Album titles are tricky. Ideally, the name of the album should describe its sound in some way, particularly when coupled with such knowledge as the band name and album art. For example, I’m guessing that no one is going to be surprised, after glancing at the image over there, that Dissidence by All We’ve Known is a metalcore album. The band hails from South Africa, and cite such acts as We Came As Romans as influences for their melodic and slightly electronic brand of metalcore. And yet, while I happen to think that “dissidence” is a great name for a metalcore album, it unfortunately does not describe the music as well as I might have liked.
Opener “Between Two Worlds” serves as a template for the rest of the album to follow. Lifeless chugging peppered with light electronica act as a backdrop for equally lifeless roaring peppered with exactly the kind of clean vocals you envisioned when I told you this was a metalcore album. “Black Mirror” picks up the pace, and utilizes far more interesting riffing — but again, there’s a lack of energy in nearly every element of the song that makes it hard to really get into. It doesn’t help that Dissidence heavily overuses clean vocals in its choruses and interludes, while the harsh vocals dominate the verses. In a great many ways, Dissidence is a cliché of frustrating proportions.1 For the most part, Dissidence sounds like generic metalcore in the vein of Bring Me The Horizon.2
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a formula and sticking to it. It’s not as though this isn’t a common theme in a lot of the reviews we write around here either. And there are occasional glimmers of promise in some reasonably catchy passages in “First Blood” and “Burn.” But when I listen to the lead guitar lines that open “Halfway,” even those sound lifeless. I don’t know what has to happen in recording and production for guitar solos to sound bored, but these are simply unmemorable; I’m struggling to remember them even now, and I listened to the song within the last half hour. Songs like “First Blood” and “Oversight” come and go without anything to really set them apart — as does Dissidence as a whole, really.
This leaves the vocals as the most memorable element of the album. But as I’ve mentioned, the vocals are exactly what you’d expect from this style of music, and are further so lacking in emotion that the “hardcore” aspect of All We’ve Known feels mismatched. Sure, there’s screaming and roaring and the discernible lyrics have a rough enough edge to them, but the actual delivery falls flat. The clean singing, used largely for variety and texture, has nothing to differentiate it from an uncountable number of way-too-similar bands in this genre. In the singing, and in many elements of Dissidence, there is a strong sense of “we did this because this is what you’re supposed to do in metalcore.” Metalcore demands screaming, so in the screaming goes, never mind the simple fact that there is no passion behind it. There must be chugging, so in it goes, ignoring the fact that most of the riffs that drive the album are basic and add little to their songs.
As I finish up this review, I can’t help but wonder if I’m being a bit harsh. All We’ve Known are, I feel, a talented group of musicians whose debut full-length suffers largely from issues that could well be tied up in its production and recording values more so than the musicians themselves. Still, I don’t get much “hardcore” from this record, and the metal side feels unfortunately basic, and those are hard things to get over. I hope their next effort better conveys the emotion that inspires it, I really do — because Dissidence, unfortunately, doesn’t land as a direct result of that failing.