It’s always been incredibly easy to point and laugh at All That Remains, even within the parameters of meatheaded US radio-rock. Between Phil Labonte’s oft-questionable persona as a frontman and a devolution into post-grunge slurry that really only got worse with each passing album (culminating in last year’s Madness where each of those factors had hit fever pitch), there’s not been a lot to praise All That Remains for lately. But right now, to focus too heavily on all of that would only feel like kicking a band when they’re down; quality-wise, they can only go up at this point, and the passing of guitarist Oli Herbert only a few weeks ago, that’s a tragic situation regardless of the circumstances. Still, it says a lot about the band’s character that the release of Victim Of The New Disease is going ahead as planned, and as both an attempt to reach higher footing once again and show the final works of their fallen comrade, it’s probably the most exciting the lead-up to an All That Remains album has ever been.
And thankfully, Victim Of The New Disease is definitely a great improvement on so much of their output since probably the start of the decade. It’s still no amazing by any means – this is still an album the pushes all the radio-metal buttons, after all, and there’s only so far it can go from that – but in a pivot back towards their metalcore roots, it’s an album that’s much more immediate, and thus has a heaviness that benefits it by a significant amount. Effectively, it’s very much like Bad Wolves’ debut from earlier this year – it doesn’t promise a whole lot, but that means what it delivers can be seen as more impressive.
It’s still worth noting that all of that should be taken with a pinch of salt though; comparisons of this nature are largely relative, and while Victim Of The New Disease is a definite improvement, most of the benefit it has comes when viewed within the confines of All That Remains and their ilk. There’s nothing terribly impressive about this sort of meat-and-potatoes hard rock and metalcore riffing in the grand scheme of things, but put next to some of their contemporaries, Fuck Love and Wasteland pack one hell of a punch, not skimping on a heaviness that, with the benefit of sharp production and musicians who are actually given the chance to shine, carry a weight and impact far greater than just another bog-standard radio-metal band. It helps that Labonte is also working to a much higher capacity that previously too, eschewing the vocal effects that suffocated his performance from the last couple of efforts for something more realistic, with bracing, muscular screams feeling particularly welcome, and an equally powerful set of cleans on tracks like Alone In The Darkness, or Just Tell Me Something that pits him against Danny Worsnop. The two can sound a bit too similar at points, but for a straightforward power ballad in this vein, they meet all the necessary requirements for success.
The lyrics follow a very similar pattern too, albeit one that’s not quite as impressive; they’re still good for what they are, but even by those standards, there’s nothing that particularly stands out a great deal or feels as though it pushes All That Remains very far in their designated direction. It can feel very Five Finger Death Punch-esque at points, namely in how much of a role the balance between posturing and occasionally cheesy melodrama plays, and while it’s not nearly as bad as And Justice For None was in that department, the generally overblown edginess of Fuck Love or the histrionic emotionality of Misery In Me and Broken don’t quite hit the landing. If anything, the best moments are the more outwardly political statements in which Labonte doesn’t embarrass himself nearly as much as he has in the past; Wasteland is a pretty potent call for demilitarisation in the Middle East, and while the title track defaults to the argument of “both sides are bad” a bit too readily, it certainly feels more reasoned than past works have.
And while that mightn’t sound too impressive overall, again, Victim Of The New Disease works better contextually than anywhere else, and with that in mind, it’s hard to complain too much. It’s still a very basic metal album through and through, but with execution with a bit more bite and muscle, especially compared to their past few offerings, this is some pretty solid work. It won’t be to everyone’s taste or win over those who’ve never been even the slightest bit interested, but at least All That Remains are finding their feet again, and that’s something.
For fans of: Five Finger Death Punch, Bad Wolves, 36 Crazyfists
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Victim Of The New Disease’ by All That Remains is out now on Eleven Seven Music.