All That Remains: Breaking the mold of metal

Date: 3/26/2015

In 2006, Springfield-based All That Remains found worldwide success with its breakout hit record “The Fall of Ideals” and, in some eyes, became one of the standards for the hard rock music movement known as “Metalcore.”

Nearly a decade later, the band’s seventh album, “The Order of Things,” has challenged the notion that the band can be categorized at all.

If you ask frontman and Chicopee native Phil Labonte, that’s just fine.

“Sonically, we have our sound. We use the same guitars; in fact in the past four records we’ve used the same guitars for riffs. We have the same pick-ups, a lot of the same amps, and the same drum kit,” he said. “Sonically, we want to sound metal and like us, but in terms of the songs, I’m a firm believer that you can take a good song and play it in most any style and it’s still a good song. That’s why you see so many country singers and R&B singers doing the same songs. That works because the song’s good, not because it’s country or R&B or metal or rock or whatever.”

Most notable when comparing “The Order of Things” to past albums is that it features far fewer of the genre’s trademark growls and screams Labonte has been known for executing with abundant range. While still present, they complement more “clean” singing vocals. While that wasn’t necessarily the intent going in, Labonte said he’s pleased with the results.

“I think you could call it a happy accident,” he said. “We don’t want to sound the same from one record to the next.”

The creation of “The Order of Things” also marked the first time the band did not work with fellow Western Massachusetts native Adam Dutkiewicz, guitarist of Killswitch Engage, another Metalcore band that got its start in the Pioneer Valley.

Instead, All That Remains turned to Josh Wilbur, a well respected figure in the music industry with a 2007 Grammy Award and a resume that included not only popular heavy metal acts such as Lamb of God and Hatebreed, but also mainstream musicians such as Pink and Avril Lavigne.

“He’s a great songwriter, he’s got a great ear, he’s got great ideas,” Labonte said. “Working with him was extremely easy and really helped us with the creative process.”

While not endorsing one over the other, Labonte said Wilbur had a much more hands-on approach to the record than Dutkiewicz had in the past, specifically in developing the music.

“Adam is a great producer. He’s got a great ear and he’s got some really cool ideas, but Josh is a little more involved in the writing of songs,” he said. “Adam was more of a pure producer. He’ll come up with ideas for arrangements and stuff, but he doesn’t get too much into the riffs or lyric ideas, at least with us. Josh is a little more in-depth, and that could be because Josh is a producer, and Adam is a producer who’s in a band and is writing songs and performing.

“Adam might choose to keep out of [songwriting for other bands] because if he’s writing stuff, then everything that he’s writing for the band he’s producing is going to sound like Killswitch Engage,” Labonte opined.

While the creative process produced different results in “The Order of Things,” familiarity is part of what made all the changes work, starting with where the CD was recorded – at Zing Studios in Westfield.

“It’s home. The first recording I ever did was with [Zing Studios owner] Jim Fogarty at Performance Music [in Westfield] before they opened Zing,” Labonte said. “I did stuff with Perpetual Doom, I did stuff with Shadows Fall and we’ve done five out of seven [All That Remains] records at Zing. Jim is a phenomenal producer and engineer and it’s just where I feel comfortable.”

Having another producer from the Northeast – Wilbur hails from Maine originally – also helped put both sides at ease while working together.

“He gets people from New England,” Labonte said. “People don’t realize it, but when you get out of New England and the Northeast people are very different. Sometimes people can get offended about jokes and such, so Josh really understands us and our humor and stuff, coming from the same kind of area.”

Since its release on Feb. 24, All That Remains has been touring with In Flames promoting the album with what Labonte said has been positive response.

“It’s only been a couple of weeks, so it takes a little while to get an idea – usually it takes a few months – but it seems to be a positive thing. People at shows are singing the words already, and that’s really quick. You know, two or three weeks to learn a song, to be honest with you, is really fast,” he said. “We have high hopes. We don’t want to put our hopes too high, but we’re really excited about this record and we’re really excited about the next couple years.”

On March 5, “The Order of Things” made its debut at No. 25 on the Billboard Top 200 with 19,000 units sold in its first week and its featured single “This Probably Won’t End Well” ranked 11th on the rock radio charts.

With a brief hiatus in the tour schedule with In Flames, who are overseas until the end of April, Labonte and company are mostly enjoying some time off, but are still taking the opportunity to play a few shows, including a free concert at the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT April 3.

“I haven’t [played there before], but Killswitch Engage did just a few weeks ago, and I hear it was great. A lot of friends from home said it was a really, really good time, so I’m excited,” Labonte said.

Seating just 350 people, the Wolf Den is a small location, offering a different feel than many of the concerts in which the band performs.

“Smaller venues are a lot of fun. They’re more intimate and you’re real close to the crowd. If you want to shake someone’s hand, it’s not like you’re risking falling 10 feet off the stage,” Labonte joked.

Tickets for the 21-plus show are first-come, first serve until the concert hall is at full capacity. One person can hold a spot for up to four people in line, but all must be present at the time of seating.

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Currently, the April 3 show is the only time the band will appear in New England until May 8 when they return to Connecticut to play the Webster Theater in Hartford or May 9 in Bangor, ME. No other New England shows are scheduled.

“It should be a lot of fun, and it’s a free show – that’s something that doesn’t happen too often,” Labonte said.