Review Summary: A very well written metalcore release
As I Lay Dying are probably one of the most widely debated metalcore acts since the genres inception. A band promoting Christianity openly, they formed in 2000, and have released 6 albums, the best of which is unquestionably 2007's An Ocean Between Us. Comprised of 12 tracks and clocking in at 43 minutes, this album contained four singles, and was released to high critical acclaim, with HM Magazine considering it to be "the best metal album this year".
The five members of this band are exceedingly tight on this release, with the star performance going to Nick Hipa, the lead guitarist. Throughout this release, he puts on a strong show, with a particularly good solo on the song The Sound of Truth, the second single off of the album. The dual vocals from Tim Lambesis and Josh Gilbert are very nicely one on here, with the very intense screaming of the former playing off the beautiful harmony that Gilbert creates. Lambesis even takes clean vocals on the songs Nothing Left and This Is Who We Are, and is surprisingly good at them.
The rhythm guitar work from Phil Sgrosso is very well written, with some fantastic riffing found throughout this album, in particular on the songs Within Destruction and the title track. The former is a thrashy number with great screamed vocals, and the speedy riffing on the title track is the highlight of that song. The bass work is nearly inaudible, but when it can be distinguished, it appears to do its job very well. Jordan Mancino is also a very talented musician, laying down some exceedingly fast, complex patterns, far above the standards that the metalcore genre would indicate.
The best song on this album, in my opinion, is I Never Wanted. This is far different from the rest of the album, being played at a much slower pace, with some absolutely heart wrenching lyrics that really do create the feeling of an absolute void inside the vocalist's head. The clean vocals and screams are performed simultaneously to begin with, which creates a truly unmatched sound. Of every metalcore song i have ever heard, this is undoubtedly the best i have ever heard, with some great instrumentals found as well.
The opening two songs, Separation and Nothing Left, truly do their job perfectly. Separation is an instrumental only, with some great guitar work, that creates an atmosphere of longing, and Nothing Left has a fantastic staccato riff, that really kicks the album off properly in superb style. Once again, the lyrics on here are top notch, the drumming is great, and the vocals are fantastic. This is one of the two tracks in which Tim Lambesis takes all of the vocals, and whilst his clean vocals may well not be as powerful as Josh Gilbert's, they still fit the music very well.
The title track is a fast, aggressive number that features an unrivaled rage throughout the metalcore genre, that goes so well with the flow of this album, and speeds things up some more after the fantastic Nothing Left. The clean chorus absolutely screams regret, and takes the cake as one of the finest moments throughout the album, standing right out among the rest of the song. The drumming is the main focus point on this song, however, being highly technical and well performed by Jordan Mancino.
The Sound of Truth is home to the best guitar work on the album, with some great riffs topped off by the most amazing solo the band has ever written. The vocals are utterly chaotic, and the drumming is as powerful as the rest of the album. The lyrics are truly amazing, and this is another one of the best things about the album on the whole. The lyrics to this album are really well thought out, and clearly had a lot of effort put into them, conveying a multitude of emotions.
The production on this album is not the best the music scene has ever shown, but is clean enough for an album like this. The bass could be a little louder, and i feel the rhythm is far too loud in the mix, but other than that, the production is fine. The drums sound absolutely pristine, and there are no really flat moments that detract from the overall package, which is nice to hear from an album by a band of this caliber.
Unfortunately, this album also seems to drag on for too long. The songs Bury Us All and the second instrumental, Departed, seem to break up the flow of the album, with the first one being a typical metalcore song that fails to do anything new, and disappears among the quality that is found throughout this album. Departed merely is a build up to the amazing Wrath Upon Ourselves, but manages to completely kill the buzz carried over from The Sound of Truth.
When compared to the past work by this band, and what would come after, i believe this is fighting for the top spot with Frail Worlds Collapse. Both are marvelous slices of metalcore, with great instrumentals. Each album had killer songs, with Frail Worlds Collapse having Forever, which tops everything off of An Ocean Between Us, but much of AOBU is better than what is on Frail Worlds Collapse. In the discography of this band, however, it is a good step forward, as it evolved the drum patterns and lead guitar and lyrics, the three core areas the band needed to step their game up in. For any fan of the metalcore genre, or just anyone wanting a band that is highly proficient with well thought out music, this is a must, but is not perfect. 4/5