After 20 years together, 90% of bands will have worked out most, if not all, of the kinks in their music. Thankfully As I Lay Dying did that years ago, but their new album Awakened only solidifies that statement. Whenever a band releases something new, it shows how they have grown and refined their technique. But what can you say about a band that seemingly perfected their sound albums ago?
Well, only that they have gotten better. Of course, that’s a common thing to say for each subsequent album. But now that it’s the third album with their current lineup, they have found that perfect dynamic of everything that makes As I Lay Dying so great. That being said, every album before this has a couple songs that I don’t really like. But this is 100% killer from start to finish. As vocalist Tim Lambesis says, “This is the first album that the entire band stands behind.”
While The Powerless Rise and An Ocean Between Us were regarded as instant classics in the metal genres – despite having a heavy metalcore overtone – they were accepted by fans residing in all circles of metal. Almost everyone has at least one As I Lay Dying song that they like, and that goes far for a band. On top of that, they helped obliterate the barrier in the Christian metal world and redefined heavy metal, opening up many people’s eyes and bringing in more acceptance to the one genre that’s constantly pigeonholed as “devil music” by the media, who clearly do their research.
High-intensity energy is thrown in your face right away in the first track and first single “Cauterize.” On first listen, it’s already apparent that they have stepped their game up. Upon repetition, you will start noticing the amount of different riffs, the insanely tight and well-constructed drumming, and even the amount of bass that wasn’t really an apparent instrument on the other albums. Maybe this is partly due to the fact that The Descendents‘ drummer Bill Stevenson produced the record, all within just three and a half weeks. Note: it’s good to remember that As I Lay Dying covered The Descendents in the Decas compilation album with the song “Coffee Mug.”
These days, many bands just write songs and stick with whatever sounds good and slap it on the record. But with Awakened, As I Lay Dying thought about playing them live first. When you can create a record in that mentality and have it actually come out amazing, then it will immortalize a band into the pages of music history.
“Resilience” is a track that I’m sure will become a permanent staple in their live set. Perhaps going as far as to say this is the single greatest track of the band’s career, everything is done perfectly. It transgresses all boundaries and goes above all expectations. The progression of the riffs played is clearly done by someone who has studied music theory and knew exactly what he was doing. For a lack of a better phrasing, it’s perfection of the riffs. Everything is done so effortlessly, yet it is more complex than you would think. It’s one of those tracks you can’t just blindly listen to because the amount of work put into the song grabs your attention right away.
One thing I felt was always missing from previous albums was that clean vocalist Josh Gilbert never really had a song to call his own. Well, that ends with “Defender.” While it of course has Tim Lambesis’ unclean vocals, Gilbert takes the center plate and drives the music home. Bass-heavy from the beginning, he comes in like a light breaking a cloudy day. Before, his clean vocals had sounded like they were slightly forced and it felt that the only reason they were there was to break whatever monotony that their previous tracks held. But here he sings with a noticeably clearer and more audibly demanding presence than ever before. It’s not just a slower type of track either; this is a track that could have done well without any clean vocals at all. Another thing is that the breakdown at the end is one of the most satisfying metal breakdowns I’ve heard in years.
In reading that this album was done in such a short time, I can say that this band truly excels at working under pressure. While there is no doubt that they could create something better in the future, I will say that this album is utter perfection in every sense of the word. Awakened is one of the greatest metal releases not just of 2012, but of all-time since Cream decided to try something new and turned their amps up to eleven.