Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Review: All That Remains, "Behind Silence and Solitude"

I grew up on the first wave of extreme metal in the 1980s - bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica and others. But by the early '90s, Metallica and Megadeth had taken a commercial turn and most of these subgenres of metal had evolved into something that I didn't recognize as music.

At that time, it seemed to me that most of the new bands were less concerned with how their music sounded and more concerned with being louder, faster and more obnoxious than everyone else.

In the past few years, though, a new trend has pulled me back into the music on the more extreme end of the spectrum.

It's a brand of music that melds the new and old sounds. It's fast and heavy, but still very melodic.

One of the newest bands on this scene is All That Remains.

The influence of the pioneers of thrash and the New Wave of British heavy metal bands are obvious on this album. The twin guitar attack of Chris Bartlett and Oliver Hebert is more than a little reminiscent of classic teams like Judas Priest's Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing or Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith and Dave Murray.

"From These Wounds," one of the strongest performances on the album, really shows off the Maiden influence - and the guitar riff behind the solo seems to me an obvious homage to Metallica, circa "... And Justice For All."

The album also contains brief blasts of the frenzied insanity you'd expect, with 100 mile per hour drumming and grinding guitar riffs. But for every one of those, there's another, more surprising moment.

Take the the bluesy break in "Home to Me," the catchy - dare I say, funky - verse of "Follow" or the crushing, Sabbath-style riffs of "Erase."

Lyrically, the band sets itself further apart from its peers. They eschew the campy and often gory horror movie imagery of other extreme metal bands in favor of intelligent statements about love, loss, pain and anger - things that are real to listeners.

Even though they're delivered in the guttural growl that seems obligatory these days, the lyrics are almost poetic - even taking on Christian overtones "One Belief."

In fact, the vocals are my only problem with "Behind Silence and Solitude" - and it's not really a big one. Philip Labonte's growls are OK, but a more expressive vocal style might have elevated this album to the next level.

A voice that could really make me feel the emotions buried in these songs, would have made "Behind Silence and Solitude" easily one of the best metal albums I've heard in years.

As it stands, though, All That Remains is still one of the best extreme metal outfits going, and they offer hope for the future of the genre.

Get "Behind Silence and Solitude."

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