Sound — 5
Akin to how Dave Mustaine split with Metallica early into the band's lifespan (quite easily the toughest of luck) but rebounded into his own successful metal band Megadeth, All That Remains was frontman Phil Labonte's parlay after parting ways with Shadows Fall. And while of course Shadows Fall would proceed to release great albums like "The War Within" and "The Art of Balance," All That Remains would give us great albums as well, like "This Darkened Heart" and "The Fall of Ideals," so not only did Labonte land on his feet finely, but this mitosis benefitted metalheads more than anything (what's better than one impressive metal band?).
As All That Remains progressed, though, their desire to broaden their sound from melodeath has left those that still rock their early albums disappointed, most notably in 2008's "Overcome," which started to move the band towards metalcore territory (no wonder the death metal kin got upset). Though the metalcore elements still stuck around, one could see that All That Remains wanted to re-buff their death metal side. 2010's "...For We Are Many" touted direct influences from the pioneer age of metal, and 2012's "A War You Cannot Win" brought back some early-era style songs of theirs, as well as putting extra emphasis on lead guitarist Oli Herbert (arguably the band's biggest asset throughout their lifespan), to appease the dissatisfied fans of yesteryear.
Though they could still pull off melodeath well, it was more evident that All That Remains weren't interested in being exactly the same as they were a decade ago, and that observation is further enforced with their seventh album, "The Order of Things." By and large, the album has the band composing with the A-Day-To-Remember-esque strategy of melodic metalcore, where topline melodies are top priority. Labonte's growls are even more endangered in this album - only getting a spotlight in the shallow metalcore cuts "No Knock" and "Pernicious," as well as "Criticism in Self Realization" - and being 98% to 100% absent in half of the songs on the album. And while that lacking of harsh vocals is already a recipe to aggravate the melodeath-era All That Remains fans, it's not universally abysmal. In fact, it allows the band to get more harmonious, having bassist Jeanne Sagan sing alongside Labonte often (even taking the lead in the bridge of "Pernicious"), and the unity of male/female clean vocals is a satisfying new characteristic to see.
On the contrary to that, the other ways "The Order of Things" tries to build itself to hold its own against its new peers of melodic metalcore are just the strengths All That Remains were known for already. The glory-days sound of the band is relived in tracks like "Tru-Kvlt-Metal" and "Bite My Tongue" (which even contains a jazzy interlude that calls back to the "The Fall of Ideals" track "Six"), and Herbert still manages to throw in a hearty guitar solo into nearly every song (though that's par for the course for All That Remains).
But with the band wanting to shape their sound into something more widely accessible, they inevitably have to water down those strengths, leading to very pedestrian metal cuts like "Divide," "Victory Lap," and the acoustic metal ballad "For You," which follows the same mold as tracks from earlier albums, like "A Song for the Hopeless" or "What If I Was Nothing." Herbert tries to do his part with his lead melodies in "This Probably Won't End Well," "The Greatest Generation" and "A Reason for Me to Fight," but they have to be back-seated for Labonte's toplines - a tradeoff that hurts more than it helps.
Lyrics — 6
In the past couple of albums, Labonte has found his three essential topics to fuel his lyrics, all of which make up "The Order of Things": heartache, political issues, and calling out those early-era All That Remains fans that don't like the direction the band is going musically. With the last of those three topics being the most recent of subjects, Labonte's still having fun rubbing his band's overt success in the faces of his decriers - from shouting "here's to you and your favorite band, yeah they suck too" in "Victory Lap" to criticizing the unwitting conformity of the underground metal scene in "True-Kvlt-Metal." But as entertaining and topical as these antagonistic songs may be, it's a style that wears out its welcome quickly. On the other hand, with his songs of heartache like "This Probably Won't End Well" and "For You," they feel no more than echoes of the handfuls of heartache songs Labonte has written before (who knows, maybe they were in fact extra sets of lyrics left out of "Overcome").
With political issues, Labonte has been getting more direct in his views with each album, and it further shows here. Taking another track to speak of his reverence for his forefathers in "The Greatest Generation in the World," he pairs that ode to legendary work ethic with voicing his disdain for the current economic practices in "Fiat Empire" ("Keynesianism, live the lie/trapped in this prison, destroying lives"). He also shows his support for the armed forces deployed overseas in "A Reason for Me to Fight," as well as "No Knock," which literally paints a military suppression scene ("bust through like a battering ram/flash bang first gives us the upper hand/room by room, we're death incarnate tonight/take 'em while they're sleeping, they won't put up a fight"). Though it may be intended to try and be music made for the U.S. Marines to pump themselves up with, it's more likely to just be another song teens listen to while playing "Call of Duty."
Overall Impression — 5
It's common to see a metal band that started on the heavy side of the spectrum get ridiculed for delving into less-aggressive music, and All That Remains have expressed how fine they are continuing to move in the sonic direction they're moving in. But while fighting to try winning back their old fans isn't their problem here, the real problem with "The Order of Things" is that it puts the band between a rock and a hard place. Majorly committing to melodic metalcore, the need to subdue the band's melodeath roots damages the full potential of the album, and the new raison d'être to be "catchy metal" has the band throwing their hat into a crowded and homogenized ring. Ultimately, this investment in a different sound doesn't pay off.