Album Review :
As I Lay Dying - Awakened

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Band: As I Lay Dying
Album: Awakened
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release: 8/25/12
Reviewer: Brody B

  1.  Cauterized
  2.   A Greater Foundation
  3.   Resilience
  4.   Wasted Words
  5.   Whispering Silence
  6.   Overcome
  7.   No Lungs to Breathe
  8.   Defender
  9.   Washed Away
  10.   My Only Home
  11.   Tear Out My Eyes

Southern California’s metalcore titans are back to release their first full length since since their ten year anniversary.The question is, “Does this release reflect the skill and sound of a band that has lasted a decade?”. Well the answer is yes… and no. “Awakened”, the band’s fifth full length album takes steps forward in some areas, while also backtracking to some extent in others.

The main issue that most long time fans of the band will find is the addition of singing to every song. While this initially did not bother me, but as I listened to the record a dozen or so times, all the singing from bassist Josh Gilbert ran together and became a little tiresome. In fact, I actually found myself being a little sad when Gilbert comes back in for another chorus after the shredding solo in Tear Out My Eyes.

I also found myself missing any sort of thrashy headbanger such as Distance is Darkness or Within Destruction off of previous albums.

With all that aside, I did not mind the singing for the most part, mainly because the cleans from Josh Gilbert are virtually flawless. His vocals come off as powerful and, frankly put, manly. Better yet, Gilbert’s voice sounds untouched by the studio. In today’s music world, when it comes to flawless singing, suspicions normally arise. Accusations of auto tune this, or auto tune that always seem to come up with most metalcore bands, but the good news is that As I Lay Dying have stayed true to their roots and not gone “mainstream” in that regard.

All the clean vocal issues aside, As I Lay Dying are stronger than ever in each other regard. Tim Lambesis is especially on top of his game. From the opening shriek in Cauterize to his final growls in Tear Out My Eyes, Lambesis provides his most diverse performance both vocally and lyrically.

Resilience finds the frontman effortlessly shifting pitches from low growls to blood curdling howls. Whispering Silence is perhaps one of Lambesis’ most standout tracks in the band’s history. The verses have Lambesis speedily delivering his lines in short, controlled bursts, while intermittent spoken word sections add some real personality to the mix.

Sound aside, Lambesis throws down some of his best, most person lyrics on “Awakened”. Cauterize pours emotion as Lambesis shouts, “I’ll give you the knife / Cut away as You see fit”. A Greater Foundation is an empowering anthem, proclaiming, “As we face distress we must not loose heart / Stand fast and press on / Triumph awaits us”.

My Only Home caught me off guard with the particular style of the lyrics. More poetic than the majority of other material,Lambesis morosely screams out his feelings about touring, “A journey making us like weeds / Where the wind steals our splendor / But spreads it to the distant fields / Despite our fragile imperfections / Yet shaking walls and wearing wheels / Can never capture my heart the way you do”.

Not only does Lambesis shine on “Awakened”, but the rest of the gang is just as much up to snuff. Guitarists Nick Hippa and Phil Sgrosso have crafted some jaw dropping riffs in songs like A Greater Foundation. Overcome creates some vintage hair metal ambiance during the intro with slow solo work, fraught with bends all before breaking out into double bass goodness. The rhythm section is put to the test on Whispering Silence as punk beats will have you going abnormally fast down the highway air drumming all the way.

The use (Or lack thereof) of breakdowns is something that really shows the maturity of As I Lay Dying. Instead of throwing breakdowns around like candy at a parade, the band chooses to throw them down when they matter the most. Cauterize has one of the  most pulverizing I have head from the group, while keeping it short and oh so sweet. Defender has impressively fast chugs that will have circle headbangers thinking they have died and gone to heaven.

With all that being said, once they reached the pinnacle of their career during the “An Ocean Between Us” cycle, the band has pretty much ceased to grow any more. They consistently put out new releases, but they all begin to run together from a lack of change. Of course all this is not a big deal considering the great sound they have developed over time, but I just feel they could stand to change things up a little bit sound wise.

Overall: As I Lay Dying is a band that deserves to be where they are today. They have lasted the test of time, defining a genre, causing tons of wannabes, and continuing to be a prominent force showing no signs of fading away any time soon. “Awakened” continues the trend of making solid records that provide fans with top tier metalcore, but leaves listeners wanting a little more growth from such an influential band.