One of hard rock’s preeminent breakthrough success stories of recent years, the Massachusetts-based quintet All That Remains has built its career on overcoming the odds. From cracking the Billboard Top 20, to joining the elite active rock radio fraternity, to being one of just a handful of acts to take part in the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, Ozzfest and Vans Warped Tour trifecta, the group has shattered previously-held expectations about just how far a band with roots in independent heavy metal can go – and with their fifth album, For We Are Many, it’s clear they’re only getting warmed up.
Although guitarist Oli Herbert says For We Are Many was the group’s most challenging album to date, he believes the end result was worth the fight. “I feel we have a consistently strong album that has not left even the smallest detail to chance,” he says. Vocalist Phil Labonte agrees. “When we wrote the album, it was a really good time for the band creatively,” he says. “Mike (Martin, guitars), Oli and I have written four discs together now, so when we get together, it’s very easy to communicate ideas.”
While the album was again produced by Killswitch Engage guitarist and fellow Massachusetts native Adam Dutkiewicz (August Burns Red, Parkway Drive, As I Lay Dying) – who previously collaborated with the band on their second and third albums, This Darkened Heart (2004) and The Fall Of Ideals (2006) – For We Are Many sees All That Remains unafraid to experiment. One track (“Won’t Go Quietly”) includes a guitar solo featuring a talk-box; another sees the band utilize a Leslie speaker, which gives the Hammond B-3 organ its distinctive sound. “We weren’t afraid to be wrong,” Labonte says. “If we try something and don’t like it, no big deal – but if you don’t try it, you might miss something cool.”
Herbert praises Dutkiewicz for the professionalism he brought to the table. “Adam is a very gifted but demanding producer,” he says. “He can make you laugh, and then cry the next moment when he informs you of your continued failure. He does it in a joking manner, of course, but at the end of the day, nothing short of perfection is accepted under his watchful ear. This gave me comfort, in that only the best performances were used and I didn’t have to second-guess myself.”
Following the runaway success of 2008’s Overcome – which debuted at #16 on the Billboard Top 200 and yielded two top 20 active rock hit singles, “Forever In Your Hands” and “Two Weeks” (the latter of which peaked at #6) – many bands would get complacent, but All That Remains‘ decade-long fight for survival prepared them for the long haul. “We are a band that came up the hard way, and the first seven years were pure struggle,” admits Herbert. “Once big things started happening along the way, we have been greatly appreciative.” Labonte echoes the sentiment. “It’s been over 10 years since we started ATR, and it’s amazing that in this day and age, we’re still able to do this for a living,” he says. “It’s the most amazing, crazy, annoying, fun and rewarding job I can imagine, and we’re so grateful to the people who have been here all along, and to all the new people who are just getting into the band right now.”
After laying the groundwork for the release of Overcome with a summer-long stint on the 2008 Vans Warped Tour, All That Remains – which also features drummer Jason Costa and bassist Jeanne Sagan – toured aggressively around the globe, including North American stints with underground metal heroes (In Flames, Trivium), hard rock heavyweights (Slipknot, Disturbed) and screamo titans (The Devil Wears Prada) alike. The 2009 Rockstar Mayhem Festival, meanwhile, saw the group perform alongside a lineup that ranged from Bullet For My Valentine to Slayer. In recent weeks, All That Remains has played with everyone from Avenged Sevenfold, to Limp Bizkit, to Fear Factory, further proving the diverse appeal of the band’s unique mix of muscle and melody – something Herbert believes stems from the band’s unique mix of personalities. “The five of us are radically different people with completely different views on what we like, and the challenge is to make those differences meet somewhere in the middle,” he says.
As For We Are Many proves, never has compromise sounded so compelling. The album deftly shifts from the aggression of the title track, to the memorable hooks of “The Last Time” and first single “Hold On,” to the slow groove of the chorus of “Dead Wrong,” with infectious vocal melodies and fleet fingered yet tasteful guitar solos peppered throughout. Musically, the measured and precise riffing of Herbert and Martin and Costa’s complex rhythms compel throughout, as they surely will on stage when ATR kicks off an extensive touring cycle with As I Lay Dying, to be immediately followed by a headlining tour beginning in mid-October.
Having SoundScanned a combined half-million copies of their last two albums alone, All That Remains is poised to soar to new heights, but as For We Are Many proves, they’ll do so on their terms, without compromising the ideals and independence demonstrated during the band’s first decade of existence. “Every time a band gains more success,” Herbert says, “they are expected to live up to or surpass their previous effort – but we just wanted to make a consistently good album.” Clearly, sometimes modest goals yield immodest dividends.