As I Lay Dying: Awakened

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As I Lay Dying: Awakened
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As I Lay Dying: Awakened
Metalcore
Metal Blade Records
September 25th, 2012
Release length: 42:54
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As I Lay Dying have found great success following their third full-length recording, Shadows Are Security. It was only a matter of time before the band honed their style into a tight sound that would become one of the strongest voices in the Metalcore world. This peak happened in 2007 during An Ocean Between Us. Since then, it seems as if the band has been pushing to capitalize off that sound, though remained unique enough to put out another good effort, 2010’s The Powerless Rise. It’s been two years since than, and they bring us their sixth studio full-length, Awakened. But, is this going to be an album set to tear through the fans, or through their wallets?

The audio quality is literally what you would expect for one of Metal Blade’s biggest artists. The audio has a strong digital clarity that makes everything crisp, but does sterilize a good amount. The bass is loud, but not strong enough to make a large impact in the music when things slow down. The bass kicks really add to it thanks to the deep click that comes through. The cymbals help to fill the gaps well, not to mention just sound great, and the snares have a tighter, thicker sound that does add a bit more bite to the material. The guitars are a bit distant outside the solo, and the distortion isn’t too thick, having more of a cleaner approach that works for the style. The clean singing, however, often feels really out of place, as if taken from a mainstream Punk Rock release, and treading dangerously into Emo/Screamo territory moreso than usual. They are often quite loud to the point of being obnoxious, while the shouting is a little louder, but far better suiting to the aggressive material, or just the good catchy mid-tempo music.

Ultimately, Awaken sounds good for the most part, but the production does make the engaging material click off and on, the latter when things get faster, tighter, and heavier. This becomes obvious right away with the starting track “Cauterize.” This is one of the more impressive tracks as far as the heaviness goes in the faster main verses. But, the second the chorus hits, it just becomes lighter melodic material that sounds alright the first time through, but doesn’t hold up after the first spin thanks to nearly every song following a similar pattern. “Tear Out My Eyes” is one of those other songds. The music isn’t too bad, and will have your head bobbing along to the beat, but overall it comes off lifeless outside the random tighter, aggressive passages that erupt. The clean singing is just boring, and they, as well as the music, just lack any sort of passion or excitement for almost all of the song. Even the shouting vocals came off uninterested. This is sad considering how great they sound in other songs with more aggressive passages.

This really becomes the pattern of the album, and more times than any you will let out a scream of frustration when some really exciting material hammers away at you, only to be severed abruptly for a forced melodic passage that sounds lik fodder. But, Awakened does have its shining moments. “Resilience” follows the same scream verse, sing chorus concept as every song here, but the music doesn’t force itself to be bland or generic. It manages to keep the harder sound of the verses going. The clean singing is similar to “A Greater Foundation,” but the shouting that accompanies them works a lot better with that edge, and actually drowns them out enough to allow some ignorance to their existence. “My Only Home” also stands out thanks to the far more intense performance all around. There is a moment when the music slows to a generic melodic passage, but it ends up very short, shifting quickly back to the chorus that shares the pattern as the rest of the release, but is far more engaging with strong lead chords that make it a richer experience that works perfectly with the shouting and intense main verses. A lot of this can also be said for “Whispering Silence,” though the track itself is never too intense to begin with. The chorus doesn’t feel like tacked on generic melody, which makes the enthusiastic clean singing with some layering on them stick out in a better spotlight that can easily become addicting, especially for their fans.

As I Lay Dying have definitely reached the pinnacle of their sound, and it’s obvious they are trying to capitalize on it. There are some heavy tracks to be found, including many breakdowns, but the main issue becomes the somewhat lifeless sound from the audio quality sterilization that can mostly be felt in the chorus, many of which sound incredibly weak, tacked on, and mainstream to the point where it’s as if they are trying to be two different bands at once. What is impressive certainly is, and what is just fodder clearly sticks out like a sore thumb. While it will appeal to the many As I Lay Dying fans, the lack of anything too new and the constant repeating foundations from one song to another will greatly wear on those individuals before the first time through is even finished. It’s sad that the band is becoming more of a patterned stereotype of other popular Metalcore acts, though thankfully still providing a unique enough sound to make each track on here instantly recognizable, both as a new composition, as well as the band’s signature sound. Awakened is still worth giving a chance by sampling it first, and at the very least buying the songs that stick out to you in MP3 format from your favorite on-line digital retailer.

01. Cauterize – 3:38
02. A Greater Foundation – 3:46
03. Resilience – 4:08
04. Wasted Words – 4:21
05. Whispering Silence – 4:30
06. Overcome – 4:37
07. No Lungs to Breathe – 4:05
08. Defender – 4:05
09. Washed Away – 1:01
10. My Only Home – 4:06
11. Tear Out My Eyes – 4:37
Overall Score: 5.5/10
As I Lay Dying (band)
As I Lay Dying (logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.