In high school, when I was constantly picking up new music I heard about this amazing band called All That Remains. They were supposed to be one of the best metal bands, according everyone I talked to. So, I tried them out and immediately discarded them. I didn’t like all of the screaming. I loved the music, but I hated the vocal style.
A couple of years later, after hearing a few songs on the radio, I picked up “A War You Cannot Win” because it was different than their older work. I liked the more measured approach. It wasn’t all throaty growling and yelling. The guy actually sang. In college, as my wife pushed me to expand my musical tastes I ordered most of their albums from the library and immediately found my new favorite band.
A Quick Note
Before I jump into the list, I want to mention something about the themes throughout All That Remains’ catalog. When I decided to rank All That Remains’ albums I started looking at what albums people thought were their best. On Reddit, I ran into comments about Phil Labonte’s passion for “Libertarian philosophy”. Some people claimed his infatuation with this line of thinking “brought the band down”. If you can listen to (or read) the lyrics from Behind Silence & Solitude up through Madness, there are clear influences of freedom and individualism. “One Belief”, “The Weak Willed”, “For Salvation” and “Halo” all argue for the individual.
I don’t want to stir up a political debate, nor do I want to say Labonte is right or wrong for incorporating his beliefs into the music. I just want to point out that he didn’t suddenly start writing about Libertarian ideas since he has been writing about them since the band’s first album.
As always, this list was generated after intense research, through the shedding of tears and the consumption of a lot of coffee.
#8 A War You Cannot Win
Sticking with the mixed style adopted on For We Are Many, All That Remains’ sixth effort is not a straight metalcore record, nor is it strictly speaking a metal album. To me, this record feels like a transition album. Some of the material is softer, more hard rock like, rather than an album firmly grounded in the metal genre. Part of this is due to the band’s numerous influences, which include many pop acts.
A War You Cannot Win was the album that introduced me to All That Remains. Oddly enough, it is one of their most digestible albums for people who aren’t into hardcore metal. Needless to say, I eventually grew to like their older material. However, this change is beautiful, as it brings new styles and technics into the band’s wheel house. I started following the band right after this change, so for me, this is how All That Remains is.
I constantly praise bands for experimenting with new ideas and styles. However, I think All That Remains miss stepped with A War You Cannot Win. Even though this album is stained with sentimental blotches, it certainly is their weakest album.
“What If I Was Nothing” is a standout among all of the band’s material. In short, it’s a brilliant ballad. Phil Labonte’s voice fits perfectly with the slow tempo, offering just enough tension and passion as he sings. The title track is another good one to start off with. It’s a good mix of heavy, clean vocals and attitude.
#7 Behind Silence & Solitude
All That Remains debut album is probably underrated and I feel a little guilty for putting it this low on the list. However, this is a testament to the strength of their catalog.
When I started this project, I thought Behind Silence & Solitude would be just another screechy album filled with crunching guitars. I figured it would be a typical metalcore album. This is far from true. While there are a lot of crunching guitars and screaming, the album has many interesting hooks and riffs, as this is central to the band’s style. The drum work is also far from bland.
In the end, this is a scaled back, prototype version of what All That Remains would eventually become. The next few albums are a logical progression from this solid starting point.
“One Belief” is a take away track for those who enjoy one of the band’s prominent themes, individualism. This song also feels more like the band’s later work. I marked “From These Wounds” high as well. It is an angsty tune about moving on and recovering. Labonte gets this idea across clearly in the chorus: “From these wounds I claim redemption”.
#6 For We Are Many
After the abrupt changes on Overcome All That Remains opted to pull on some of their roots. They injected some metalcore elements into their sound, while keeping a lot of the flair that made Overcome successful. In short, the band melted down everything they employed up to this point and forged a new combined sound.
All That Remains splices clean and growling vocals throughout the record. They do this quite well. This approach provides more options for the band, allowing them to blend harsh and clean verses seamlessly. With this in mind, it seems like For We Are Many is an album built on compromise. The band, for example, seemed to want to drift away from their metalcore roots while fans wanted more of the same old same.
Theme wise, For We Are Many is delightfully political. The most obvious reoccurring idea is defiance. To get more specific, the word “defy” shows up in several songs. This theme ties in very well with Labonte’s favorite concepts: the individual and freedom. However, rather than strictly arguing for individual freedom, for example, Labonte writes about the need to come together. As he sings: “Let us find strength in our neighbors’ hands”.
To me, “For We Are Many” as a beacon of democracy. The word “we” is invoked often throughout the tune, indicating a need to collaborate with one another, rather than separate ourselves off into groups. The idea behind “Faithless” is not necessarily rooted in religion. I interpreted it as a song that calls for human beings to reassert faith in ourselves, and thus our collective faith in one another.
#5 The Fall of Ideals
Many people regard this as All That Remains’ crowning achievement. Some call it the quintessential metalcore album and others note it as a record that helped shape a genre. And I largely agree, it is a good album. However, I don’t think it is All That Remains’ best record. My biggest complaint is that there are only two kinds of songs on The Fall of Ideals: fast and heavy with a few clean vocals or no clean vocals. There isn’t anything close to what could be called a slow tempo, and there certainly isn’t anything near a ballad.
At the same time, The Fall of Ideals is a great album to listen to all the way through. Phil Labonte did a really good job of stretching his favorite themes across the disc. In this sense, it feels like a concept album. Yet, from an overall perspective, I still don’t feel this album is their best.
Naturally, the opening track, “This Calling” is a must listen to. It is a great metalcore song, and it blew me away the first time I listened to it. Sadly, the band repeated a similar formula with most songs on the record, deluding it.
“The Weak Willed” is often sited as a must listen to track, but I didn’t find it that satisfying, however, it was a decent song. I would recommend “Not Alone”. I think it is a brilliant version of a “love song”, metalcore style.
#4 The Order of Things
If you accept the notion that All That Remains treated A War You Cannot Win as a transition album and an experiment to see where they wanted to take their sound next, then The Order of Things makes more sense. The Order of Things is again a mash up of different styles. This time, however, the band nailed it, just as they did on Overcome. They thread the needle between metal, hard rock with a little metalcore dribbled in a few cracks.
Instead of seeing The Order of Things as a transition from their previous album, you could see it as a gamble. The band chose to make more “soft songs”, rather than plunge back into the metalcore scene. According to my research before starting this project, most long-time fans dislike everything after For We Are Many. This is understandable, given how different the band’s newer material is compared to their older songs.
I like The Order of Things because there are more than just fast songs. All That Remains did the same thing on A War You Cannot Win, however, this time around, they simply wrote better songs.
I like Labonte’s voice. I like when he sings. I like when he screams and growls. Naturally, I should enjoy The Order of Things, because it features a lot of singing. Although, there are some harsher vocals snuck in with songs like “No Knock”, for example.
Lyrically, I find “No Knock” a bit gimmicky, though it is a guilty pleasure. I love how Labonte bends his voice on “This Probably Won’t End Well”, simply put, it’s beautiful. “Victory Lap” needs to be mentioned as well, simply because of the sick humor cast across the lyrics.
All That Remains’ most recent endeavor, Madness follows a similar template to the one used on The Order of Things. The band mixes their metalcore roots with aspects of other genres to create something that could now arguably be called the new All That Remains sound.
Initially I wasn’t too thrilled with this record because I felt it was kind of bland. However, it shines much brighter when listened to in context with the rest of the band’s albums. Also, listening a second time with the lyrics in front of me helps the songs make more sense.
I feel that All That Remains has mastered the art of gluing together a number of different elements from several different genres and subgenres. Namely, they figured out how take metalcore and introduce clean vocals and throaty, bouncing riffs. It will be exciting to see how they proceed in the future.
There are several heavy tunes on Madness, such as “Halo”, “Safe House”, “Madness” and “Open Grave”. These songs aren’t The-Fall-of-Ideals-heavy. In fact, they would have fit in well enough on For We Are Many. In contrast, there are slow tracks. “If I’m Honest” is great addition to the band’s list of ballads. It stands well next to “What If I’m Nothing”. “Far From Home” is another slow tune. I didn’t find it as alluring as “If I’m Honest”, but it certainly is a quality song.
#2 This Darkened Heart
Upon listening through All That Remains’ albums, this became a clear front runner for the coveted “number one” spot. The music is more varied than The Fall of Ideals, however it is still thoroughly heavy.
The opening of the first track caught my attention: it’s a soft acoustic guitar being strummed and plucked. This opening is drastically different than the rest of the album, which easily counts as classic All That Remains. Moving beyond this, there is a cleverly placed instrumental track. “Regret Not” picks up precisely where the previous song, “Focus Shall Not Fail” ends, and thus continues the ideas musically.
Vocally, I like the mixed approached Labonte takes on This Darkened Heart. His screams aren’t so extreme they’re hard to understand. On some parts of The Fall of Ideals I felt this was the case. Also, this album was the first to feature clean vocals, which not only makes the songs more accessible but, from a musical perspective, it provides another layer of texture.
“Focus Shall Not Fail” is best followed up by “Regret Not”, the instrumental track I mentioned. Overall, this is good metalcore song, with the classic All That Remains twist: riffs galore!
“The Deepest Grey” is a classic example of All That Remains. It’s heavy and riff centered. However, it also showcases Phil Labonte’s iconic clean vocals, and there are two guitar solos!
I was more or less introduced to All That Remains by “Two Weeks”. And, rather quickly, it became another song I always tried and failed on Rock Band. If you’ve read my other rankings and reviews, you’ll noticed an embarrassing theme running through many of them. I attempt, and generally fail at, playing my favorite songs on Rock Band.
Back to the album, “Two Weeks” is (almost) the band’s first clean song. There are some throaty parts, and we could debate if they actually count as “screaming”. This song, I believe, started to lay a foundation for All That Remains’ more recent material, which is largely clean. I feel this is worth noting, given how divided fans seem to be over the evolution of the band’s music.
Overcome marked a lot of changes for All That Remains. I see these changes as growth and experimentation. Some people prefer to see these changes as the beginning of their downfall. In short, they switched styles. Their first few albums are “metalcore” and this album lands somewhere outside of this category, as it is a mash up of styles. This pooling of elements makes for better and infinitely more interesting music.
Most of the songs on Overcome would fit into the “fast and heavy” category. However, there are a few that stray from this norm. “A Song For the Hopeless” is a very different tune. The band bounces back and forth between breakdown-ish sections that are heavy and ballad-ish sections with an acoustic guitar. I enjoy the contrast between each movement. Plus, the “emo-kid-inside-me” finds the depressing (yet hopeful!) lyrics appealing.
“Forever In Your Hands” is a kind of rare song for All That Remains, as it is slower than most of their material. Lyrically, however, it is just another sad song that sounds like a generic break-up tune. The band’s discography is littered with this type of song. However, it stands out because of the change in musical style.