Edmonton, Alberta’s All Else Fails is one that band that truly takes the varied influences of its members, pours ‘em into a blender, and ends up with a musical protein shake that tastes at once unique and familiar. Metalcore is the style in most general terms, but by the time the band adds atmospheric flavors with keyboards and various effects (strings, choral vocals, etc.), and injects an impeccable sense of melody – bolstered by well patterned, versatile clean singing parts – into the mix, the result is one that can only be described as All Else Fails. New album The Oracle: What Was, Is, and Could have Been is the most definitive example of that deft mix to date. It is an offering that is as catchy and aggressive as it is fun and aurally stimulating. Barrett Klesko
(vocals, guitar, programming) gives us the guided tour.
When All Else Fails first arrived on the world stage, did you feel as though you
were offering something different to heavy music? The creativity involved and
the willingness to move beyond genre conventions was undeniable. Nowadays, that kind creativity is expected from the band.
Yes, we certainly felt that way, though not necessarily in the way you mean. It was never our intention to create a new genre or to be the most groundbreaking band of all time, but instead we have always just wanted to play music we love. It’s been important to us to never pigeonhole ourselves into a specific sound or end up moving in a predictable pattern.
One of the most impressive aspects of this band’s music is how seamlessly you integrate the softer sides, including the singing, with the more aggressive aspects. Unlike many bands in – for lack of a better term – the metal-core genre, it never sounds formulaic or forced.
Very much like the first point, we never feel like we should approach songs a certain way, we just let them flow and work with what we feel is the natural progression of the music. I think that feeling like we can take any approach is both more interesting to the listener and more artistically gratifying for us.
You’ve stated that The Oracle: What Was, Is, and Could have Been is “our darkest, heaviest, deepest and ultimately, most beautiful album thus far.” Tell us more about the heavy, the deep, and the beautiful – with which I fully concur.
Well the last disc had more of a punk flavor that we have not carried over, so in that regard I think this is a heavier, and certainly darker album. As for deep and beautiful, I use those terms in reference to creating atmosphere in the music, which I think this album has a lot of. It’s that intangible feeling you get when music carries you to a place internally that is more than just “this is cool.” It also speaks to someof the diversity that the disc contains, specifically the acoustic and instrumental tunes.
By the same token, the songs seem meticulously arranged and there is a progressive presence in the music, but when all is said and done it is still the central basis of the song that one remembers. That’s easier said than done since many a band has released albums on which a push for creativity detracted from the basics of a memorable song. What’s the key to making it work?
Ha! I wish I knew, but I don’t believe that there is a foolproof formula to songwriting. Sometimes a simple structured song can have the same impact that an incredible complicated one can, but that is certainly not always the case. We try to approach every song as a whole, and not just chain riffs together. The idea of flow is something that, especially in more progressive music, often gets overlooked.
Along those same lines, with all the nuances, coloration, and diversity of instrumentation involved (whether choral parts, strings, piano, or otherwise),
one might think that a great deal of time is spent making sure that every part has its place. If that’s not the case, then you certainly have a knack for making everything fit in a way that results in a seamless flow from beginning to end. Again, that’s a rare skill.
I usually have a basic idea going into any song whether it will end up with strings or piano or whatever, but often the best things are accidents in the studio, unexpected combinations that turn out to do something I would not have expected. The keyboards and programming are certainly the most complicated parts to write first because I have no formal training in composition, and second because as the singer and guitarist, I’m not usually using my keyboard while we are writing songs.
How does what one hears on the studio recording translate to a live setting?
Really well! We use a sequencer live since we do not have a keyboard player, so while we are certainly playing our main instruments and singing without backing tracks, the orchestra / electronic parts are sampled directly from the albums. It’s a simple setup that works well for now, though one day I would love to be able to have another member to perform those parts live, and way down the road symphony shows certainly won’t be out of the question!
I don’t really like to spell out the meaning of my lyrics; instead I like to leave the discovery to the listener, as perspective is certainly a personal thing. That said, we were certainly less obvious in the lyrics on this disc than we were on the last one.
Speaking of which, from where is that socio-politically-charged spoken sample in “The Oracle” taken?
It is an excerpt from Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech. I chose this one for the disc partly because it still very much reflects the attitude of our culture, but also because it can be seen as a counterpoint to many of the arguments that we make in our music against the “war as an answer” approach to conflict. It’s funny that few people who ask about it ever wonder why I chose something that would conflict with many of the ideas we throw around, but the answer is easy. We as a band are not looking to provide opinions with our lyrics, but instead are trying to provoke our listeners to learn more about the world around them, and come to their own conclusions.
For as many memorably written cuts as you’ve included on the album, a left fielder
like “Robots KOLTG” ends up standing out as not only just as memorable, but so
damn much fun.
That one has a bit of a funny story actually. We were approached last year by an online gaming company to provide a song for a game soundtrack, “The house at the end of the world” specifically, however even though the song was finished and ready for release, they kept asking us to make these really ridiculous changes to the lyrics to fit the game. Eventually we got fed up with it and transposed their last email word for word and put the first few riffs that came to mind under it and sent it back. Never heard from the again, though in the end, we all really love the song. It’s cool to just do something fun every now and then, and the strong reaction we have gotten from it, in fact it was just used in our latest Studio Space tour blog, we decided to move it from a secret track to a listed song on the disc.
And what is it that makes robots kind of like the government anyway?
Ha! If only I knew, we didn’t come up with that! I would love to say cold devotion to logic, but that is clearly never the case…
What led to the inclusion of Alice in Chains’ “Sludge Factory?” Interestingly enough, it just feels like it belongs on the album, somehow fitting right in.
A random whim! See, not everything we do is planned way in advance! Honestly, I just woke up one day and thought, “you know what would be cool, cover and Alice and Chains song,” it just turned out so well we included it on the disc.
Often an acoustic version of an existing song feels like little more than bonus material or an extra. What impresses in this regard is how the acoustic version of “This World in Flames” is just as captivating as the “proper” version, yet comes with a completely different vibe.
This goes back to the atmosphere thing I was talking about early, it’s something I have been toying with for a while, and to me it has a certain melancholy to it that the “proper” version doesn’t have. Another song that really was just an experiment in the studio that turned out so well we felt it needed to be a part of the disc.
Because of the diversity of your sound have reviews of The Oracle… been polarizing to any extent?
Absolutely, but not in the way we expected, in fact, what seems to be polarizing reviewers is that many seem to be uncertain of whether we are doing something brand new, or falling squarely into the over-saturated metal-core crowd. That said, I couldn’t be happier with the critical response that has been pouring in, the negatives amount to roughly three percent of the numbers, and the outlets that are generally really tough on metal bands have been overwhelmingly positive towards us!
What musical influences are present amongst the members that results in the music of All Else Fails and how does it all come together during the writing and
We have a vast array of different and often conflicting musical tastes in our band. While I grew up on Metal, Grunge and Industrial, our guitarist loves Jazz and our drummer listens to very little outside of brutal death metal. It can really make the writing progress difficult as we disagree on almost everything, but in the end, the mix of influences is what makes our music unique.
Are you satisfied with what Suicidal Bride has done been able to do with the band?
Ha! That’s a funny question since I own the label, so yes in the way that SBR puts everything they possibly can into our project, but no in the way that we are ready for the next step up in the industry and are actively pursuing a larger label.
Where does All Else Fails go from here? One would assume the road and ultimately the studio, but perhaps there is a bit more to it than that.
More touring is certainly the next step. Our Western Canada tour was earlier this summer, and from here we are planning to first hit Asia, then Europe, and lastly the states. We have toured Canada four times now, so it’s time to branch out into new markets. Once that is all said and done I’m sure we will have enough material for the new disc, so we can start the whole process again!