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All That Remains + Lacuna Coil at The Pressroom
September 27, 2019 @ 6:00 pm - 11:30 pm
For 15 years, Massachusetts-based quintet All That Remains have written and released… whatever the hell they felt like with total disregard for what was considered trendy. Fronted by self-confessed contrarian Phil Labonte, the band has experimented with a range of styles including pop, rock and caustic metalcore with just one objective – to create great songs that come straight from the heart.
“Our goal has always been to write songs that we like,” Labonte says. “All That Remains has seen a lot of criticism about the songs that we’ve written and what people think we’re supposed to do. We started as a very underground death metal kind of band, we’ve since moved away from that and have never apologized for it. The music we’ve written has been reflective of that and I think the lyrics, the ideas, have always been reflective of that as well.”
Yet along the way, All That Remains have taken flak from just about everybody: extreme metal purists who accused the group of selling out, rock fans that don’t get the screamy stuff, liberals who object to Labonte’s right-of-center lyrics and conservatives that can’t understand the singer’s non-violent, Libertarian ways. Labonte’s response – bring it on!
Madness, All That Remains’ eighth album, is the band’s most musically eclectic, provocative release to date – full of undeniable hooks, incisive riffs, electronic samples and a variety of vocal styles. And, of course, the range of subject matter addressed pushes the band’s limits further than ever.
“I don’t mind if I piss off if it gets them to think about things. People know that I have strong opinions and I disagree with things. That’s my whole deal.”
As contrary as he wants to be, Labonte still values quality over confrontation. Madness, produced by Grammy award winning Howard Benson (Halestorm, Papa Roach, Chris Cornell), is All That Remains at their best, offering a level of accessibility and diversity lacking from much of today’s hard rock and metal. The first single and title track, “Madness,” is a microcosm for the rest of the album.
The song starts on an experimental note with a barrage of amp static and the buzzing of ungrounded electricity accompanied by a sharp, simple drum intro. A pause later, the whole band kicks into gear, blending a propulsive rhythm with a kinetic groove that swings like a rope ladder in a thunderstorm. As the vocals enter, the guitars drop out, replaced by a delicate keyboard melody and electronic beats. Then, after Labonte sings, “Why should we escape ourselves? We are who we are in the end,” the tone shifts back in a heavier direction, leading to a monster chorus more infectious than influenza.” In true Labonte style, the tune is neither a love song nor a euphoric anthem about rocking out. “It’s about socialism,” Labonte says. “It’s about the repetition of bad ideas.”
Other songs on Madness are far more variegated. The leadoff track “Safe House,” which is about a man who lures robbers into his home and then kills them, is the heaviest track All That Remains has written since they played melodic death metal in the first half of the aughts. Driven by barreling beats, thrashy guitars, a crushing breakdown and metalcore screaming, the track pulverizes even as haunting keyboards and clanging percussion offer a brief respite from the jackhammer pounding.
Then there’s “Far From Home,” which shifts between ringing acoustic guitars and forlorn vocals about being lost and alone, and a euphoric rock passage that shows that there’s always light in the darkness.
Throughout Madness All That Remains revisits the dichotomy between savagery and sensitivity. “Trust and Believe” contrasts double-bass drums, chugging riffs and melodic guitar licks with soaring guitar melodies and an anthemic chant-along chorus and “Halo” opens with a speedy electronic passage that sounds like a violin on hyper drive, then develops into a blazing number that balances melodic vocals with pain stricken howls.
“We really wanted this record to be different,” Labonte says,” explaining the inclusion of electronic samples and the dramatic juxtaposition between roaring chaos and accessible craftsmanship. “We wanted to really push ourselves and push the boundaries of what we’re allowed to do. We’ve always pushed that envelope, but we wanted to push it more.”
All That Remains started working on Madness in the spring of 2016, then in April Labonte flew from his home in Western Massachusetts to Los Angeles to start working on vocal melodies and lyrics with Benson. It was the first time the band didn’t have fleshed out riffs and fully written rhythms to serve as guideposts for the vocals. At first, the process was difficult and the band members were uncomfortable, but the more they worked on the record the more excited they became about the way the songs were coming out. For the first time in years, they felt genuinely challenged and inspired to learn new ways to create.
“Me, Mike and Oli are the primary writers and we’ve always written songs on guitars because we’re all guitar players,” Labonte says. “It was a totally different way to write songs. And I feel like it was really, really cool to do that because it gave us a fresh perspective. I’d bring Mike and Oli the vocals and they’d use what I had come up with to construct the riffs instead of the other way around.”
The most difficult song for Labonte to create was “Rivercity.” The song begins with a ringing telephone and progresses through an electronic beat, a melancholy, ballad-like guitar line and plaintive vocals. The track changes in intensity numerous times and injects various rhythm shifts before ending like it began. When he was working on “Rivercity,” Labonte’s then-wife was deployed in the Middle East in the Marines and the singer was left helpless at home while she risked her life on the front lines.
While the title “Rivercity” sounds like an innocent enough name for a song – the kind of title John Mellencamp might use about childhood memories — for Labonte the term was very real and frightening. “Rivercity stands for ‘reduced communications,’ he explains. “Me and my ex would be on the phone and she’d be like, “Yo, the base is getting mortared. I gotta go.’ If someone dies, they shut off communications until they can notify the families of the people that die. So we’d be talking and she would say, ‘Hey, we’re going to rivercity and hang up, and I wouldn’t talk to her for three or four days and I wouldn’t know what happened. The base is getting mortared. She might have taken a round or died. Being on the other end of that is agonizing.”
Integrating excruciating personal experiences, political rants and controversial commentary with music that’s just as confrontational, Madness is an unapologetic showcase of honesty and ingenuity. Inducing gentle head-bobbing one moment and inciting teeth-clenching fist pounding the next, All That Remains have created about 50 minutes of attitude-laden rock music. Pick a song: “Open Grave,” their version of Garth Brook’s “The Thunder Rolls,” “Back at You, “Louder.” There’s something there to surprise, antagonize or incentivize.
“If you ask someone, ‘Is this what you expected?’ It’s always a ‘no,” Labonte says. “And that makes me happy. Is anyone challenging what the listener expects anymore? We don’t do stuff because we’re supposed to.”
Italian alt metal superstars Lacuna Coil are shifting the paradigm yet again with new album, Black Anima. Just as Comalies (2002), Shallow Life (2009), and chart-smashing Delirium (2016) upped the ante and rocketed the Milan-based outfit into the upper echelons of metaldom, Black Anima is a level beyond all that. It’s both a hard look at the past and a brave sprint into the future. Two years in the making, Lacuna Coil’s ninth album arrives after the group published their first book, Nothing Stands in Our Way, in 2018 and celebrated in auspicious fashion their 20th Anniversary with an ultra-exclusive, all-out insane live show in London, dubbed The 119 Show: Live in London. Lacuna Coil have never shied away from hard work. Nor, have they restrained their creative impulses to push things—new songs “Anima Nera,” “Reckless,” “Veneficium,” and “Sword of Anger” are mind-blowers!—to the absolute limit.
“We’ve been very busy,” says Lacuna Coil vocalist Cristina Scabbia. “We’ve played a lot of live shows between Delirium and Black Anima. We published our book, a chronicle of the Lacuna Coil story. And we crossed paths with our 20th Anniversary, which resulted in a quick switch from the Delirium album cycle to the 20th Anniversary one. We had a big change in our look. Our show changed a lot. We had special effects and artists performing on stage with us. That became The 119 Show, actually.”
Formed in 1994, Lacuna Coil quickly became one of Century Media’s biggest selling bands. From Comalies (2002) and Karmacode (2004) to Shallow Life (2009) and Broken Crown Halo (2014), the high-flying Italian act demonstrated an uncanny ability to pull in rock, gothic, and metal audiences. The band’s spirited and lauded live performances have also earned them a solid reputation for a band that not only delivers night in/night out, but also a band whose stage performance reverberates long after the show is over. Indeed, Lacuna Coil’s heartfelt, heavy, melodic, and rhythmic metal—a hybrid of gothic, groove, and alternative—has created a rabid worldwide following. Whether it’s “Our Truth” and “Delirium” or “Nothing Stands in Our Way” and “Trip the Darkness,” Lacuna Coil’s dual-vocalist assault is immediately identifiable. New album, Black Anima, continues the Italian’s reign atop the metal stack.
“We’ve stopped comparing records,” Scabbia says. “Every record we’ve done was a picture of the time in which we wrote it. This record, Black Anima, was really written around our live performances. The songs we enjoy playing live the most are the heavier ones. So, when we started writing, the songs naturally were heavier. We have more growls (for Andrea) and epic parts (for me), too. Over the years, we’ve mixed European and American styles, but I would say it’s hard to describe what we sound like now. It’s still Lacuna Coil—our trademark—but it’s also a new trip, one we want our fans to enjoy.”
Written together with longtime Lacuna Coil band producer (and bassist) Marco Coti-Zelati over the course of the last few years, Black Anima, is the culmination of many inputs. From images and words to soundtracks and movies, Coti-Zelati hunts for and creates new expressions of heavy. For Black Anima, the enterprising song-smith came up with 15 songs in total, of which 11 made it to the album. He dug deep into Lacuna Coil’s historical repertoire, looking for heavier and darker, melodic and melancholic. Songs like “Veneficium,” “Apocalypse,” and “Layers of Time” are modern takes on debut album, In a Reverie (1999), while others show Lacuna Coil venturing into slower, more experimental territory. Of course, what Lacuna Coil album is without its keystone pieces, songs that unite all, songs that are geared for upward and outward momentum; the catchy stuff, really. Black Anima is that album, diverse, energetic, and luxuriant.
“We used Delirium as a starting point,” says vocalist Andrea Ferro. “With Delirium, we wanted to be freer. If the music called for a heavier arrangement—like double bass drums, deeper growls, or having Cristina go epic—then we went for it. We didn’t really think about songs that would be for the radio or songs that would be singles. We had to stir things up a little bit. It was still Lacuna Coil, but maybe the way we presented the music was more unexpected. People really liked the honesty of Delirium. With the new record, we really wanted to take things to the next level. When Marco started writing the songs, he knew he could push the songs in every direction without worrying too much. There’s a lot of diversity on Black Anima.”
“It’s an evolution of Delirium,” Scabbia adds. “It’s Lacuna Coil. It’s a bit modern and a bit old. It’s us. It’s hard to describe what Black Anima sounds like. I mean, there are old-school European sounds and there are very modern sounds. Throughout our career, we’ve been pretty free to do what we want. If we want to make a darker sounding song, we can do it. If we want to write a longer song—like ‘One Cold Day,’ for example—we can do it. That’s the cool thing about Lacuna Coil. We can be who we are. We don’t really think about the songs without taking into consideration who we are. We know what Lacuna Coil is. We know what fits. It’s like a movie. We’re not going to put in a character that doesn’t fit the movie. Every record is a movie. It all has to make sense. I think that’s something you can hear on Black Anima.”
Lyrically, Lacuna Coil’s principals opted for self-reflection on Black Anima. Songs like “Save Me,” “Reckless,” “The End is All I Can See,” “Now or Never,” and the title track tackle the ends of the human condition, from revenge, death, and hate to justice, positivity, and equanimity. Often, the lyrics are tied to personal things the band are going through. As a group of musicians into their 20th year, the sheer number of possibilities could be overwhelming, but they needed to fit Lacuna Coil’s lyrical parameters. Certainly, songs about paying the bills or going to the post office aren’t in scope on Black Anima.
“The lyrics touch on the personal side of the members of the band,” says Ferro. “We touch upon feelings and reflections, the passage of life. People who are no longer with us, for example. All of us experience this, actually. Whether it’s a loved one, companion, or animal, there’s no escaping it. We thought it was important to talk about that. Cristina and I also started reading books on topics that related to our new lyrics as well. There was one book that talked about the religious and scientific sides of life and death. Of course, we used the darker side of our imagination for this because it fits our mood, our sound, our way of writing music. As for the title, Black Anima, I like to put together words. Like Comalies and Karmacode, for example. Black Anima was the same thing, really. The two words tie together perfectly to define the concept, Anima is soul in Italian and the feeling throughout the record is dark, black so it was easy to pair the words together. “
The past few years have been marked, in various ways and in different degrees, by loss for the band, giving rise to the concept of souls (Anima). Whilst the songs on Black Anima go beyond this concept and explore different themes, the overall idea is brought together with custom made tarot cards by the Detroit artist, Micah Ulrich. Each card is tied to a song on the album and reflects the lyrics and the meaning of the song. Andrea explains “in the traditional sense, tarot cards are consulted to find oneself, to find meaning in one’s life and to find hope in the future. We wanted to take this idea of searching and apply it to our lost Animas, our lost souls. Our cards are designed and invested with the properties of searching and finding lost Black Animas.”
For Black Anima, Lacuna Coil returned to BRX Studio in their hometown of Milan. They employed the same team to engineer (Michele Adani and Marco Barusso), mix (Marco Barusso), and master (Marco D’Agostino for 96KHZ.IT Mastering), with songwriter/bassist/keyboardist Marco Coti-Zelati manning the production chair again. So, the winning formula continues on Black Anima, as does the recording lineup, with one exception: longtime drummer and friend Ryan Blake Folden has chosen to undertake new adventures in his life and has decided to step down as the full time drummer of Lacuna Coil. Richard Meiz (Genus Ordinis Dei) has filled Ryan’s shoes in the recording studio and will be playing the European shows with the band.
“We wanted to go there [BRX Studio] because it’s a place where we can get things done,” says Ferro. “It’s a small studio. When we’re in that studio, it’s like essential people only. It’s not suitable for just hanging around. It’s not comfortable. There’s no chill-out room or green room. It’s designed for work. It’s very solid for that purpose. Also, we chose BRX because it’s in Milan. This allowed us keep commitments while also continuing to work on the album. I mean, we had shows that we had booked, a comic convention at the same time we were in the studio. In the end, the studio was perfect for us.”
“We really enjoyed working in the studio in our hometown,” Scabbia says. “When we did Delirium, it was so nice. We totally got the result we wanted. So, we thought we’d try it again, the same studio and team. I will be honest here: sometimes I like it when we’re writing a record or recording a record and we’re away from home. Home is nice but there’s always distractions, little things that take your time or your attention. Home can be distracting. That’s why in the beginning I wasn’t in favor of doing Lacuna Coil-type things in Milan. Now, we’re able to separate the studio work and being at home. I really enjoyed the studio this time around.”
Lacuna Coil’s next steps are to promote Black Anima with every ounce of their beings. The Italians are slated to hit the United States in September with Europe to follow November. The rest of the world will definitely be thereafter in 2020. Before then, however, they’ll take the The 119 Show to New York City for two spectacular, can’t-miss nights, as well as perform at some of Europe’s finest festivals. Black Anima itself is out October 11th on Century Media. The spell-binding album is ready to sate diehard fans and mine new ones. Indeed, that’s exactly what Lacuna Coil are planning on.
“We hope Black Anima becomes part of their lives,” says Scabbia. “Their legacies. That they’ll remember it as being an important part of their existence. Friends of ours say that every album of ours is like a movie. So, this movie is about maturity in our lives, facing some hard points in life. We also have a lot of energy. We are able to give Lacuna Coil new life with this new album. We always have new ideas. We are always able to create new atmospheres. That we can create something fresh after all these years is personally reassuring. But we want fans to be surprised. We can’t wait to hear what they have to say!”
Meticulousness ensures singularity. Bad Omens carefully direct each nuance of their music, approaching the process with an auteur mindset. The California quartet—Noah Sebastian [lead vocals], Joakim “Jolly” Karlsson [lead guitar, vocals], Nicholas Ruffilo [bass], and Nick Folio [drums]—explore the enigmatic idiosyncrasies of their signature sound on 2019’s Finding God Before God Finds Me [Sumerian Records], imbuing cinematic electronics and gospel stature into metallic melodies.
Produced by Noah and Jolly, the ten-track trip unfurls like the sonic equivalent of a gripping existential drama.
“What makes us a rock band is the fact we play instruments, but we’ve always been pretty experimental in terms of post-production,” explains Noah. “We dove after a specific sound without boundaries. What separates us is the attention to detail in every song.”
Bad Omens diligently worked to hone this approach since their 2016 self-titled debut. As the entire tracklisting tallied nearly 30 million streams, the breakthrough single “The Worst In Me” leapt past the 8 million mark on Spotify. Meanwhile, “Glass Houses” clocked 4.7 million Spotify streams, “Exit Wounds” racked up 2.6 million Spotify streams, and “Reprise (The Sound of the End),” “The Fountain,” “F E R A L,” and “Enough, Enough Now” each exceeded 1 million-plus on the platform. Along the way, they received looks from Alternative Press, New Noise, and Revolver and toured alongside everyone from Parkway Drive to Bullet For My Valentine and Asking Alexandria. Following Warped Tour 2017, the group commenced writing for what would become Finding God Before God Finds Me.
In addition to expanding the sonic structure under the influence of the Hillsong UNITED and other gospel production, Noah endeavored to brighten up the thematic palette as well.
“The last record was so melancholic, sad, dark, and nihilistic at points,” he admits. “Before we started really writing the new record, I went through some things that opened up my mind and made me realize who I wanted to be as a musician, what message I wanted to send, and the feeling I needed to inspire. This is predominantly hopeful. There’s a sense of underdogs overcoming adversity. We should be a safe place for people. There’s also a musical feeling of uplifting catharsis. It’s not entirely happy or sad, but more so regal.”
This drove 2018 singles “Careful What You Wish For” and “The Hell I Overcame.” Fans immediately responded as the former generated 1.5 million Spotify streams and the latter quickly neared 2 million. With Jolly a world away in Sweden, they finished the record remotely, maximizing the time in between tours to cap off a panoramic vision.
The 2019 single “Burning Out” couples strains of piano and choir with trudging distortion and a sweeping and soaring chant of empowerment, “I was lost, but now I’m found under the lights and in the sound.”
“It’s about the impact music has made on me and how it saved me in a sense,” he continues. “It’s about my relationship with myself and music and how I overcame my emotions and took advantage of this ability to reach a better place. I wanted the lyrics to give you a sense of hope.”
Evocative of the experimentation, the album slips from choral elegance into a Spaghetti Western-style swing on opener “Kingdom of Cards.” The conclusion “If I’m There” climaxes on a beautiful reprise, “Well if I’m there to catch you when you fall, you’ll have a friend down in hell after all.”
“In some ways, it’s a love song,” he adds. “It’s also a song of forgiveness and acceptance, which is why it’s the end. I’m drawing a line in the sand and forgiving. This is something I never would’ve done in our stuff before.”
By imparting a piece of themselves on every aspect of the composition and production, Bad Omens deliver a statement that stands out. “We just want you to feel something,” he leaves off. “Nothing in the world is stronger than emotion. It makes us human, gives us soul, and separates us. We tried to make this album like a movie where it captivates you immediately, takes you on a journey, and gives you a positive payoff.”
When nothing is off limits, you can reach your full potential. Toothgrinder realized this fact while making their 2017 full-length, Phantom Amour [Spinefarm Records]. While retaining the slippery schizophrenic spirit that turned them into a critical favorite on 2016’s ‘Nocturnal Masquerade’, the New Jersey quintet – Justin Matthews [vocals], Jason Goss [guitar], Matt Arensdorf [bass], Wills Weller [drums], & Johnuel Hasney [guitar] dramatically augmented their unpredictable creative palette through expanding the grasp on melody, incorporating cinematic electronic flourishes, and even going acoustic, to name a few evolutions. As hypnotic as they are heavy, these thirteen tracks signify “progress” through and through.
“Everybody calls us ‘a progressive metal band,’ but I think the most progressive thing you can do is surprise your audience and keep yourself happy,” says Wills. “I feel like that’s exactly what we’re doing here. From jazz and classic rock to metal and experimental, everybody brings different flavors to the table. Then, we pour them into the same pot. That’s Toothgrinder in a nutshell.”
It’s also why the band quietly made a palpable impact with Nocturnal Masquerade. As Revolver dubbed them “A Band to Watch,” it earned acclaim from AXS, Metalsucks, New Noise, Metal Hammer, The Aquarian and more as the single “Diamonds for Gold” [feat. Spencer Sotelo of Periphery] generated over 300K YouTube/VEVO views and “Blue” cracked 384K Spotify streams.