Review Summary: A step in a new direction for the band in which they develop a new twist on their classic sound.
Let’s get two things straight before this review gets officially started. One has to do with the band this review is addressing, the second with music in general. First; I have enjoyed As I Lay Dying’s two Metal Blade releases and believe they are a band that has improved immensely since their debut. With that out of the way, I would also like to make all aware there’s something about a record I hate more then the hype surrounding it. I hate promises made by band members which are complete crap, you know the ones that describe the music listener’s can expect from the record. Proceed please…
I won’t put it in quotation marks because I don’t have the exact quote in front of me, but I recall As I Lay Dying frontman Tim stating that their upcoming release An Ocean Between Us
was the band’s heaviest and fastest effort to date. Do you remember the last time that someone correctly described their music and didn’t make an empty promise? Trivium?! Hahaha, haha, ha. Regardless, Tim’s description turns out to be quite fitting, as some of the groups fastest and heaviest tracks are present here. With faster tempos often being exercised, improved riffing, and fresh and varied rhythms, the group has indeed dialed down some thrashy feeling songs. To accompany them, are some slightly milder tracks which do wonders in separating the record apart. Improvement and evolution are indeed shown as An Ocean Between Us
is the beginning of a new chapter for As I Lay Dying.
However, first impressions are a little bit deceiving. Maybe not so much first impressions but more so if you were to judge the record based upon the first two minutes, you might be a little skeptical about the allegation I made about this being something new for the band. “Separation”
is the fairly standard dramatic opening track and while it does a terrific job of building suspense and anticipation, it is overused. “Nothing Left”
itself begins on the typical side with a down tuned riff over some start stop drum rhythms before some pummeling double bass comes through. Sounds familiar yes? But wait, how about an extremely melodic lead before the first chorus? How about both a solo and a sung chorus in the same song? How about another solo with a more speed oriented focus later on in the song? Yes indeed, As I Lay Dying are pushing the envelope for themselves and this mindset along with continued improvements makes a wonderful record.
Both singing and soloing were two aspects the band used sparingly in their previous work. However, when they incorporated them into their music the quality of two was spectacular. It was so spectacular many wondered why the group didn’t use the elements more. Confidence for the band must be at a new high, since there is a great deal more of both elements present. Heck they even combine the two elements the first real song on the record. But I know you must be wondering if the increased use of these elements results in a decrease in quality. To answer that bluntly, quite the opposite occurs. The term practice makes perfect came into mind as the constantly successful choruses and singing passages come in constant supply.
As I Lay Dying’s newest member, bassist and back up vocalist Josh Gilbert is to thank for the soothing choruses. His individual tone really locks in an emotional feel without being whiney. Songs like “The Sound of Truth”
are immense with his voice being layered over Tim’s screams. Add some gorgeous riffing sections and solid construction and you come out with one of the band’s most emotional songs to date. Josh’s voice also shines in “I Never Wanted”
, which bears slight resemblance to Repeating Yesterday off of the group’s last record. It’s noticeably slower tempo really locks in a unique atmosphere and once more the strong usage of vocal layering benefits the group immensely. They even bring out a clean section for a brief stretch before building up to an epic final section. The overall improvement in songwriting for the group shows as the song is a giant success, despite it being a style the group rarely plays.
While Gilbert certainly makes an impressive debut, the rest of the group continues to show individual and collaborative improvement. Instead of showing these improvements in the form of their typical metalcore songs, they introduce some thrash feeling tracks. The first song released from the record was “Within Destruction”
and it really shows the style change for the group. Opening with a blistering riff, the track’s first minute is an excess of power. Things slow down slightly and a distant riff plays, here comes the breakdown. Nope. Here comes a double time passage, with a heavy blast beat before the group transitions once more into the main theme of the song. Rapid tempo, a new feel, and heavier then anything done in the past by the group; promise fulfilled? Yes. Guess what? They aren’t done yet. “Comfort Betrays”
runs on the same path with more thrash sensibility. This time the group brings out some chug sections without using the famous AILD rhythm (see Confined and almost everything on Frail); a new age indeed. The track is in a nice groove when out of nowhere a shredder of a solo comes ripping through. The lead is just so perfect for the song, as it really brings their new sound to an impressive high. Following it drums play some brutal double bass patterns before things slow down ever so slightly and the track comes to a close once more successfully showcasing the group’s new twist on their classic sound.
Pardon me for being an As I Lay Dying fan (not fanboy) but I have a difficult time believing that your ‘run of the mill metalcore band’ would be able to pull off a record like this and have so much success. What it really comes down to is just the overall talent, which is often overlooked that the band does indeed possess. Drummer Jordan Machino continues to earn himself the title of one of the top drummers in the genre. When their thrash driven sound is being played, his fills and blast beats just feel so much more intense than they did in the past. Clearly the new style is one he was meant to play. Frontman Tim Lambesis has a voice of his own. It is brutal enough to get your head moving but coherent enough to keep a state of monotony away. His screaming is just a perfect fit for the group as no matter what style they are playing he makes it work. Who I really take my hat off to on the record would be the guitarists Phil and Nick. Throughout the course of the record they expand their variety of playing styles further than ever. They expand on their trademark metalcore riffing style by adding some faster thrash feeling sounds to the mix. Their lovely melodic leads over the choruses are brought to new heights and do wonders in adding a new dimension to the respective song. As if that wasn’t enough they bring their solos out constantly, laying down the best of their career in the process. With variety like that and constant quality, complaints are hard to come across. Everything just seems to go right here, and at the end of the day that can be a difficult thing to come across.
Between adding a new member and using him to the fullest extent, developing a new twist on their classic sound, improving individually and collaboritively, and bringing soloing as well as singing to new heights, As I Lay Dying is truly pushing the envelope for themselves on An Ocean Between Us
. It certainly was a risk for them to take, as I’m sure fans of their excess breakdowns, constant chugs, and repetitive rhythms will be letdown. But honestly that does not seem to be of importance to the group. When the record comes to a close with “This Is Who We Are”
everything just clicks as the group closes the dawn of a new age for themselves. Between the pummeling drum fills, fierce screaming, emotional guitar work, and epic singing, the group seems confident in themselves, what they have just performed, and the new identity they have established. The piano outro once again marks something new which works phenomenally for the group. Speaking in terms of the band, As I Lay Dying took some chances, they switched things up, they brought traits out to the extreme and it all paid off. An Ocean Between Us
is indeed a step in a new direction for the band and dislike them at your own will, but As I Lay Dying is anything but a generic metalcore band now.
I Never Wanted
The Sound of Truth
This Is Who We Are
Final Rating: 4/5