This kid Kent Alexander is a 15-year-old 10th-grader at University Prep High School and a Metro Times editorial intern. As far as we can tell, he digs heavy metal, ancient and modern philosophy, and Camus. He lives with his mother on Detroit’s East Side. This is his first interview with a rock star.
American heavy metal has seen its subgenres rise lately. Thrash and hardcore bands are busting through the gates of obscurity and inducing headaches at national concert halls and in the heads of parents. The current wave, which started growing in the last few years, is bringing in new big names (Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage) and boosting the popularity of second-stagers (Agony Scene, God Forbid). These bands have brought with them the shredding sounds that, like all good metal, will make you want to bang your head — they’re fast, loud, crunchy and melodic.
In all of this madness is the 6-year-old All That Remains — Phil Labonte (vocals), Mick Martin and Oli Herbert (guitars), Matt Deism (bass), and Mike Bertlett (drummer) — a rising metal band riding the momentum of its second album, The Darkened Heart.
I had the chance to speak with Labonte and get his perspective on his music and the state of metal.
Metro Times: Do you consider your band in a certain musical genre?
Phil Labonte: I guess it would be the “new wave of American heavy metal” that people are talking about. I guess if the media is going to toss us into that, that’s fine. We cover a lot of ground musically. We try to write songs that have more variety than just pounding. We like to have layers and texture. We just write what we write and let people call it what they want.
MT: What drives you and your band mates to do what you do?
Labonte: I guess it’s just a love of music. It’s like once you start playing an instrument and it gets into your blood, it becomes what you do. When you’re a musician, that’s what’s you do.
MT: As a musician, how would you define the quality of musicianship in metal nowadays?
Labonte: It’s definitely higher than it was five or six years ago. All the dudes in Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage can play. They know what they’re doing. It’s not just getting out a guitar, tuning it down and banging on your lowest string.
MT: How would you describe The Darkened Heart overall?
Labonte: Overall, it’s really aggressive, fairly heavy and very dark. We’re not going to be singing about killing people, or killing your mom or your dad, or hating everything. None of us look at life that way. You can go ahead and be miserable, but the things that happen to you happen to everybody else every single day. You can’t control 90 percent of what happens to you, only your reactions. If you’ve got an issue like family members dying, that happens to everyone. A girlfriend breaks up with you, or you’re fighting with a girlfriend, it’s not something to be happy about. But it’s not the end of the world. You really need to take the hand of your doubt and take what’s given to you and make the best of it. I could never be a miserable person. I think that translates into the songs and the music.
MT: Where do you think the metal scene will go over the course of the next 10 or 20 years?
Labonte: I think that there will be bands from this genre that’ll have some longevity. Metal is going to keep getting bigger for the next five or six years. After that I think that it will start to go down again, like thrash in the late ’80s. In ’91, metal disappeared and it became really underground. You had a handful of bands that stuck it out (e.g. Pantera).
MT: How do you feel about the metal scene now? Where do you think it’s headed?
Labonte: Right now, I think it’s really good. You’ve got the big bands in the genre, like Lamb of God, Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage. Those bands are selling close to 100,000 records. Bleeding Through is pushing about 50,000 to 75,000. It’s just really good for the genre itself to see this kind of success. Hopefully that bodes well for us. Our record is still selling strong and it’s been out for six months, so we have no complaints about that.
The group performs Friday, Nov. 5, at Harpo’s (14238 Harper, Detroit; (313-824-1700) with Gwar and Dying Fetus. Turbo Teen is music column that will appear occasionally. Contact Kent Alexander at email@example.com