Review Summary: Well, it's consistent.
So let’s get down to it: As I Lay Dying are more melodic than they used to be.
Okay, just kidding. But they are, indeed, more melodic. It’s a progression – or change in sound, rather – that xhardxcorex4evax fans of the band can’t deny and that the haters can’t help but point out, over and over and over again (forever and ever, amen). With each passing album, As I Lay Dying continue to increase the prevalence of bassist John Gilbert’s clean vocals and catchy choruses. True talk.
Casual listeners to the melodic metalcore band can often be spotted (look at forum album thread [a] here or [b] there) singling out and praising the anthems with the catchy hooks apart from the rest of the more thrash-y and rougher material on display – particularly on As I Lay Dying’s more recent offerings, which are notably when Gilbert first threw in his own with the band, circa-2007. It’s the kind of album dissection that has made these breakdown champions into a sort of metalcore singles band: When in actuality, many of us just want a consistent album from front to back, for once.
So this is where Awakened
comes into play and attempts to fulfill that desire. In leading up to its release, Gilbert poetically told publication MindEqualsBlown
that “[Awakened is] like we fused the brutality with the melody a lot better than we have on previous records – it [isn’t] too much of a jump between songs.” And at that base explanation, the bassist is correct: most of the songs that course and breakdown through Awakened
contain an equal level of everything that is As I Lay Dying in 2012: guitars, breakdowns, uplifting lyrics, Gilbert’s clean vocals, and the muscles – err, I mean harsh lead vocals of buff-bencher Tim Lambesis.
Yet despite that truth, Gilbert is seemingly incorrect as well. The sudden Jesus-level hooks that paint lead single “A Greater Foundation” make it in total a much better offering than anything that runs from “Wasted Words” to “Washed Away", which is strikingly most of the album. Why is that, exactly? One word: songwriting
. While As I Lay Dying have made a more consistent album in relation to their sound, true, they have not made a consistent batch of songs at all.
In fact, it may be their weakest batch yet. Both 2007’s An Ocean Between Us
and 2010’s The Powerless Rise
are stronger albums than Awakened
, despite both being, technically in relation to sound elements, less consistent. The best comparison you can draw is what happened to Killswitch Engage
and Darkest Hour
in 2009 when they too scaled back songwriting in hopes of making stronger releases in, respectively, Killswitch Engage (II)
and The Eternal Return
. It's just not happening. Sorry. Is everything lost? Well, no, you can’t deny the potential that “My Only Way Home” has to stick in your head, kind of. And hey, it’s chorus even sounds like pop punk – err, well, it’s a good song, so just leave it at that.
You come to As I Lay Dying, and you know what you’re going to get: that melodic metalcore sound, hints of Gothenburg and thrash, and some true sing-a-longs to fill up your gym playlist in hopes of one day looking like Lambesis, right? Isn't that what this band is for? And that primarily hasn't changed, at least on paper. Yet even so you can probably guess what both my warning and conclusion will be. Best stick with songs “Parallels” or “Forsaken” this release cycle and just sleep on the majority of Awakened
instead - zing
. That consistent album we're waiting for still hasn't come just yet.