Review Summary: As I Lay Dying has always held its own in the metalcore scene
Awakened is certainly not a bad album. The songs are pretty well put together, and the performance is solid as ever. It's hard to ignore the changes they have made in their sound though. I am going to go ahead and say this is one of the more positive aspects of the album. A band can't sit there and stagnate in the same old scales and similar chord structures. Since Shadows Are Security they have made some substantial gains in their abilities, and that had been enough to satisfy me up until now. I am pleased to see something different from them, and they haven't gone too far with it.
This album boasts a much more melodic sound, emphasizing clean vocals and brighter guitar leads that stray far from the brutality we are used to from them. In songs like Whispering Silence, Defender, and Tear Out My Eyes these changes are most evident. This singing definitely has greater presence than in previous records, and Whispering Silence is a stand out drum track in my opinion. My issue with most of these songs is that they lack anything truly memorable. There are a lot of breakdown-esque sections in the songs that have guitar leads over them. This is nothing new for AILD, and it wouldn't bother me if it didn't happen over and over again, but it is as if you could replace any melodic section in any song with another one and nobody would ever know the difference.
Fortunately, there a a few songs with awesome riffage in them that are really impressive. A Greater Foundation, Resilience, and Wasted Words make it up there on the list of my favorite songs they have done, successfully merging their ideas of a different sound with original, well thought-out songwriting. Unfortunately they were placed one after another, so the following seven tracks are spent hoping for something great that never comes. But as I said in the beginning, this is nowhere near the realm of bad music. The other tracks have some qualities also. Overcome is their equivalent of a ballad, I suppose. It's basically a sing-a-long, but a decent one. The other song that caught my attention towards the end was My Only Home, which is a continuation of the instrumental piece Washed Away, and its fairly fun to listen to. Tear Out My Eyes starts and I feel like I'm listening to a Bullet For My Valentine tune, but it gets better. A little. It feels like we could be hearing this one on the radio in the near future.
If you are considering listening to the other two demo tracks, I wouldn't bother. You could give Unwound a spin; it doesn't make a terrible B side. It's the equivalent in quality to other songs on the album like Cauterize, No Lungs To Breathe, or Tear Out My Eyes, but I don't see why they didn't either commit to finishing it or just save it for another Decas. As far as A Greater Foundation (Extended Demo Version) goes, I was completely confused. "It's twelve seconds longer!? Twelve seconds couldn't possibly make any difference!" ...And no, is doesn't. So I still don't understand why it's on the album, but it is. So there you go.