The incestuous Massachusetts metal scene, responsible for some of the today’s finest torchbearers of modern heavy music, is a perennial merry-go-round of band members weaving in and out of bands. They all share similar postcodes and seem to know each other very well while holding dear their copies of Slaughter Of the Soul and Reign In Blood, they tour together, and at one point or another, have played in either Aftershock or Overcast. And it is this apparent closeness between the bands that makes this particular breeding ground so formidable when it comes to fostering this talent. All That Remains are not all that different from their counterparts Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall. Well-schooled in the art of melodic thrash metal, they’ve come leaps and bounds since their last offering, 2004’s This Darkened Heart, honing their ability to blend all-out instrumental destruction with some of the best melodies since Sweden’s At the Gates ripped through this territory in the mid 90’s.
The precision on The Fall of Ideals is impeccable- from some of the fastest double bass kicking on “The Calling,” to the brutal balance of aural chaos and harmony on tracks like “Become the Catalyst” and “Not Alone,” All That Remains have their shtick down pat. If This Darkened Heart was a glimpse into their potential, The Fall of Ideals sees it met with a proverbial (and memorable) punch to the teeth. It’s all up-tempo, all searing guitars, pummeling drums, and vocalist Phil Labonte’s wailing between guttural screaming and soaring harmonizing. Veering into metalcore territory at times (tracks like “Indictment” and “It Dwells On Me”) but never once letting go of their European metal influences, the album’s most compelling moments come when they successfully mesh all of the aforementioned styles together. There will be few metal tunes better than “Become the Catalyst” and “The Calling” this year, and it is because they’ve instinctively kept the music and melodies interesting. Keeping the usual chugga-chugga hammering that often weighs down any good metal album interspersed with time changes and solos that maintain the album’s energy.
The few shortcomings come in patches scattered through the album. The chorus of “Empty Inside” descends to an unfortunate indiscernible mess after being so tightly done up to that point. The vocal experimentation on “The Weak Willed” is a little too out there as well- losing the song’s cohesion in its attempt to traverse as many styles of metal as musically possible in a four minute span. Nonetheless, while some moments will come across as a little irritating, it does little to diminish the album’s underlining appeal. Well written, soundly produced, and packing some truly punishing urgency, All That Remains have ascended to the peak of their trade and The Fall of Ideals is the definitive metal statement of 2006. (Prosthetic)