All That Remains

This Darkened Heart

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Judging from just the first song on This Darkened Heart, one is tempted to immediately rank All That Remains among the top tier of current Swedish-influenced American hardcore-metal bands (and there are a lot of them). The dual-guitar interplay of Oli Herbert and Mike Martin is intricate and impressive, and their classically tinged riff-writing yields at least a slight distinction from their many At the Gates-influenced contemporaries. However, as early as the second track -- and again on several of the others -- they reveal their downfall in attempting to incorporate passages of melodic singing. It's a downfall they share with plenty of other bands in this genre. It would be a great idea to try this technique if these bands could pull it off tastefully, but All That Remains, like many of their counterparts, do not do so. The cleanly sung breakdowns on "Focus Shall Not Fail," "Tattered on My Sleeve," and the title track feel forced and are at times cringe inducing, sounding vaguely like bad-'80s radio rock (think late Journey). The other problem is that, as the album wears on, the experienced listener can't help but get the feeling that he or she has heard many of these riffs before -- if not note for note, then close enough that it doesn't make much of a difference. The guitar playing is excellent, and as a whole this album is better than average for the genre -- especially by 2004's diluted standards -- but it's not going to unseat Slaughter of the Soul, Storm of the Light's Bane, or any of the other classics that inspired this crowded genre in the first place.

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