I’ve been into AS I LAY DYING since “Frail Words Collapse” in 2003. I think that album is a landmark in time. Not only that, but I actually asked to try out on guitar for AS I LAY DYING that year. My personal interpretation of that album was it was emo made so heavy that it approached death metal. Quite a few reviewers compared it to death metal back in the day, actually. Of course, 2003 was the year that metalcore in general hit pretty hard, and soon after that a lot of people began to see what was hot. Metalcore isn’t what it used to be though, and it’s certainly not a select group of people experimenting with a new sound anymore.
AS I LAY DYING haven’t ever made the same album twice before or after “Frail Words Collapse”, and this one is said to be the band’s thrash album, from statements Tim Lambesis has given in interviews before the release of “An Ocean Between Us”. Thrash this certainly is, and the attack is certainly a lot sharper this time around than the collection of Swedish melodies on “Shadows Are Security”. Certainly a lot of the thrash contained on “An Ocean Between Us” hangs towards the Swedish variety, as well as a bit of the classic American variety too. Those melodic death metal harmonies are still present in many songs, they’re simply not as prevalent.
Somehow, almost all of the songs are able to amass a huge epic feel which carries through from the sharp thrash attack sending the message home, to the larger than life clean vocals. Surprisingly the clean vocals aren’t used only in choruses as a crutch to carry entire songs. There are clean-sung choruses, and while most songs do feature singing, it’s often used in breaks, or in the case of the song “I Never Wanted”, almost a ballad type song, the singing is used almost as verse in conjunction with Tim Lambesis signature scream.
Considering that metalcore has become a hot new thing for so many also-rans to try and steal their own piece of the pie from, it’s really forced some of the bands who were there in the beginning to step up their game. I guess I’m not the only one seeing metalcore’s death on the horizon soon, so it’s becoming more important to be artistically relevant in preparations for the long haul once the trend is over. Something I’m seeing from a scant few metalcore bands is the phasing out of single-note breakdowns. JOB FOR A COWBOY ditched all their chugga style breakdowns, and I’ve heard that THROUGH THE EYES OF THE DEAD seriously cut down on them on their latest album. AS I LAY DYING have usually been pretty good at hiding their single note breakdowns in the past, and on “An Ocean Between Us”, they’ve made a choice to use other crowd moving techniques that are enjoyable to listen to as well as become moved by in a live setting. They do have a rare few single-note breakdowns, but they’re certainly executed in a much sharper, thrash oriented attack. I certainly hope a lot of other bands take suit and attempt to grow beyond that standard metalcore cliche, because I’m frankly tired of hearing the lowest open string on a guitar constantly beaten beyond death.
I’ve heard people claim that metalcore will soon be on it’s way out. If the past has been any predictor, then 2007 should be the apex year for it while we coast along through 2008, with kids wising up and beginning to feel cheated by being spoon fed generic metalcore by 2009. With the writing on the wall, AS I LAY DYING have taken the opportunity to grow as artists.