All That Remains have just unleashed their latest metallic masterpiece, The Fall of Ideals, and have quickly risen from the underground to one of the premier bands in the scene. Rising above their metalcore roots, with The Fall of Ideals, the All That Remains have concocted an album that seamlessly combines their mutual love for extreme music like Cannibal Corpse, powerful melodies that recall Killswitch Engage’s most infectious moments and machine gun drumming that recalls the devastation of old Fear Factory. PureGrainAudio caught up with All That Remains frontman Phil Labonte just prior to the launch of their Canadian tour with Protest the Hero and Threat Signal to talk about the band’s blistering new album, the progression from one album to the next, and why he’ll never let people know his screen name on X-Box live.
Tell us a little bit about this new record and the progression from This Darkened Heart to The Fall of Ideals. Phil: I really feel like we’ve established our own sound and don’t sound like anyone else. When you listen to this record and the last record, you can hear similarities, but it definitely doesn’t sound like we’re just putting out the last record again. I think any artist strives to make music that doesn’t sound like anything else. I’m not saying that we don’t want to have people say, “Well this part reminds me of this,” because I think it’s cool and influences come from everywhere. With this record there is a lot of inspiration but it’s not from your typical sources, because we all listen to a lot of different styles of music. I listen to country music and a lot of garbage pop. I’m not a James Hetfield and want to go ahead and turn our band into a country band and our new album definitely isn’t country, but it’s just there’s a lot of good music out there. That stuff just fits right in.
It seems like so many fans are so close minded to different styles of music these days. Phil: I think that you’re probably right, but at the same time when I was 15 years old, if it wasn’t death metal then I didn’t want to hear it. I was into brutal death metal like Cannibal Corpse, Exhumed, Goreguts and if they weren’t grunting our growling then I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted the most extreme heavy stuff I could get. I’m not that way anymore because I grew out of it, but I can’t say there is anything wrong with feeling that way because shit, I did it! [laughs]
So you were the headbanger in high school with long hair and a Suffocation t-shirt? Phil: I did have long hair and I did own more than 1 Suffocation t-shirt. [laughs] In fact when I met Frank Mullen from Suffocation I got a little bit fan boyish. I’ll see him at shows and stuff and he’ll say, “Hey what’s going on?” and I’ll get like “Awww shucks...” I’m a big fan of his and think that he’s a phenomenal death metal vocalist.
Is it weird when your fans get that way around you? Phil: Well yea’ because I think of myself as kind of a hack. [laughs] I think that I can just trick people into thinking that I’m talented. On top of that there is certain amount of privacy that I want to maintain like kids know I play Halo and they constantly ask me for my screen-name, so they can play with me on X-Box live, but I just keep saying no. I’m not sitting there thinking I’m all this and that because I’ve had kids come up to me and say, “Yo man, you’re my idol!” and I am just like, “You need just chill out. Find someone worthwhile to idolize.” [laughs] I’m not just saying that to have this fake humble thing, but there are 2-3 bands out there that I’ve noticed that they think their the biggest band in the world and constantly tell the press that. That makes me just want to tell them to shut up. I don’t ever want to become that pretentious to think that I can tell you how good we are. If this record comes out and we sell 200,000 copies or even 500,000 copies then that’s awesome, but if we only sell 20,000 copies it wouldn’t have changed the way this record sounded. We’re not going to write a record a certain way just because we may or may not sell more records. You’ve heard the record, you know the track “The Weak Willed” with the little bits of death metal in there. We write stuff like that because that’s what we loved when we were kids. It’s all about writing what you wanna hear and if people want to jump on the boat and say they like it then awesome, but if you don’t then I’m still happy with it.
Can you give us some insight into the title “The Fall of Ideals” and where you’re coming from lyrically on this record? Phil: I’m not one to sit and explain my lyrics, but the idea behind it is that most people’s convictions now days, last only as long as it’s comfortable. People are always like, “I believe this” or “I believe that” until they find out that believing in something means you may have to stand up for something. Believing in something means you might have to tell someone something and run the risk of upsetting them because of your beliefs.
You wrote the majority of material on This Darkened Heart yourself. Has the writing process changed any with this release? Phil: A lot of this record was written by Olie, who probably wrote about 70% of this record. Then he would bring it to us and we’d work the rest of it as a band. It was very much a collaboration when it came to putting everything together. We’d put the songs into a computer and them move them around and chop them up a bit. With this record while we were writing, we had a lot of things happen on the business side where we went and got new management. That’s the stuff that I’ve always had a hand in and on the last record, even though I wrote the majority of the material, but it was still a collaboration. This time it wasn’t that I was relinquishing control, but it was just that I didn’t have as much time to write. A lot of the stuff that was written had been written months previous over the course of touring behind This Darkened Heart.
“The Weak Willed” sounds as if it could be a Cannibal Corpse song with those deep throaty growls.... Phil: Yea’ I think that sticks out, but I think there are 3-4 songs that stand out completely on their own and then there are a few that sounds like the kind of song structure we’re comfortable with. We kind of stuck with a similar song structure to the last record, but we also branched out with what we tried to do on the last record. We tried to have a formula for the song writing but have a fresh approach to it.
With the increased melody that the band uses on this record, I’m sure there will be purists who just can’t make the transition for the band.... Phil: I can’t change what anyone is going to think, so I don’t really think about it too much. If someone only wants to listen to This Darkened Heart and says that there’s too much singing on this new record or they just don’t get the songs like we had hoped for, I can’t make them like it. I think if you really take a listen to this record you will hear that I’m singing more, but you’ll also hear a lot more diversity in my vocals. On the last record, I think I did the best I could do at that time, but with this new record I think I really showed everyone everything that I can do vocally; with the singing, screaming and the old death metal style that I love. If people think we have too much singing now and they don’t like us, then I’m sorry but I think we’re a more aggressive and more extreme band on this record. We didn’t have any double bass or blast beats on the last one like this one does. We’re much more aggressive than we’ve ever been.