All That Remains have no choice but to be honest. Ever since their formation in 1998, they’ve stayed true to themselves with each successive record. There’s no pretense. There’s no posturing. There’s no pandering. Their seventh full-length effort, A War You Cannot Win [Razor & Tie], is no exception. The Massachusetts quintet—Philip Labonte [vocals], Oli Herbert [guitar], Mike Martin [guitar], Jeanne Sagan [bass], and Jason Costa [drums]—unabashedly unleash tight and taut heavy metal with arena-size hooks. Defying preconceived notions, the music is as genuine as it gets, and All That Remains wouldn’t have it any other way.
Going into A War You Cannot Win, the group didn’t tinker with their process much. Beginning in early 2011, they commenced writing in a Massachusetts practice space together between touring for their last offering, For We Are Many. Coming off the road, the musicians hit the studio with longtime producer Adam D [The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage] to record. As they cut the album’s twelve tracks, one paramount goal loomed.
“We just want to write good songs,” admits Labonte. “We’re not trying to be the heaviest or most technical band in the world. We’re not trying to write math problems. We aim for balance. It’s not about pleasing anyone or fitting into a scene. For us, it’s always been about making music that’s memorable and we would actually enjoy listening to it. That’s the big point.”
That point becomes proven tenfold on the anthemic first single, “Stand Up”. From the scorching lead to the propulsive beat, it’s an incendiary and infectious introduction to the record that’s meant to be chanted along to.
“People can interpret it in many different ways,” Labonte reveals of the song. “It’s a little abstract. This band has never been about one style of music though. Any creative ideas are fair game, and everybody has input. We’ve always pushed the boundaries of what we are, and we’ll continue to do so.”
At moments, A War You Cannot Win retreats into the warmth of Herbert’s classically-infused acoustic instrumental “Calculating Loneliness” before reloading the thrash firepower of the politically-charged title track or the visceral stomp of “Down Through the Ages”. In other places like “What If I Was Nothing” and “Asking Too Much”—self-proclaimed “pining love songs”—the melody entwines with the lyrics, evincing tangible vulnerability. Most importantly, those vulnerable moments hit just as hard as the heavy ones in true All That Remains fashion.
“I’m fortunate to be in a band with people who have such incredible ability,” Labonte smiles. “Jason and Oli make everything musically interesting and complex. They’re phenomenal. Mike and I add the pop metal aspect.”
As far as the album title goes, it encapsulates a deeper meaning for the outspoken singer. “I drew from a political perspective,” he goes on. “It’s an election year and the record drops Election Day, but it doesn’t matter if you voted for one side or the other. It’s still the same crap. The idea that the government can control someone’s life is where A War You Cannot Win comes from. You can’t go ahead and tell individuals what they can and cannot do. There will always be people who fight that power.”
All That Remains has been fighting since day one. Granted, it hasn’t been easy, but they’ve had some very significant victories rising from the much-written about East Coast metal scene into an international phenomenon.
To date, they’ve sold more than a million albums worldwide and 1.5 Million tracks over the course of Behind Silence and Solitude , This Darkened Heart , The Fall of Ideals , Overcome , and For We Are Many . For We Are Many actually debuted at #10 on the Billboard Top 200 and has moved over 180,000 copies. At Active Rock Radio, they’ve become a mainstay. “The Waiting One” hit Top 5 on the Active Rock Radio chart, becoming their first-ever Top 5 single and fifth consecutive hit for the format. “Hold On” and “The Last Time” spent over a year charting as well. They’ve destroyed stages worldwide with everyone from Asking Alexandria and Buckcherry to Hollywood Undead and Five Finger Death Punch as well as giving unforgettable performances at OZZfest and Download.
Ultimately though, it circles back to the fans for Labonte. “The most important thing is people can pull from the music what they want,” he concludes of A War You Cannot Win. “Do the songs reflect on you? Do they affect you? Do they inspire you somehow? Do they make you think? It’s not about the person who wrote the song. The listener is the most important. If people are entertained by it and they think a little bit, we couldn’t ask for anything more.”
All That Remains definitely accomplish that mission on A War You Cannot Win.