All That Remains – ‘Madness’ (Album Review)
All That Remains have really stuck their necks out here.
My strongest music-related belief is that bands and artists should be allowed to play whatever the hell they like. Without the concept of creative freedom, music’s history would be very dull indeed. We’d probably still be banging rocks with sticks, or humming along to bone flute quartets, and there would be no rock ‘n’ roll, no punk, no metal, not even jazz or blues.
The problem with complete creative freedom is that without some degree of quality control, you often end up with self-indulgent results. Risks are taken, but for the wrong reasons. Making a point gets prioritised over good songs and good music.
On Madness, All That Remains give the finger to every hater, doubter, and nay-sayer. Taken in isolation, that’s a winning gesture, one of defiance and rebellion. Madness is a musical fuck-you.
The problem is, it doesn’t function as much more than that. Lyrically, Madness is almost entirely dumbed-down and cliché-ridden – notable exceptions being River City (which remains a disjointed musical mish-mash) and standout acoustic ballad Back To You. Musically, it is diverse – but that same diversity remains poorly executed almost every time.
All That Remains are still capable of pushing out punishing metalcore – but below-par lyrics and soulless solos repeatedly spoil the results. Madness (the song) features some stomping Korn-inspired grooves, but aside from that there’s not enough to recommend another cut. If I’m Honest is a sub-Nickelback pastiche; Far From Home is a bad power ballad; and Never Sorry might make a statement, but it’s also the worst song on here, a missed opportunity that should have been reworked from the ground up.
The message behind Madness is loud and clear: All That Remains are not going to apologize for their actions. Nor should they; if they needed to get this stuff out of their systems, that’s just the way it is. But by the time the closing Garth Brooks cover The Thunder Rolls is over – so painfully cheesy that it comes off as a joke rather than an impassioned hat tip – and even repeated listens fail to make Madness a slow-burning grower (as some of my favourite albums of all time were when I first heard them), disappointment is all that remains.