This is a band that gets a lot of negative feedback from metalheads. Whether they've been labeled as sellouts by long term fans or "not a real metal band" by elitists, almost everybody can agree on one thing, their past couple of albums have been fairly lackluster. Don't get me wrong, even I enjoy parts of "Overcome" and "For We Are Many" (although "A War You Cannot Win" is, in my opinion, "an album you should not hear"). The issue for me is not that these newer albums are terrible, but that they just pale in comparison to ATR's first two albums. What makes "Behind Silence and Solitude" and "This Darkened Heart" great albums in the All That Remains discography?
First, these albums were not nearly as formulaic as their following efforts. "The Fall of Ideals" was a good album but that's when the band essentially fell victim to the "rinse and repeat" song structures typical of mainstream metalcore. By that I mean the all too familiar "scream the verse, sing the chorus, repeat, breakdown, guitar solo, sing the chorus" next song. With the earlier albums they seemed to have more of an interesting writing style. "Behind Silence and Solitude" really focused on riff diversity and extended solos within songs, whereas "This Darkened Heart" displayed a mixed bag of melody driven songs and 90's-style hardcore jams. Basically every song contained elements that made it stand apart from the others.
Second, these albums made very little use of clean vocals. In fact, "Behind Silence and Solitude" had none! This was a great aspect when you take into consideration both Labonte's impressive screamed vocal range (powerful growls to menacing shrieks) and his highly limited clean vocal range (you've heard the auto-tone on their newer albums). Even when the cleans appeared in "This Darkened Heart" they were performed tastefully, adding a nice touch to the song while also not overstaying their welcome. "Focus Shall Not Fail" is a perfect example of this approach to cleans.
Finally, these albums give off a sense of emotion that is both dark and very sincere. This to me is the single most important aspect of these albums and the one thing that hasn't been recaptured in their later efforts. All That Remains has always written songs with themes that center around relationships. The reason why this theme worked better in their earlier albums is because Labonte had a lyrical approach that seemed genuine, as if he actually had feelings of loss and alienation that needed to be screamed out. This approach combined with the neo-classical guitar work of Oli Herbert helped to establish an aura of darkness and depression in the band's sound. Unfortunately, this approach has largely been replaced by one that is characterized by cheesy lyrics and uninspired riffs (Compare "Tattered On My Sleeve" to "Asking Too Much" and seriously ask yourself which one more accurately and creatively represents genuine emotion). Atleast the old fans will always have these albums to look back on.