At All Cost - It's Time to Decide (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

At All Cost

It's Time to Decide (2005)


There's a pretty fine line between original and being straight out ridiculous in your musical approach. I don't know which side of that line Texas' At All Cost would paint themselves, but after a few run-throughs of It's Time to Decide, I'd have to put them clearly in the latter.

It would seem at first that the band has a pretty straightforward approach to metal, not unlike Killswitch Engage or Underoath on their first two albums, but quickly something seems off; it's the singing. It's not off because there's singing in a metal record, as Killswitch and Underoath both did that, but more in the way that these sung vocals are presented. They're rarely used in accompaniment with the screaming; the music grinds to almost a complete halt for them, but it's not that either. The vocals are presented in a manner that would feel right at home in your favorite club, or on a dance remix.

They use a vocoder, so almost every single sung lyric sounds extremely metallic and just disattached to the rest of the music. If this was a Paul Oakenfold song, nobody would be the wiser, but seeing as we're dealing with metal, the result is a horrid amalgamation that's simply cringeworthy. Even the small amount of sung vocals not tampered with by the vocoder take away from the power of the rest of the music. The vocalist handling the screaming has a tremendous voice for complimenting the metal riffs, and the highs and lows both sound completely on point throughout. It's a shame that the sung vocals are implemented at all, because the screams have the ability to gorgeously compliment the riffing, but it seems there's always something blocking the two from hitting their stride together.

At the base of it all, it is a metal album, and that part of it is great. There is the question of whether or not some of the sporadic hardcore breakdowns are truly necessary, but it's a minor qualm when compared with the album's other problems. It's because of the intrusive singing that my favorite track on the album is instrumental. "It Burns Black" is an extremely mellow, groove-driven track that makes great use of some bluesy guitars, and just beautiful tones from every aspect of the instrumentation. Following that up is another extremely strong track, in which there's only some brief background vocals, allowing for At All Cost's pulverizing metal attack to finally spread its wings without anything to hamper the delivery. The vocals are just scathing, and the rest of the musicianship so tight and fluid that it really makes me angry that so much potential was dragged to the bottom with poor choices.

Next time a band wants to be "inventive" or "unique," do it on your own time, or make it worth listening, rather than destroy what could have been an extremely solid metal album.