This time around, As I Lay Dying have a wide legion of metal fans old and new and the results on their sixth studio album and those eager people are most definitely getting a bang for their buck. Opener Cauterize presents a standard of what this album can give us with Nick Hipa and Phil slamming out crushing riffage filled with the beatdowns that remind listeners of just how much influence As I Lay Dying have really taken from hardcore with lead guitar that reminds us that the band would also be nothing without the influence from the best in traditional heavy metal.
It's with this amazing combination that the band deliver some fully charged brutality and the steel plated breakdowns of A Greater Foundation and No Lungs to Breathe have no problem in delivering a roundhouse kick to the face of any listener that will leave them begging for more in the way of violent grooves blast beats from Jordan Mancino and more basslines reminiscent to Rex Brown's finest moments courtesy of Josh Gilbert. More than that, the performance of modern-day philosopher frontman Tim Lambesis on the likes of the awe-inspiring Wasted Words displays him possibly at his most furious ever. That so much fury can come out of one gentleman is incredible.
However, Lambesis' strong point really comes out in the more melodic moments of Awakened. Most importantly in this respect is the the vocals unleashed in the middle section of My Only Home, a moment in which we quite possibly hear Lambesis at his most vulnerable and exposed in such a way that may actually shock you.
Elsewhere, the most interesting element of As I Lay Dying's melodic moments is the fact that one of the most respected band's in modern metalcore may actually be a band with some pop sensibilities after all. Working with Bill Stevenson, the drummer of The Descendants -one of the true originators of pop punk as we know it today - seems to have taught the band something about writing a big hook. There are some old school fans that may be furious with Whispering Silence which plays out with an intro that wouldn't sound out of place on A Day To Remember's Homesick and the fact that Lambesis' clean sections on Defender sound so pop-induced that it's surprising that the song isn't featuring a guest appearance from Alesana's Shawn Milke, but if you like your big hooks and pop punk moments, it's actually quite a dynamic moment in the respect of As I Lay Dying's outset of brutality and the way they manage to make these moment of hooks as convincing as they make their breakdowns and shredding.
It's with this immense combination of brutality, hooks and physical and emotional intensity that As I Lay Dying manage to make another album that puts them on top of the metalcore league, a position they previously held with the release of 2007's stellar An Ocean Between Us which 2010's The Powerless Rise never really managed to live up to. If people were wondering if the band could rise up to the position of metalcore legends, Awakened should be an album that proves that they have the credentials to do so, or at least be able to not join Trivium in the realm of great modern metal bands that are playing as a support group to Asking Alexandria (I see those American tour posters. Get it sorted.) However, whatever comes of their touring schedule, for now the band have been able to create what is essentially an amazing package of metalcore that will satisfy the traditionalist fans of the genre while also containing moments that those that enjoy their pop induced core music can pick up on. It's little wonder the positive reception towards A I Lay Dying has grown higher than ever this year. They simply have it all.
As I Lay Dying's Awakened is out now via Metal Blade. The band will tour the UK in October with Trivium, Caliban and Upon a Burning Body.