Review Summary: Somebody get some burn-aid.
It could be argued that the hype As I Lay Dying earnt while their vocalist was incarcerated has out-done the usual standards of mainstream want. Sure, the guy is a convicted felon, but according to the court and prison system he’s served his time, moved on and even rehabilitated. By all means As I Lay Dying should be dismissing Tim Lambesis’ “hired a hitman to kill the spouse (ex or otherwise)” and focusing on the band’s new music instead. Unfortunately, Tim’s need for reclamation is so integrated in this year’s Shaped By Fire
that his saga becomes unavoidable, forced and cliche. The seven years between Awakened
and 2019s Shaped By Fire
essentially threw the band’s continuance into the air. Moral questions aside, this wait, falls far from expectations.
Part of me wishes that Shaped By Fire
’s crux started and ended with Tim’s predictable “it’s my fault” lyrics, but it’s only part of the problem that makes up this forty four minute disappointment. It wasn’t bad enough that this once steadfast face of mainstream music came back to shovel uninspiring lyrics down the throats of its listeners, but the recycling of ideas, unbalanced mixing and overall third tier songwriting sours in almost all measurable qualities of a “good” record. I want to be clear: As I Lay Dying’s Shaped By Fire
isn’t a directly offensive offering, but it is a disparaging effort from a band that threw away potential in an effort to capitalise on a cheap buck after a somewhat lengthy gap. This isn’t passion, it’s opportunistic - living off the less than imaginative contexts of Tim’s gaol time and supposed ascension into normal life again. We get it, the guy’s sorry.
Instrumentally there’s not too much to talk about here. Everything runs under the radar, on a less than stellar autopilot. Mancino’s work behind the kit, like Hipa’s and Sgrosso on the guitar is formulaic, safe and hugs loosely to the foundations of sound found within the band’s other albums. Notable contributions come far and few between relying solely on the story-line already addressed above. I mean, yeah, these guys can still chop at a riff, build a breakdown and add the occasional flurry of notes into the shape of the solo but most of their time is spent looking at the clock… just waiting to sign off for the day. Think of it as metalcore by numbers, but As I Lay Dying forgot to do a few simple equations.
Gilbert’s cleans, while not particularly awful aren’t helped by the album’s production. It’s a pretty common feature of the band’s soundscape to embellish on the cleans, especially during choruses. It makes little sense to put so much gravitas into the clean vocals and try to bury them under a dense wall of chugged guitars and dense bass/drum lines. To make matters worse, most of the song’s structures fall into the same trappings of verse, chorus, breakdown, chorus, verse with the occasional short solo in place. The album’s heavier sections only emphasize, rather than distract and it’s the listeners that fall under a tidal of less-than-stellar music.
Maybe some people are buying too heavily into Tim’s audible redemption, but this overdone storyline simply doesn’t translate into quality material. Hipa’s efforts on the guitar sees some typical standard of As I Lay Dying throughout the album, but it’s not enough to ‘make’ an album. If redemption is what As I Lay Dying are going for in 2019, they’ve got a long way to go in terms of basic music enjoy-ability. Shaped By Fire
isn’t the album listeners deserve from Tim and co.