APRIL 28th 2017

Review by Lana Muirhead

I have been a long-time All That Remains fan, so when I got the chance to preview their new album: I jumped like a cheerleader on a speedball.  For any of you who have also stuck with the band since their inception in 1998 (or with their first release in 2000, This Darkened Heart) perhaps you’ve noticed a change over the last three or four albums, as I have.  While ATR maintains their overall brutality, the harshness has been dialed down over the years, as they have grown and matured, and Madness, the latest release, is no exception.

The album opens with “Safe House”, a no-apologies-will-be-given gatekeeper track, heavy on the kick, heavy on the bass, driving rhythm, and grave vocals.  It has a typical-sounding ATR composition interspersed with melodic guitar lines and almost piano-like majesty at times.  There couldn’t have been a better pick to start the journey.

Next up was the first single, the title-track, “Madness”.  It has all the elements of a metal single, is easy to sing along to, and still makes you want to pump your fist and show the horns. This, “Nothing I Can Do”, and “Never Sorry” were my guesses at singles, but I was very quickly proven wrong.

“Halo” and “Louder” were actually next to be released, and while very different, run that same formula that ATR has perfected over the years: a great balance of anger and tenderness in both the vocals and the instrumentals, while maintaining inexorable forward motion all while weaving undeniable groove. You cannot miss the Dave Mustaine and Phil Anselmo vocal influences, nor the Slayer- or King Diamond-like instrumental flow. I was a little surprised at the number of ballad-type tunes on the album, more because I tend to listen to All That Remains for their ragers and less so for the softies. Still, “If I’m Honest”, “Far From Home”, and “Back To You” were all great tracks, demonstrating the versatility of the band and the ability to be a metal group while really throwing their bloody hearts on the collective sleeve.

“River City” was strategically placed mid-album, and seemed to be the most pointed social commentary of the collection. I heard a lot of the struggle to release that reliance upon technology to maintain our relationships previously gelled with face-to-face contact. Or maybe I’m completely wrong. All I know is I had to really ignore the opening cell ring that had me yelling for someone to pick up the damn phone, but progressing into the song I was really impressed with the journey it took between an almost pop-rock sound to a real melodic hard rock track.

“Open Grave” and “Trust And Believe” were two of my favourites off the album, reminding me that Philip Labonte (lead vocals), guitarists Oli Herbert and Mike Martin, Aaron Patrick (bass) and Jason Costa (drums) could deliver on all fronts, the meat AND the potatoes. Uncompromising and unrelenting, the magic that flows between Herbert and Martin is tangible on these. Patrick and Costa continue to prove that they own the rhythm and set the stage for Labonte’s commanding and animalistic vocals. The record closed with a cover, not what most would dare to do, but All That Remains put their spin on Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls”.  Without compromising the country skeleton, the band was able to ‘metal-it-up’ with some crunching riffs and tuning, while maintaining a light version of the signature ATR drumming style.

This track features a random female vocalist that album producer Howard Benson had used in the past, which adds a seriously haunting dimension to the rendition. On the whole, the album is great for where All That Remains are at now.  Is it their most angry or harsh release? I venture not. Is it a great stylistic endeavour that somehow coalesced into an almost Queen-like album where you travel a full circle of sonic experience cover to cover?  I couldn’t have said it better myself!  Wait now…