Why has the band gone so far down melody lane? Why is Josh Gilbert getting so much microphone time? He’s in the way of Tim Lambesis and his screamo monotones! Did they pull a trick on everyone and sneak in Pierce the Veil or something?
In Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying Addie Brunden fades into oblivion while her son beats the nails into her coffin outside her bedroom window. As I Lay Dying, the band from San Diego, with their new album Awakened are similarly hovering between this metalcore world and the next world, whatever that might be…
Embracing melody was a sin in the earlier days of metalcore, but these days every band in the genre has gone toward the light. Melody makes hit records. Metalcore makes for great live shows, where the force of a million decibels delivers a powerful experience. As I Lay Dying hasn’t gone soft, its musicianship and beefy presentation is still quite intact. The album has just taken a left turn away from The Powerless Rise.
“Cauterize” shouldn’t scare away the faithful. Neither should “A Greater Foundation.” They’re epic in arrangement and deliver the necessary MMA elbow blows to the top of the skull. Obviously, AILD is a band on a mission, as it were, so “A Greater Foundation” is a spiritual piece of nasty bruising. “Resilience” launches off like a multi-stage rocket, but then eases up after the metalcore breakdown and visits harmony ranch before bringing Lambesis back for another eight bars of battery acid in the ears before a couple measures of harmony shut the song down.
The band plays like avenging angels behind the vocal trade-offs throughout the album. Everything is nestled in a proper metalcore production, all is as it should be. That’s not entirely a good thing though.
“Wasted Words,” “Whispering Silence,” “Defender,” and “Cauterize” would make an impressive EP. The other six tracks are decent, but awfully hard to recall even after half a dozen listens. With the heavy metal compass pointing toward melody, AILD has tried hard to inject it into Awakened, but it doesn’t sound organic to the songs.
When mom used to haul out that horrific needle thing to inject butter into the thanksgiving turkey, it seemed to be an act that guaranteed juiciness regardless of how overbaked it got. Such is the songwriting here: injected, not organic. They have may have tried to butter up the whole album with melody, but it’s very inconsistent, and often sounds exactly the same from song to song.
Awakened may be a transitional album for the band. It will sound great on tour. Unless the album cover is hand-drawn by Stan Lee, there might not be much temptation to own the album. All the metalcore jostling for recognition makes it difficult to stand out for a band like As I Lay Dying. Awakened takes the fifteenth row back from the front of the chapel, present but maybe a little too easy to miss.
(released September 25, 2012 on Metal Blade Records)