Band: As I Lay Dying
Label: Metal Blade
It’s a little bit crazy to think that As I Lay Dying are about to release their sixth album since the band’s inception in 2000; wasting what would appear to be no time at all in the last decade, touring and releasing albums at an almost inhuman pace these days (in before people mention The Beatles releasing an average of 1.7 albums per year between 1963-1970). Garnering pretty huge commercial success with An Ocean Between Us and The Powerless Rise, As I Lay Dying are looking for even bigger things this time around and there’s little that would indicate they can’t do exactly that.
Part of what has made As I Lay Dying so continuously successful is the band’s ability to evolve at just the right pace to keep a balance between doing something new and remaining true to their current fanbase. Awakened is another step away from the material from the Frail Worlds Collapse days, but is still remarkably similar to both The Powerless Rise and An Ocean Between Us. The band still features the combination of Tim Lambesis and Josh Gilbert on vocal duties for the third album in a row so this approach is nearly unchanged, as is the rest of the personnel of the band.
Nearly every riff, vocal line, drum fill, breakdown, etc. is patented As I Lay Dying material–if you liked what you’ve heard from the last two albums you’ll definitely like this new material. Where they’ve made the biggest change and improvement is in the songwriting department, though. Whereas The Powerless Rise wasn’t incredibly cohesive, featured some pretty jarring transitions and had a bunch of arbitrarily placed solos, Awakened doesn’t experience the same shortcomings. Each of the songs has a logical and sensible flow to them, especially the songs with the catchiest choruses (e.g “A Greater Foundation” and “Overcome”). Every guitar solo is absolutely perfect in its context, something As I Lay Dying have struggled a bit with in previous albums.
In addition to the songs being more cohesive, Awakened features some of As I Lay Dying’s best guitar licks and vocal lines to date. From the b riff in the verse of “Resilience” or the verse riff from “Overcome” to the vocal hooks in the choruses of “A Greater Foundation” or “Cauterize” As I Lay Dying bring it on every front this time around. No throwaway riffs, choruses, verses or bridges on this album; even the sparse interlude, “Washed Away,” seems to fit well in the context of the album.
Easily the biggest criticism that can be made about Awakened is that As I Lay Dying don’t appear to have tried to step out of their comfort zone at all. When you’re this good at what you do, though, why would you? Taking another small step to perfecting the As I Lay Dying formula is certainly good enough for me and will likely please a vast majority of the band’s fanbase as well.
Overall score: 8.5/10
Reviewed by Jordan Munson (twitter)