You've got to give credit to Austin, Texas' AT ALL COST for pumping life into a lethargic metalcore genre. The band has gotten very creative on its debut full-length, "It's Time to Decide", injecting vocoder effects into clean vocal harmonizing, tossing about synthesizer doodling, throwing in non-traditional instruments, and always focusing on the hook. And yes, the whole bit about some of these songs being "danceable" (not the kind one does in the pit) is basically true. It is indeed an interesting take on the musical form, even if it doesn't always work.
Not every song is drowned in experimentation. Several tunes are above average Swede-core, and those with the aforementioned atypical attributes still feature harsh (in this case, shrieky) vocals and AT THE GATES-isms. "Death to Distraction" is one that possesses the dual qualities. The verse is your basic scathing 'core stuff, while the clean vocal chorus sung through a vocoder is almost shocking in its pop delivery. There's also a kind of electronic dance break in the middle that gives way to a traditional 'core breakdown. The first couple listens turned me right off, with subsequent forays pushing me toward a more tolerant stance. This was not the case with "Fabricated", and by that I mean the dance-mix "Uh oh oh oh, uh oh oh oh, oh no" lines that start out irksome and move quickly to horribly annoying. It's the kind of thing that might induce the dancing performed by Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan on "A Night at the Roxbury". Get the picture?
Bitching and moaning about select irritants aside, much of the songwriting is competent. The tunes have individual personalities and the band goes to great lengths to offer the listener more than run-of-the-mill metalcore. In addition to the aggressive fare, you'll hear tribal drumming ("Consider That"), female vocal harmonies ("This Pen" and "The Hook"), and a bluesy instrumental with weepy guitars and a violin ("It Burns Black"), to name just a handful of the notables.
While I'm not crazy about some of what's going on here, I can't help but respect the band's effort on "It's Time to Decide". It doesn't take long to appreciate the adventurous musicality. The fact that reviewing this one was often frustrating could be an indication of AT ALL COST's unique place in the world of hardcore and metal. Otherwise, it would be a simple matter of pigeonholing. Just be damn sure you can keep an open mind before making the purchase decision.