Released: 2007, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In their continuing quest for top spot among modern American metal bands, San Diego’s As I Lay Dying has unleashed its latest opus, AN OCEAN BETWEEN US. Building on the progression of 2005’s SHADOWS ARE SECURITY, the new CD is the perfect blend of melody and aggression with sizzling dual guitar interplay sharing space with accessible, vocally-diverse choruses. There have been great leaps in terms of songwriting, as well. AN OCEAN BETWEEN US sounds like a true, cohesive album rather than just a batch of songs. The guitarwork of Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa is quickly earning a sound of its own, too, that is recognizable amid the pack of metalcore bands currently struggling to keep up. On that note, AN OCEAN BETWEEN US sees As I Lay Dying continue to branch out from the confines of metalcore and move into its role as a straight-forward metal band. “Accessible” is an ugly word to throw around but it does fit here. Elements of thrash are prevalent amid the breakdowns but there are also plenty of melodic death passages here to balance out Tim Lambesis’ darkly ambiguous lyrics (is “You are the one we left behind./Yet somehow we are the ones who feel alone” from “Forsaken” directed towards ex-bassist Clint Norris?). AN OCEAN BETWEEN US will truly be the album that takes As I Lay Dying to the next level of global metal domination as it encompasses everything the band has been working towards and aspiring to be.
Almost immediately, the full force of As I Lay Dying’s melodic assault comes crashing through the gates. “Nothing Left,” with its blistering guitar and open-throttle double bass intro, sets the tone for the rest of the album. Sharp, intrepid riffs borrow more from the Bay Area thrash titans than the Swedish melodic death stalwarts whose works were previously lamented in the band’s music. Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso really sizzle on this album, with the guitars pushed way up in the Colin Richardson mix. Shredded solos (“Comfort Betrays”), twin-guitar leads (“An Ocean Between Us”) and an arpeggio-laced, “Cathedral”-meets-“Eruption” instrumental (“Departed”) showcase what a powerhouse team this pair really is. Tim Lambesis’ throat-shredding arsenal of screams and belly roars is now cradled next to a more prominent clean vocal croon, supplied here by new bassist Josh Gilbert. While the band has dabbled in the clean/harsh vocal dynamic on past albums (“Confined,” “The Darkest Nights” and “Forever” immediately come to mind), the immediately catchy choruses of “Forsaken,” “I Never Wanted,” “The Sound of Truth” and most notably the title track are swathed in Gilbert’s smooth vocals and they really work well. The balance of melody and aggression remains a calculated piece of the puzzle, too. For every ear-friendly chorus, the band tears your face off with a blast furnace of a track like “Within Destruction” or “Bury Us All,” each boasting pedal-to-the-metal pacing and enough tasty riffs to satisfy the palate of any discerning metalhead. Lest we forget to mention the powerhouse drumming of Jordan Mancino, whose thunderous bashing on “Comfort Betrays” and twisted fills on “Wrath Upon Ourselves” cement his place among the best young metal drummers currently plying their trade.
In an increasingly crowded and tired genre, As I Lay Dying have delivered their masterpiece. Where FRAIL WORDS COLLAPSE helped lay the foundations for metalcore and SHADOWS ARE SECURITY proved the band could stretch beyond the confines of the genre, AN OCEAN BETWEEN US continues to redefine where modern American metal is currently at and where it is going. Better songwriting, ever-improving musicianship and the ability to build upon a trademark sound keep As I Lay Dying at the top of the heap and if AN OCEAN BETWEEN US is any indication, there is no end in sight.
KILLER KUTS: “Nothing Left,” “An Ocean Between Us,” “Within Destruction,” “Comfort Betrays,” “I Never Wanted,” “The Sound of Truth,” “This Is Who We Are”