You Cannot Win is no exception. The overall sound of the release is simply weak. The guitars have a decent mid-range heaviness to them, and the bass shares a similar pitch, while much louder in the mix. Of the two, this is the stringed instrument that actually sounds pretty good, though greatly lacking bite. The drums, however, are a whole other problem. The cymbals are pretty clear despite the filmy layer over everything, and the snares do sound pretty good thanks to the mixture of tighter and booming outputs. However, the click of the bass kick tears through the mix horribly, as if competing against rich instruments, giving a what would be nice click a very obnoxious existence. As far as the vocals go, you get the traditional shouting that sounds pretty good, but most of the time it’s a typical clean singing that obviously has pitch correction and auto-tuning at work, matching the incredibly weak music being performed perfectly.
“Down Through the Ages” slowly fades in with some catchy melodic riffs that offer a little technicality in the performance, but the muffled, empty audio makes it hard to get into. The flaws of the production are also introduced here. While not a bad offering, the energy captured is very limited, sticking largely to the shouting vocals and the music in the chorus. The breakdown that hits later, as well as the guitar solo, simply are not that engaging, and end up incredibly hard to sit through in the long run. “You can’t Fill My Shadow” starts off a little more energetic and aggressive, but the lie gives way to main verses that are simply empty and boring. The chorus is a bit richer, and adding the shouting in the background of the clean singing does help to thicken the music, but aside that intro, the only other saving grace is the guitar solo prior to (already) yet another barren, and horribly drawn out breakdown. Unfortunately, it isn’t until “A War You Cannot Win” that you’ll find anything remotely interesting, let alone engaging. While still incredibly hollow, this does sound more like earlier All That Remains. A tighter performance leads to richer music, and stronger melodic hooks with a better variety of clean singing and screaming in the chorus. Even the faster main verses are rather engaging. While still somewhat sterile, this is easily the most enjoyable track of them all.
The rest of the album throws Emo filled Alternative Rock fused Metalcore your way, as well as the basest of all Melodic Death Metal hooks. It gets to the point that even the band just sounds bored. “Asking Too Much” is a prime example. The simpler material carries a catchy beat for a Rock geared track, and the clean singing has a little more energy in them compared to others, as well as layering and pitch correction. The chorus has a very simple melody, but the lyrics, and even the aforementioned singing sound as though Phil is about to break down and start crying behind the microphone, a stark contrast to the aggressive, mature stance on “Down Through the Ages” and “A War You Cannot Win,” especially around the two-and-a-half minute mark when things slow down to the style’s version of a breakdown. What’s worse is “What if I Was Nothing.” While it doesn’t tread into mainstream Emo territory, it definitely carries all the trademarks of a Staind or Stone Sour composition. Acoustic guitars eventually give way to simpler Rock riffs with a bit more edge than normal. But, the sad lyrics about being nothing without a certain girl in someone’s life sounds like Grammy and Top 200 radio airplay whoring. While not bad for the style, eventually becoming richer in the music itself toward the end, the whole performance is just sickening to listen to from how generic, clichee, and incredibly whiny it ends up being.
This does become a disturbing trend through much of the release, especially in “Just Moments in Time.” This one isn’t that bad as far as the main riffs go. There are some faster areas that can be pretty catchy despite the muffled audio, and the screaming does give way to some additional energy. But the chorus clearly has some correction in the vocals, as well as layering done to try to mask it, but also ends up with more whiny lyrics, claiming that every single person in the world is literally nothing, from the moment born, to the moment he or she dies. If that’s not insulting and the stereotypical definition of the Emo lifestyle, nothing is. There’s also “Sing for Liberty,” which isn’t too depressing per se, but it does have a god awful guitar solo with notes that will instantly make anyone’s whole body tense up cringing. The faster pace for it comes out of nowhere as well, making it even more obnoxious by the time it ends.
Words cannot begin to express how disappointing A War You Cannot Win is. There’s no edge to the music, being sterilized by a horribly muffled audio quality, and almost every track that passes will have you picturing the band, especially their vocalist, sitting on stage crying and/or slitting their wrists. This is a miserable album from start to finish that the Emo community will definitely get off by, but even they may throw this back crying foul. What’s worse is that it’s clearly not what the band intended. The drive for All That Remains to be a radio friendly mainstream group of rock stars is blatently obvious. A Bullet for My Valentine, Stone Sour, Staind, all bands that this group is clearly trying to be, and doing a horrible job at it, while lobbing suggestive song titles that seem to troll their loyal original fans by mockingly saying “Yeah, we sold out, and your cries for us to use talent again are worthless!” With literally only one song on the album even being worth the time to stream a sample of on-line, there’s very little to say in favor of this album. While Overcome and …For We Are Many were far from good, they still offer more enjoyable material than one catchy track and two that are the most basic of mediocre.
01. Down Through the Ages – 3:31
02. You Can’t Fill My Shadow – 3:33
03. Stand Up – 4:00
04. A Call to All Non-Believers – 2:44
05. Asking Too Much – 3:28
06. Intro – 0:21
07. Just Moments in Time – 3:27
08. What if I Was Nothing – 4:36
09. Sing for Liberty – 3:41
10. Not Fading – 3:34
11. Calculating Loneliness – 2:39
12. A War You Cannot Win – 3:45
|Initial Pressing Score: 2/10