It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that Christian metal fully developed into a recognizable scene. Hard rockers Disciple had been around for over a decade by this time and P.O.D. were providing alt-metal for the masses for a few years, but the so-called “Christcore” scene was eager for something big, something genre-defining. By the post-nu-metal days, the scene saw itself molded together by a few specific bands, including Underoath, Demon Hunter, and latecomers The Devil Wears Prada, but a lot of credit is also owed to As I Lay Dying, true pioneers to the modern metalcore scene. In 2005 they released not only one of the best Christian metal albums of the decade, but one of the most impressive metal albums of the decade in general, Shadows Are Security.
Shadows Are Security is fueled by its musical tightness. It may not be too creative, but it’s extremely powerful. The guitars are teeming and domineering, oozing with musical intensity. Drum fills back each guitar riff with prowess and determination, bolstering each melody and providing the album with a dense backdrop of metallic goodness. The instrumentation may be getting most of the credit, but Tim Lambesis puts on one of his best vocal efforts on this album.
Immediately as the album begins, As I Lay Dying hit hard. The breakdown a minute into opener “Meaning In Tragedy” is one of those rare compositions of music in which restraining myself is a hard feat – especially in my car. While the first song is a flat out piledriver, it’s the second track, “Confined,” where the true complexion of the music becomes evident. Clint Norris’ clean vocals string together a memorable chorus in this song; throughout the album, his voice not only provides a sense of relief, but also stresses the songs’ individuality. Both “Losing Sight” and “Empty Hearts” are formulated similarly to the opening few tracks but continue to smash and blister in their own ways. Once again, the power of the instrumentation meets the craggy vocal effort of Lambesis to drive home these songs – and the melody-meets-brutality is a sheer perfect combination.
If blazing tenacity is a typical metal trait, then Shadows Are Security is on fire. Through the intricate, irresistible guitar work of Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, the album’s pungency becomes striking and exhilarating. Some of the best riffage comes in the more settling, diverse “The Darkest Nights,” and it complements Norris’ clean vocals with a lingering ambiance. It may be one of the most memorable songs on the album, but it’s no feat for the fast-paced demolition derby of “Through Struggle.” Hit after hit of empowering double bass drums and chugging guitar lines sculpt passionate emotions on a dark, quasi-ominous canvas. The idea that this album is fueled by anger and sinister sentimentality can be refuted by the positive meaning found in the lyrics. Christ-flavored themes of faith, resistance, overcoming problems, achieving fulfillment, and finding purpose make this album weighty and substantive.
Though I got into As I Lay Dying with An Ocean Between Us (as I’m sure a lot of newer fans did), I keep coming back to Shadows Are Security because of its straightforward approach and intense musical arrangements. Whenever I need a throaty scream or a punishing guitar riff, I always end up turning this album up to 11. As I Lay Dying prove with this album that they truly are pioneers of metalcore, and Shadows Are Security is a prime example of why they have earned so much respect over the last decade or so. When it comes to perfection, Shadows Are Security is a well-oiled metal album that – with exception to a few rough spots – rumbles along without any flaws.