Sound — 9
You've probably been reading for a long time about how As I Lay Dying is going to make a thrash metal album, and distance themselves from the metalcore scene. Still metalcore? Yes. Generic? No. In An Ocean Between Us, AILD has definitely added new sounds and styles to their songs, including a noticeably higher use of their new bassist's excellent clean vocals, leading to a more melodic and catchy feel for some songs. Instead of the standard, chug-on-the-bottom-string-for-the-entire-song metalcore riffs, the guitar work on this album is definitely more creative and metal-oriented, and at some times (such as with the instrumental, "Departed") very beautiful. This makes the album rarely monotonous or repetitive, as AILD earlier work (which I still like) often was. This album also includes many more solos that actually fit the songs, such as in "The Sound of Truth".
Lyrics — 9
Again, Tim Lambesis's lyrics are deeply personal and powerful, with themes of betrayal, faith, and forgiveness. While AILD is a Christian band, the lyrics are not overly preachy. He usually refers to their faith in more subtle ways, with lines like "And I always wonder why we're given grace we'll never deserve, and a second chance we will never earn." Actually, the lyrics are rarely just religious, and they deal with universal struggles anyone of any faith can relate to. Lambesis's growl/scream has improved even more, but a real highlight of this album is their new bassist's, Josh Gilbert, vocals. He has an excellent range, sound, and strength, while manages to do this without sounding whiny or annoying at all. Some people complained that he sang too much on the album, but I saw his vocals as an excellent addition to this band and album.
Overall Impression — 10
This album is definitely a huge step up from AILD's other works, and won't disappoint current fans. My favorites must be Nothing Left, An Ocean Between Us, Forsaken, The Sound of Truth, and This Is Who We Are. While all the other songs are amazing, if I had to pick the weakest track I would say Bury Us All, even though it has a very nice solo. I can't really think of any weak point in this album. The insane drumming, melodic and brutal guitars and vocals, and good song structures make this album overall an excellent buy. And just to be like every other review, I would buy this again if it were stolen. So there.