It has been impossible to miss quite a flurry of negative almost vehement reviews and first reactions to the new album from UK metalcore band The Dead Lay Waiting. Certainly Almost Heaven is not the perfect album or a classic in the making but it is also far from being the car crash and failure that many seem to be declaring. Obviously any review is down to personal opinion and taste as much as the evidence that is the music but it is hard to understand the harsh and destructive views of many towards the album and band itself. Maybe The Dead Lay Waiting is simply the current band to hate much as My Chemical Romance and Disturbed and countless others have been before them. All that is apparent from Almost Heaven is that though not flawless the album is a very agreeable and enjoyable release that shows a band creative and with great promise.
From their coming together in 2007 the band has grabbed attention, making a marked impact on a swiftly growing fan base. Debut EP Memories Of A Massacre in 2007 followed the next year by a self titled one plus an appearance at the 2008 Bloodstock Open Air Festival increased the interest and led to signing with UK based label Rising Records. January 2010 saw the release of the band’s debut album We Rise surrounded by acclaimed performances at Download in 2009 and ’10, plus tours with the likes of Trigger The Bloodshed, Bleed From Within and Sarah Jezebel Deva. The band this year found themselves nominated for KERRANG! Magazine’s ‘Best British Newcomer Band’ award, and the Metal Hammer Golden God ‘Best Underground Band’ award, their stock and rise continuing at a rapid rate, something surely Almost Heaven will accelerate further.
The album starts with an ascending intense sound erupting into the explosive ‘This Day Will Be Your Last’ through the brief but mountainous intense ‘Wake Up’. Crushing riffs and ear bending rhythms pour incessantly over the senses, vocals growling deeply and threateningly aided by lighter screamo chants and shouts. As following track ‘Take Me Away’ picks up the hard lined energetic baton it is apparent The Dead Lay Waiting know how to create and deliver flesh melting sounds and have a string ability to write memorable and intricate songs. It is also clear that they are far from the finished article which gives exciting promise ahead from the impressive sounds within Almost Heaven.
One can understand some of the criticism laid at the band’s door for as good and as agreeable the strength and incisive music within the album is there is not a great deal of originality there. This is not to say it is just reproducing sounds others have created but there certainly is nothing awe inspiring or jaw dropping either. This can be said about75% of all releases this year so it is a criticism that applies to a great many. The two things that do stop the album from being a major land mark is firstly and something that I never thought I would complain about, that the songs are too varied within their own skins. This makes songs such as ‘Always Ask Why’, chaotic with many elements included which would really work if they were better blended with a more seamless feel, something experience will surely improve. It should be remembered this is a very young band and credit should be given that they do try to be different and attempt to make their songs unique, it is just they need to know when less is more. The other problem with the album is that it feels like the band is trying too hard, as if comments given and seemingly continuing made them try so hard that their instinctive touch and ease was held down.
Despite this the album is an impressive release with songs like ‘Open Your Fucking Eyes’ with its crunching basslines, the abrasive ‘Choke on Your Words’, and the immense ‘Burnt to Ashes’ easily bringing great pleasure and pulse racing emotions. Even the epic meanderings of the closing title track ‘Almost Heaven’, despite its slightly overblown near ten minute journey gives far more joy than doubts.
Almost Heaven has its negatives but far more positives and is far ahead of the majority of albums coming out of the woodwork these past months. Why some have such a downer on the band is hard to comprehend unless it is solely based on their seemingly manufactured visual image. The Dead Lay Waiting will ahead make those doubters eat their words one suspects; they just need more time to find their very own unique sound and undeterred belief.