Sound — 8
As I Lay Dying was founded in 2000 by guitarist and vocalist, Tim Lambesis, in California, and was originally just a duo with Tim and drummer, Jordan Mancino. Duties for the other instruments on their early recordings and shows were filled by a rotating group of friends. The current lineup of As I Lay Dying wasn't completed until 2007. They released their first album, "Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes", in 2001 through Pluto Records. In 2002 they released 5 songs on a split album with metal band, American Tragedy. In 2003, As I Lay Dying left Pluto Records and signed with Metal Blade Records who they remain with today. Their second studio release, "Frail Words Collapse", was released through Metal Blade Records in mid 2003. Since that time, As I Lay Dying has toured extensively in support of their music and as of "Awakened" this will be their sixth studio release, and the fifth with Metal Blade Records.
The sound of the album is definitely As I Lay Dying and by this I mean it is metalcore, but has strong melody for the genre, has elements of thrash and a really good mix of clean and screamed vocals. The music is still ultra aggressive but doesn't do aggression at the cost of finesse. The album is produced and mixed really well. There is something I see as a problem in the metalcore genre of albums being either extremely over or under produced, but with "Awakened" they seem to have found a happy medium. I've said it already, but what makes this album stand out from other metalcore releases this year is that there is a strong sense of melody, there are good guitar solos, and the mix of vocals is close to perfect. The drums are aggressive without falling into the trap of trying to kill the cymbals or doing fast triplets on the bass drum to the point of monotony. I tend to think of certain bands in certain genres as being representative of what is best in their respective genres and with "Awakened" As I Lay Dying has taken a step in that direction for metalcore.
Lyrics — 7
Tim Lambesis handles the main vocals which are the screamed vocals throughout the album. The clean vocals are handled by bassist, Josh Gilbert. Something that really stands out to me about As I Lay Dying, besides their awesome use of melody, is the way that Tim and Josh harmonize their vocals occasionally which is really unique with screamed metalcore vocals and clean vocals. Tim Lambesis definitely gets props for managing to be understandable with his metalcore vocals without losing his edge of aggression. I think that Tim Lambesis and Josh Gilbert have really found a method that works for them and gives their band an identity, from a vocal standpoint. Something else that Josh Gilbert pulls off on his clean vocals that a lot of bands don't manage with clean vocals he sings clean, but he doesn't sound like a boy band singer.
As far as a sample of lyrics, I thought I would share some of the lyrics from the song "Cauterize", which was the first single from the album. I don't think these are the best lyrics on the album, though the lyrics throughout are pretty much standard fare for metalcore the lyrics from "Awakened" are better than some and worse than others, but a pretty solid effort when all is said and done. Here are some lyrics from the song "Cauterized": "Go/ The truth of my heart/ is like a repressed tale/ A censored and silenced story/ repression or restraint/ it is a delicate balance/ between bleeding out what/ will make me drown/ and closing in what I cannot afford to spill/ either way, I must cauterize/ cauterize the open wound". That is the first verse, then the clean vocals come in with the chorus: "I'm caught between the feeling/ of being pulled apart/ or stuffed into a cell". Then we have the next verse: "And if these are the only options/ this will always be hell/ never ending/ though I still may be breathing/ there is no quality of life/ so I choose to risk it all for you/ for you to be by my side". Then it goes into the 2nd chorus, more verses, more choruses, etc. As I said, the lyrics aren't bad I've seen better and worse, but they stand up fairly well.
Overall Impression — 7
My favorite songs on the album are "Overcome", "Tear Out My Eyes", "Resilience" and "A Greater Foundation". My least favorite song on the album is the first single, "Cauterize". "Awakened" stands up well against its competition, as it definitely stays in the realm of metalcore, but has the additional elements of thrash and melody. I would recommend this album to anyone who is currently a fan of metalcore or a fan of As I Lay Dying. I would recommend this album to anyone who was just getting into metalcore, as it seems to be a good gateway band, too. I hope the band continues to make new albums and continues to tour. I would love to hear some of these songs live, and I feel like their individual voice is just starting to shine and help them stand apart. The standard version of the album has 11 tracks and a run time of just under 43 minutes. The version I was reviewing is the iTunes Limited Edition version that has two additional tracks "Unwound", which is a B-side demo, and a demo version of "A Greater Foundation" that is like 12 seconds longer than the original. The iTunes version is right under 51 minutes long.