At All Cost: Bobby Andrews , Grant Anderson, Trey Ramirez, Mike Theobald.
Personnel: Andrew Collins (vocals, keyboards); Erin Jantzen, Jimmy Vela, Rory Phillips , Dan Keyes (vocals); Mike Theobald (guitar); Robert Mann (slide guitar); Alexis Ebbets (violin); Grant Anderson (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Shawn Sullivan.
Recording information: World War IV Studios, Austin, TX.
Photographer: Aubrey Edwards.
At All Cost's debut for the revitalized Combat imprint (now distributed through Koch) is one of the more inventive metalcore releases of the past couple of years, blending hard-charging guitar blare with lengthy and varied instrumental passages and alternating Andrew Collins' hoarse scream with some pretty significant vocal manipulations. That's right -- It's Time to Decide might be the first metalcore record to ever feature a vocoder. At first, it's crazy. "Death to Distraction" begins with Collins' my-world-is-ending scream of the title, and the music is already galloping at manic speed -- it's like you opened a soundproof door into At All Cost's very loud, very angry world. But then, just as quickly, there are these pitch-modified vocals, and it just sounds so impossibly strange and wrong over the churning, gritty, swirling instrumentation. But it grows on you -- Collins' ranting scream is as one-dimensional as any vocalist's would be, so the change of pace is nice. By the time you get to "Death to Distraction"'s breakdown and it sounds like a Texas metal take on Daft Punk's "One More Time," you know It's Time to Decide isn't going to be typical. And it's not. "Human Now" is fantastically propulsive black metal with another vocal trick that takes you by surprise; "Right Now" operates more in the hardcore realm until its second half is swallowed by primordial gloom; and "Irony" eases up on the unintelligible screaming so At All Cost can deliver their view on the last 300 years of U.S. foreign policy. ("Irony" is also one of the album's strongest melodic moments.) But At All Cost aren't through busting up the metalcore framing device. "It Burns Black" is a late-album instrumental that's full of slide guitar, unquestionably funky organ, and violin. Wait a minute, is this Giant Sand or At All Cost? When they aren't taking stylistic license, AAC bring the metal with precision. But they understand how limited that sound can be, even at its most loud and frenetic. By getting curious about their vocals and instrumental texture, At All Cost effectively connect metalcore to Mr. Bungle. ~ Johnny Loftus