What’s this column about?
Just like his former band, Shadows Fall, Phil Labonte has earned and deserves a spot among the North American metal movement’s new classics. After putting in the work to get Shadows Fall off the ground, Labonte struck out on his own with the band All That Remains.
The band’s debut album, “Behind Silence and Solitude,” features a hefty dose of the American brand of metal that has since made Shadows Fall a household name (in metal circles). But Labonte wasn’t simply crafting a clone of his former group. All That Remains was taking the new sound of metal, merging it with some older metal elements, most notably the expansive musical directions and crunchy guitar solos. Labonte blends metal growling with a hardcore edge, but isn’t afraid to let the vocals soar on occasion (think very early Killswitch Engage material).
The similarities to Killswitch Engage are no accident. While the band cranked out a respectable debut, it’s the group’s second outing, “This Darkened Heart,” that really captures a new classic vibe. Said album was engineered and produced under the watchful eye of Killswitch guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, who is fast becoming one of the premier producers in metal circles.
“Behind Silence…” was a perfectly acceptable release, but the band didn’t seem to have its own voice yet. Personally, it seemed more like a statement from Labonte that he wasn’t leaving the scene. The album was polished, but had an underground feel to it, released on Prosthetic Records under the Metal Blade banner.
The group stuck it out with Prosthetic for the second album, replacing one guitarist and bassist and putting Dutkiewicz behind the boards. The result was the perfect blend of metal and melodic mayhem … and a new classic.
A New Classic
All that Remains
This Darkened Heart
“The last album was a little self-indulgent. There were parts that really didn’t accentuate the songs. I think there were really cool parts and musically we all really liked that but I don’t think we paid as much attention to structure on the last music as this one. Arrangements and structure is probably the biggest difference. If you listen, the actual riffs and stuff could have been on (first record) Behind Silence and Solitude and it wouldn’t have sounded weird and vice versa you know, it wouldn’t have sounded out of place. … It’s got a little heavier sound. We were kind of looking for a little less melody and a little more kind of in-your-face heaviness, you know. By no means heavy like Cannibal Corpse but we listen to that stuff and got influences from that stuff and the sheer brutality from that stuff.”
— All That Remains front man Phil Labonte
Right from the start, “This Darkened Heart” tears into the listener. “And Death in My Arms” kicks off as an abrasive beast, but somewhere along the way transforms into a sledgehammer of crushing riffs and melodically masterful solos.
Under the guidance Dutkiewicz, the group has been able to capture this deceptively epic sound, where even though each song clocks in at a normal length the soundscapes are expansive (due mostly to the amount of tempo changes and overall shifts).
Each song is steeped in groove and melody. The dueling solos on “The Deepest Gray” (one of the stronger songs on the album), twist and interact to perfection. There’s plenty of killer, subtle nuance on each song, but plenty of in-your-fame metal staples to enjoy as well, whether it be the driving, steamroller riffs on “Vicious Betrayal,” the come-hither opening to “For Salvation” or the frantic pace of “I Die in Degrees.”
And if you were forced to point to one specific song to turn you on to the band, look no further that “Focus Shall Not Fail.” The six-plus minute song is the only track on the album that could be considered anything close to a real epic. The deliberate, grinding opening riffs peel away to a balls-out metal assault, complete with Labonte belting out his best extreme metal wails. But each verse gives way to a strong, soaring chorus with sung vocals and tight guitar melody. Crushing bridges tumble over one another to make room for head banging solos. And to top it all, the song trails off with a piano interlude that bleeds into the next track (the amazing instrumental “Passion”). In fact, the one-two punch of these two songs should convert any fans on the fence as to the band’s worth.
The Test of Time
While the sound isn’t anything new on the scene today, All That Remains does it better than anyone else. The guitar interplay is tight and interesting, the songs never get boring and the lyrics and overall song structure are worlds above the group’s contemporaries.
All That Remains isn’t breaking new ground here. But the group’s been doing it longer, or at least better, than most bands that are getting a lot more attention for it. Meanwhile, All That Remains is all but ignored. Well, the attention from fans and the metal scene in general has increased from disc to disc, so I expect the same to happen when the band releases “Fall of Ideals” next week (July 11). Until then, pick up “This Darkened Heart.” I imagine the group will follow-up with an even tighter collection of metal.
Until Next Time
Aside the obvious comparisons to Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage, All That Remains is one of the freshest, tightest metal bands trolling around on the underground (to some extent) circuit. A band that’s not getting nearly the recognition it deserves, any fan of the prior new classics would love All That Remains latest.
And that’s that. Until next time, take it easy. Stay tuned and enjoy the ride …