Review Summary: As I Lay Dying put out their weakest album since their debut and ruin all of the progress they have been making on their last 5 records with Awakened.
When a band makes a big enough change to their sound they are expected to keep making changes in every new record. Fans got used to the fact that each new As I Lay Dying record would have a little something new to enjoy, but this is no longer the case because on Awakened,
As I Lay Dying didn't change a damn thing. It's not like they were reinventing the wheel before or anything, but they made noticeable enough changes from record to record to stay relevant. Shadows Are Security
introduced catchy clean choruses, An Ocean Between Us
had a thrashy sound to it, The Powerless Rise
combined all previous elements and refined them, the only new thing Awakened
does is nothing, the band seems to have actually regressed on Awakened.
As I Lay Dying is simply treading water at this point, and while the water they tread is good, it still feels very uninspired and leaves a lot to be desired.
Even the album name and art feel uninspired. But come on, where can you really go after five consecutive album covers with a skull on it. I guess the band was too busy hitting the gym to worry about things like songwriting and the art of album titles. Either they aren't trying or they ran out of ideas, this is made apparent by the two note verse riff in "Resilience," although they at least they had the common courtesy to put a lazy five second solo over the second verse. The guitar work on Awakened
is as technical as ever, it's just not very catchy or interesting a lot of the time. A couple tracks like Whispering Silence
and No Lungs To Breath
have good solos, but the biggest problem is it all feels so formulaic and familiar. I expected to hear some breakdowns but I expected to at least get a few interesting ones. While The Powerless Rise
had some clever breakdowns like on "Anodyne Sea," the ones on here do nothing for me, the only exception being the stand out track "Overcome" which not only has the first good breakdown on the record, it actually has catchy riffs and a decent chorus, gang vocals and all. Other less impressive breakdowns include the trite fade out breakdown on Whispering Silence
that ruins a perfectly good track that had some clever songwriting.
As I Lay Dying were a band known for using clean sung choruses sparingly, this is not the case on Awakened as the record is littered with many out of place clean sung choruses, and while a couple of them work like on "Overcome" and "A Greater Foundation," they only serve as filler to make up for the lack of genuine songwriting. The cleans are overproduced to the point of sounding weird, like the laughable attempt at harmonized gang vocals in the last track, or the extremely out of place chorus in "Defender." The song structures are as cliche and stale as ever with the band needing so many clean choruses because they couldn't think of anything of interest to put in the songs and many of the tracks on Awakened are ruined for this reason.
Many fans thought bringing in punk legend producer Bill Stevenson would bring some nice changes for the band, this is not really the case. The production is cleaner and sharper, and the band attempts some punk gang vocals probably for Bill's sake, but it doesn't make much of a difference when the riffs are stale and flat and the clean vocals are beyond overproduced. It's rather odd that a guy that got started playing in a raw punk band could make such a commercial and clean sounding record, and this clean sound does not help the record. As I Lay Dying's album, An Ocean Between Us
had a nice raw atmospheric sound to it, and the guitars sounded unique as well, here the guitars sound just like any other band and the crisp production leaves no room for personality.
As I Lay Dying took a huge step back with Awakened,
with their slow and steady ascent out of metalcore mediocrity took a huge nose dive with it. The main problem is it all feels so safe and secure; As I Lay Dying had big shoes to fill after The Powerless Rise
almost made the band respectable outside of the metalcore community, but Awakened
blew it big time. Awakened
has enough great songs to get your blood pumping, but not enough to live up to the band's current standards. If it had come out before An Ocean Between Us
or even The Powerless Rise
it probably would have sounded more impressive, but because it came out now, Awakened
will forever live on as As I Lay Dying's most disappointing album and their biggest misstep.