Review Summary: Ironic lessons taught in time...As I Lay Dying - A Long March
Original Release Date: May 16, 2006
Label: Metal Blade
The first thing that struck me when picking up this album wasn’t anything to do with this band itself to be completely honest but the artwork. It’s not surprising to me that Jacob Bannon (Converge) had done the design and artwork of this compilation. Never a dull moment for that guy, and I’m not an artist or anything but if I walked into a tattoo parlor, this is the guy who I want doing it. To much of the contrast of the artwork also comes a nice compilation put together by As I Lay Dying who really has reached a max popularity in the United States as a “metal-core” band. I know a lot of people have their foreshadowing opinions of bands when their popular but this album should have none of that. Why" Because when you open up the cover of the CD it’s titled “A Long March - The First Recordings”. F
uck what you know, because these are the recordings when this band wasn‘t known. It would feel weird to state this but I consider the later releases by AILD not ground breaking, but not terrible either and I’ve listened to some terrible metal core bands and seen some terrible metal core acts. The point is that when exploring this album it came to much of my surprise the roots of a band. I know a lot of silly bands in genres as this one (and around this one), do this ridiculous money savaging thing called “Re-Issues”. These re-issues of albums that are typically old (not necessarily good) are supposed to be special because they come with 2 “bonus” songs of some sort or a DVD of the bands music videos… not that we can’t get those for free on YouTube. I swallowed that bitter feeling pretty early on my experience with this compilation.
A Long March
22 songs listed, 3 sections, one CD, As I Lay Dying. There are just numerous amounts of engineers, producers, and mixers for all of these tracks to even mention. It was obvious that many of these producers had different visions for this band as you listen through. I mean the real reason for buying an album like this feels like to grasp the roots of a band and where they came from. So many bands do this type of thing and fail miserably at it. This compilation is one of the new times that I can safely say a project like this hit’s the nail down on the head. The presentation is actually presented in a logical and progressing order where part I is re-recorded tracks, part II - The First Two Months - “Beneath the Encasing of Ashes”, and part III - A year later “THE EP”. Your actually are getting your moneys worth folks and a lot of songs with that. Material that probably needs to be dug up with a shovel because I know back in 2001 most of y’all were still listening to Limp Bizkit. Anyway in the linear notes it comes with pages of a journal that tells the story behind all of the parts and all of that great stuff. Epic tales of how the band struggled so hard in the beginning and how find members to be in the band was like a petting zoo, and ultimately how they grew. Listening to a lot of these songs really surprised me by how this band had changed. The first song “Illusions” follows the formula of a Botch/Norma Jean like song where much of the newer AILD feels much thrashier. The vocals seem obvious that they aren’t really different from 6 years ago to the newest release. The song construction on the other hand seems like this band went into a completely different direction. The whole hardcore feeling has more of a profound impact I found and I could definitely envision how easily this could have been labeled “Old Norma Jean Demo” and the scene kids really wouldn’t notice a difference. “The Beginning” on the other hand really feels like a modern day AILD song. It has that slippery fast lead intro and verse like chugging. The lead riff follows through in the chorus and is nice to listen too contrasting against the chugalug breakdowns that this band is known to create with repetition.
“Beneath the Encasing of Ashes” is the title song that begins the next EP. This EP is the shocker with 2 in the pink and 1 in the stink. I mean I thought AILD would sound identical to all of the other albums after because honestly… with some little melodic changes and riffs, it all does really sound the same. The way this album started off with the flames sizzling and the change of vocals really makes me dislike the newer stuff. I mean this is the way the vocals should always be as they are raw and relentless. The music itself can be described the same way with heavy death metal undertones that even got me a little wet in the panties. No wonder every mall core fan boy didn’t like this release… because it simply wasn’t meant for the mainstream sound.
“Torn Within” simply is a fury of punches to your face right from the get go. Small melodic clean guitar parts are short and sweet and then the thunderous growls put shivers right back into your spine. Insert that cliché breakdown part that probably wasn’t so cliché back in 2001... Dun dun weeooo weeooo!
“The Voices That Betray Me” feels like a track that would more likely come from a band such as Terror or Hoods… I mean it has that thunderous guitar dissonance and vocals that make the kids rise up. Even the diversity of the songs don’t feel so repetitive with always little hooks and nooks that captivates. Why did this band lose all of these tricks in their later releases is beyond me" I mean if you told your fan boy friends with elitist tastes that this is a new track to whatever underground death metal band he enjoys shaking the bacon too he’d be bobbing his head in no time. “When This World Fades” is a melodic track with that typical “the tough guy begins talking in a whisper like voice” and holy crap I can hear a bass line. This is a big step up if you guys know the later stuff because the bass player is nearly inaudible besides for his whiney waling of a vocal pattern.
It’s pretty obvious why they named this album after “A Long March” because the song just totally rips. It’s heavy and hard hitting and shows enough of the roots of where “Frail Words Collapse” begins this bands so called legacy. I mean the breakdown has the little squeaky harmonics but what I loved here was the fact the bass player just wakes up and starts smashing down notes like he’s beating his fists to the ground. Thank god for a bass part that doesn’t play open B string repeat, repeat, during a breakdown. Matter a fact, I don’t understand why mainstream music rules the bass player out and hands him a pink slip during recording but enough ranting for one review.
Now we got a year later the third part of this compilation. Right off the band you can tell that the recording quality is pretty nasty. The sexy parts and un-mixed parts of Part I are now turned into puzzle pieces that literally need to be crunched together. The bass is well heard in the background of the chugging guitars which is a big no-no when popular. The vocals have brasher backing parts to support the constant screaming which sounds like it wasn’t cleaned up at all. “The Beginning” has a more mono-tone like guitar tone and is played sloppier and faster then the re-recorded. The vocals feel budget mixed considering the instruments are just drowning it out. It’s pretty clear that for this compilation they didn’t make any effort to fix up these EP songs and left them in their original copy. The part I comparison, to the part III, is really what stands out to be then those other re-issue “band progressions”. This is literally where it shows with hard evidence how far this band has come and changed. Also not to mention what a ***ty production rate can do with a good one. The one song that I liked better than it’s re-recording would have to be “Forever”. The rawness of the screaming and little guitar adds that they cut really felt like a concrete song. I do have to admit that the melodic singing in this song is even more horrendous in EP form then on the re-recorded and that I could do without. Everything else felt like a nice touch minus the chicken screaming.
It seems quite clear that this band might’ve needed to follow the trend of re-issuing but definitely proved a point while doing so. I mean when it comes down to it, every band that progresses this far in it’s career should have a record like this one. You learn a lot.
A) You find out how bad some producers/mixers can butcher recordings.
B) How the mainstream doesn’t like bass but only cool guitar parts
C) How As I Lay Dying seemed to have a lot of Death Metal undertones, to never be seen or heard again.
As I Lay Dying with a death metal sound" I would of really never known if I never picked this up. Also the respect for the presentation of this compilation needs to be emphasized where what re-recording can show a fan or even a musician a lesson. I’d say that if you’re a fan with an open mind who looking to rehash the roots of one of the most popular and whored out metal core bands, then buy this. If you’re a elitist who hates this band you might find yourself surprised where they actually came from…