As I Lay Dying compress a decade of metalcore into one superb album
10th December 2012
Since I wrote this review frontman Tim Lambesis has been arrested for paying someone to murder his wife, with fairly conclusive evidence. I'd like to point out my appreciation of his musicianship does not transfer to an apparently steroid-fueled crime.
As I Lay Dying's latest effort doesn't waste any time, leading into a breakneck thrash track that, frankly, beats the shit out of every track on The Powerless Rise. Cauterize is an absolute quality track, even if it's not one of their most catchy - the chorus of 'I'm caught between the feeling of being pulled apart of stuffed into a cell' just doesn't roll as well as some of the melodies they've previously blasted out. A Greater Foundation continues this incredibly high tempo, and decides to basically turn the song into one huge breakdown, with a very Killswitch-esque melodic breakdown towards the end of the song.
This classic metalcore style is something that continues throughout the album. Maybe they were aware that the thrash route on The Powerless Rise was a bit weaker - and certainly less suited to Tim Lambesis' voice than pure metalcore - and it's something they've very much rectified here. Whilst A Greater Foundation could be a Killswitch Engage song, Resilience is something that sounds like it was a missing track on their own An Ocean Between Us (only a good thing). Wasted Words is closer to their Frail Words Collapse sound, and is also similar thematically - 'All the wasted words I said/In all the cities that I left' echoes Elegy in more ways than one, but it also draws elements from Chimaira's eastern-inspired tuning.
It's traditional for an As I Lay Dying album to have a 'slow' song on it (that's still insanely heavy) and the first minute of Overcome tricks you into thinking it's going to be that, before it slams on the gas and rips your ears out in a hailstorm of steel riffs. It shares a name with one of All That Remains' albums (one of the poor ones, post Fall of Ideals) and at some points you almost think you are listening to All That Remains, with Lambesis emulating Phil Labonte's vocals, and the guitars sound SO much like that found on The Fall Of Ideals. The following two tracks, No Lungs To Breathe and Defender, also feels very ATR-ey, although later ATR (so not quite as good).
The actual 'slow' song on the album isn't even that slow, and it's saved until the very end in Tear Out My Eyes. It's a good song, but the strength of a song like Behind Me Lies Another Fallen Soldier is it's strong lyrics, and forgive me, but 'Before I tear out my eyes/I'll just admit they're part of me' is not the best example of this band's songwriting.
Of course, like every album - and metal albums in particular - there are some songs that will just become background noise compared to the other standout tracks. One of those tracks is Whispering Silence, which is the song that tries to emulate the sound that they adopted on TPR. But this is one out of many, and the many are very good.
Before the final two tracks, we have a short, calm, instrumental called Washed Away, which prepares us for the most classic As I Lay Dying track on the album: My Only Home. It perfectly blends the melodies introduced in Shadows Are Security with the riffing found on An Ocean Between Us and using the unusual song structure found on Frail Words Collapse, and then it bursts into an incredible breakdown that you'd find on Beneath The Encasing of Ashes. This is my personal favourite song on the album.
Basically, do you like metalcore? Because this is mostly a compilation of all the different styles of metalcore that have emerged over the past decade and printed in one nostalgia-filled disc. It'll take a few listens for me to really know where it stands compared to their previous albums, but quite simply, it's bloody fantastic.