Global metal titans As I Lay Dying kick off their second decade together with Awakened, the sixth and hands-down most powerful release of a stunning career. Seething with metallic vitriol, overflowing with energy, and rich with the kind of melody that irrevocably implants itself in the listener’s mind, it is the sound of a band pushing themselves to outdo everything that has come before, be it their own previous work, or that of their contemporaries, and daring all to do better.
From the flurry of blastbeats and mauled guitar that kick off opener "Cauterize" to the epic darkness of closer "Tear Out My Eyes", the musicianship and arrangements are consistently riveting, the band showcasing their strengths while subtly introducing thrilling new elements to their sound. "There’s nothing totally out of left-field, we just refined our songwriting and incorporated some ideas that bring a real freshness to the record," Sgrosso states. "We wanted something that was a lot bigger and more open sounding, and that’s exactly what we achieved."
"Going into this one, in the back of my mind was always how are people going to react to this when we play it live?’ So there’s still plenty of fast stuff on this record, but there’s more grooves and some different vibes going on," Sgrosso explains.
Lyrically speaking, Awakened sees Lambesis move away from the outward themes of The Powerless Rise, in favor of a more introspective approach.
While his lyrics have always had far more relevance to fans than those of most metal bands, delving deeper and rewarding repeat listens; Lambesis admits that Awakened is a far darker, more pessimistic beast. But this does not mean that there is not positivity to be found in this approach: "On this record, I wasn’t purposefully trying to be negative, but I think sometimes we have to be honest with some of the darker and more difficult times of our lives to get back to that positivity. While the lyrics do perhaps seem like a dark window into my soul, they’re written that way specifically because I want to move on and transcend those difficult moments in life."
Having previously worked with producer (and Killswitch Engage guitarist) Adam Dutkiewicz on 2007′s An Ocean Between Us and The Powerless Rise, Awakened is the first time that the band collaborated with producer (and punk rock legends The Descendents drummer) Bill Stevenson. With the likes of Rise Against, Comeback Kid, and NOFX on his production resumé, the choice of Stevenson as producer was an inspired one. "We wanted to work with somebody who was outside the box for our genre, but involved enough in underground music that they would understand the mentality of our band."
"Bill’s the perfect choice because he has that really rich history, but hasn’t been so entrenched in metal that he’s going to make clichéd suggestions." Sgrosso concurs with this, believing Stephenson’s outside perspective contributed to stronger songs and a more cohesive record overall. "Bill is a very intelligent guy, and he’ll be honest with you – if he’s not feeling it he’ll tell you straight, I’m just bored here, something else needs to happen. He’d look at a song and instinctively know what would improve it, and having that fresh perspective onboard helped so much."
While on their previous records the band spent an average of two months in the studio, this time out they had only a three and a half week window between tours to track all eleven songs. Understandably, this placed a great deal of pressure on the proceedings, but that pressure added to the urgency of the recordings, and in the band’s opinion, lead to a more streamlined, more aggressive, and overall better record. Sgrosso and Lambesis concur that it is also the first album by the band that all five members can wholly get behind. "On our past albums there’s always a couple of songs we dread getting requests for because they’re not our favorites to play live, but that’s not the case with this record. If we needed to choose five for a set we could pick any five and all of them would go over great live," Lambesis states. "This feels like a record that we could finally play from start to finish live" Sgrosso adds, "and the fact that we’ve managed to do that with this record makes us all extremely proud."
Bio written by Dan Slessor.
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