As bruising and titanic as ever, As I Lay Dying unleash their rampaging sixth album Awakened to show why the band are still one of the formidable benchmarks aspiring bands look to emulate. Never less than destructively venomous and a creative explosion of intrusive intensity, the San Diego quintet have brought a towering presence of freshness and inspiring energy to metal over the past decade but with the new album arguably they have dug deeper for even more power and keenly shaped aggression. Awakened may not see the band at the height of their groundbreaking powers but it is certainly is one of the most spiteful, barbed, and muscularly satisfying albums of the year and shows the band rippling with even greater personal invention and merciless intensity.
Released September 25th via Metal Blade Records, the album is the first recorded with The Descendents drummer and acclaimed producer Bill Stevenson (Rise Against, Comeback Kid, NOFX). Looking for someone outside of metal with different ideas and ear to understand and compliment their own evolved shift in direction with the new material, the choice of Stevenson it has to be said was inspired, the sound on the album crisp without distilling the overwhelming intensity the band always erupts with whilst bringing a sharpness and incendiary presence to the streams of melodic imagination which flare up magnificently throughout the songs. Musically and lyrically the band has ignited deeper wells of vitriolic urgency and energy whilst leaving their previous levels of aggression as the weaker brother to this, possibly their best album to date. As mentioned, strong melodies are rife throughout the release, their addictive radiation brought with immensely skilled craft for a fully sparking and inciteful effect, its fusion with their natural anger and aural violence immediately and persistently impressive.
Some reviewers as the new album nears its arrival have accused Awakened as lacking the passion found in earlier albums, something which is hard to agree with from the opening track Cauterize alone, the song a riot of guttural bile from Tim Lambesis and bone crumbling riffs which insistently spray anger and emotion from its dark heart. An unrelenting onslaught with the ever outstanding bass of Josh Gilbert snarling with the menace of a pack of wolves within the overwhelming guitar skills of Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa, the track leaves one breathless and sets one up eagerly for the even better violations to come. Maybe the fine melodic veins, especially the warm vocal harmonies alongside Lambesis, distil some of the barbaric acrobatic sounds for some, but truly they only enforce the acidic nature and manipulative skill of the band even further.
The stunning A Greater Foundation pounds on the already emerging wounds with magnetic and perpetual excellence, its spine of rifling rhythms and corrosive riffs layered with blistering sonics and vocal caustic tones. It is an irresistible corruption which in every aspect leaves the senses smarting and grinning from the given trauma. The annihilatory drums of Jordan Mancino show no qualms about snapping synapses in to splinters with his beats though it is offset by the great combined vocals, the clean vocals of Gilbert more prominent than ever on the album, bringing a Billy Talent like feel to the insatiable outrage.
Tracks like the wonderfully sizzling Wasted Words with its predatory groove and belligerent riffs, Whispering Silence with a whisper of U2 to its melodic opening and sonic scorching, and a bear of a track in No Lungs To Breathe, find the band further exploring their new evolution of ideas successfully and impressively. These and to be honest every song on the album are impossible to offer any real obstacle up against to deny full acclaim upon them, yes maybe other bands are also producing similarly fuelled and quality material not to far apart in sound but it is hard to think of any releases as dramatically striking.
The hungry and ferocious Defender is a further peak on the album, the bass finding an even deeper growl to its breath whilst the guitars burn with a furious fire in their belly and sheer strength in their play. Not the most barbarous song on the album to be fair it is still as powerful and piercing as any other with its razor sharp invention and gnawing riffing.
Awakened is without doubt one of the highlights of the year, an album which even the diehard fans who may have been wary of the newer melodic feel will devour with ease and greed. As I Lay Dying is still showing all how it is done and keeping that bar of excellence very high.
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