AS I LAY DYING, arguably one of the most famous Metalcore acts, have returned with their forth album since their 2005 smash hit, “Shadows Are Security”. The American group’s vocalist, Tim Lambesis, talked up their latest opus, describing it as being quite different from the direction the band had been heading in before. Just like the whole Metal community, he was sick and tired of the trillions of clones and decided to explore their sound. I for one raised my eyebrow at the pre-release campaign of “An Ocean Between Us” and wondered if the band had actually changed or whether it was just another media stunt in hope of selling more albums.
After the rather mundane into, “Nothing Left” started off as classic AS I LAY DYING and I was just about ready to start a mammoth rant. However, after the usual “Rwaaaaahhhh” and the simple Hardcore-punk riff, the sound dramatically changes with the introduction of Thrash Metal to the mix. In fact, AS I LAY DYING have simply thrown in a whole lot of Thrash into this album, something that they have not done in the past. The solos resemble later era CARCASS and ARCH ENEMY (the connections are obvious), however that is as much Melodic Death one will come by on this release. By the time the title track starts, the listener is perked up waiting to hear what else has changed for better or for worse. The emo chorus remains albeit toned down as more emphasis is placed on the guitars where the focus should have been all along. The band has definitely given some serious thought to their latest release as all of the songs are different and can stand on their own two feet. The title track is exemplar to this statement and mixes their old school with the new sounding Thrash elements.
SLAYER influenced riffs pop up in several songs on “An Ocean Between Us”. “Within Destruction” is the song that captures the new sound of the band. With the fast pace of the drums accompanied by the aforementioned Thrash god-like riffs, “Within Destruction” is a song that will split their fans. The younger and less experienced kids will most likely be confused asking themselves “Where are the emo-tional vocals that made me want to cut myself? I don’t understand why they changed. This song is too fast,” whereas the majority of the Metal crowd will acknowledge the song for it’s pace. With that said, is still a lot to please both markets.
Without a doubt, “Forsaken” will be the fan favourite song. It opens with some highly melodic repetitive riffs before the drums are introduced, creating a rather eerie quiet mood, the feeling that one experiences upon reflection. At about the one minute mark, the band takes full flight and the soaring guitars and solid drum work take the band to new heights. Tim’s vocals have never sounded better and the clean melodic vocals by Josh Gilbert fit the atmosphere of the song. It never occurred to me that I would say AS I LAY DYING are capable of creating such rich atmospheres but on this stand out track, they have effortlessly captured the sound of despair, struggle and remorse. Although their older sound was emotional, it was mainly generated through Tim’s vocals. On “An Ocean Between Us” all of the instruments create this effect.
On the whole, “An Ocean Between Us” is a giant leap ahead for AS I LAY DYING. It is the start of a new direction, one that will hopefully reward them with success for attempting to break free of the stagnant scene. The Thrash elements make this album more accessible to the broader Metal community whilst songs like “Forsaken” will be enough of a reason for older fans to purchase this album. Whilst most Metalcore bands like DARKEST HOUR inadvertently fallen victim to continental drift in their sound alleles, AS I LAY DYING have resisted this phenomenon.
(Online September 29, 2007)