ALBUM REVIEW : ALL BUT ONE — Square One
It might come as a surprise to many people who know me, but when the sun comes out and summer announces its scorching hot presence metal is not my music of choice. Luckily for me, this year I don’t have to choose between the summery riffs I love so much and metal; newcomers All But One have cooked up a unique melodic metal album that hits the spot even on the brightest and warmest of days.
Basing myself on the first single “Little White Lies” to make that decision, I waited for the sun to be shining down on Vancouver before I gave the album a listen. So though Square One, All But One’s aptly-titled debut album, came out at the end of April, it wasn’t until June that my beloved city received the sun, the heat, and the blinding brightness necessary to give the release the backdrop it deserved. And, boy was it worth the wait! Square One is not your typical metal album, but it doesn’t try to be. That’s perhaps the most impressive thing about All But One: the band’s complete lack of pretense. With Máté Bodor - who has turned more things that he has touched into gold than Midas himself - behind the band, the quintet would have the talent to be ostentatious but they’re not.
All But One doesn’t try to fit within pre-established metal norms and have completely redefined what it means to do whatever they want. Singer Joe Carter-Hawkins has an unconventional voice; it’s a little high, somewhat nasally and similar to Cartel’s Will Pugh, yet unlike many metal singers, he doesn’t try to conceal it and uses it to set the band apart instead. Never venturing on the harsh side of vocals himself, Carter-Hawkins elects to use his impressive vocal range throughout the album, bringing a surprising pop element to the album that works incredibly well with the fast-paced, sometimes heavy, always energetic and just plain fun riffs played by Bodor and fellow guitarist Karoly Alapi.
All But One - "Persistence"
But fans of harsher vocals need not worry; All But One makes excellent use of its musicians’ voices. Taking a page from A Day to Remember’s book of successes, backup vocals on Square One are usually yelled - but not quite growled - enthusiastically in unison, as can be heard in the band’s excellent track “Persistence.” And just in case the sporadic punchy choruses aren’t enough, the album is full of breakdowns and seriously furious drumming to convince even the more skeptical listeners that All But One’s debut effort is metal as hell.
Though poppier metal albums are typically simpler and Square One is admirably unpretentious, it is not without intricacies nor surprises. The interlude “Hope Fuel” is a layered piece featuring a dark and ominous hum in the background paired with the sound of rain falling and a heart beating that is as unsettling as it is oddly calming, and it is the perfect example of the vision and artistry that went into creating this album.
Square One has only been out for two months but it already has a strange nostalgia to it. When I listen to Square One, I can almost feel the dust sticking to my nostrils from the exposed dirt patches where grass once grew at Jean Drapeau park where I religiously attended Vans Warped Tour every summer. I can almost feel the sun on my skin. The album is best listened to on the way to the beach, the top rolled down with wayfarers on, and if you’re ever unconvinced that All But One’s first album is the perfect soundtrack for the summer, there’s a song called “Serenity” that might just change your mind.
ALL BUT ONE - Square One
Release date: April 28, 2017
▶ Listen to All But One on Spotify