All That Remains
This Darkened Heart

2004 has been an important year thus far for American metal. With Unearth, Killswitch Engage, Bleeding Through, Beyond The Embrace all issuing that all important second album and Shadows Fall moving on to album number four, US metal seems to be as strong as ever.

Massachusetts’ All That Remains made quite a stir with the entirely European sounding 2002 debut Behind Silence and Solitude , although a lot of its merit was drawn from having the former front man, Phil Labonte of Shadows Fall in their ranks. So two years later, All That Remain are tying to move on from being ‘the old Shadows Fall singer’s new band’ and create their own fan base, and This Darkened Heart should accomplish that. ATR are the very epitome of US metal; metalcore, thrash and a strong dose of European dual harmonies, but when compared to legitimate peers like Lamb of God, KsE and Beyond The Embrace, ATR are by far the more eloquent of the group with much more emphasis on delicate Dark Tranquility-esque harmonies and leads.

While KsE certainly have ability and more appeal to the larger fan base consisting of a younger age group, to me ATR seems a far deeper outfit, with a less broad appeal to Hot Topic kids, but instead connoisseurs that expect a little profundity from their metal. The guitar work of Mike Martin and Oli Herbert is far more intricate and rooted in tight, galloping rhythms, with less reliance on breakdowns and traditional metalcore structures. The riffage is razor sharp, and incredibly tight, with a subtle layering, that possibly out does Beyond The Embrace’s 3 pronged attack, but it’s always shifting and swaying rather than getting locked into one path for an entire song. The odd acoustic insertion (“And Death in My Arms”, “Regret Not”, “Tattered on My Sleeve”), gives the album some character that’s neither forced nor inappropriate, and also adds some moments of glowing grace to the proceedings. Labonte’s voice is similar to Howard Jones’s (KsE), but his less utilized clean croon, isn’t quite as soulful, so it’s an asset that he mostly uses his powerful scream far more than Jones.

 The material on This Darkened Heart , is also more complex and unforgiving that KsE’s latest offering, not falling into memorable soaring choruses, but instead allowing the fine guitar work to deliver the goods, with a heavier lean on a majority of the album.. Individual tracks are hard to single out, as ATR are fine composers with all 10 tracks being of a high quality, even the instrumental, “Regret Not” never really bores as most instrumentals do. Some surprising heft is mixed with the delicate harmonies for “Passion”, showing ATR are not just fret frivolity, but have some sonic girth within their seemingly glossed over thrash meets Dark Tranquility blend.

When a breakdown does arise (“Focus Shall Not Fail”), it’s never really a stompy Kung-fu inducing break, but more of a powerful thrash interlude that serves as a break from the sublime dual harmonies that continually shred. Where you’d normally think the title track on this type of album would be the most in depth, complex track, here it’s actually a brutally short album closing incision that puts an exclamation point on a fine piece of work. In truth, other than Labonte’s metalcore rooted scream, ATR could pass as a European act with ease (think Gardenian).

I enjoyed this album more than The End of Heartache, as it’s far less commercialized and rudimentary than their counterparts, as well as showing major growth from their debut. Lamb of God had better really out do themselves for their next album if they want to stay the kings of US metal, as All That Remains have the talent to take their crown.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
July 7th, 2004

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