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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

AN OCEAN BETWEEN US Review



AN OCEAN BETWEEN US
As I Lay Dying
Metal Blade Records

Release date: 21 August 2007

Perhaps one of the more successful metalcore outfits to emerge onto the scene, As I Lay Dying have been touring relentlessly since the very beginning. They have come a long way since adopting a ‘pure’ metalcore sound according to some (similar to Zao) with their first record Beneath the Encasing of Ashes to this slightly more trash-influenced latest effort.

Some may argue that As I Lay Dying have broken into the mainstream since An Ocean Between Us made its debut at number 8 on the Billboard 200, and number 1 on the Top Rock chart, plus the first single Nothing Left was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Still, it has to be said that this quintet remain firmly on the ground when it comes to making new music for the right reasons.

On their last album Shadows Are Security, As I Lay Dying proved all too well they could make their raw sound a lot more refined than before. However, with this album, they went that one step further. For example, guitar solos became an integral part of song structures, while the clean vocals which were rarely utilised on Shadows Are Security, played a pretty significant role in giving the album a better musical outlook with new bassist and back-up vocalist Josh Gilbert replacing Clint Norris. Also, the band included two instrumental tracks which helped give An Ocean Between Us a great musical shape. Overall, a more diverse sound.

The possible reason for the great musical shape as mentioned could have been because renowned Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz was co-producer of the album. Apart from the inclusion of the two instrumental tracks, one notable comparison which can be made between this record and the last is that on this one, As I Lay Dying seem to have found a way to indirectly slow things down during songs, with ocassional moments which feature the lead guitar keeping the song going. In short, the quieter moments are more obvious, while the heaviness has gone up a notch or two. The lead guitar riffs are also more complex than on Shadows Are Security, where the lead was mainly played simply as a single flat layer with the rhythm underneath. Not to say the lead riffs were terrible or anything, they still kicked ass, but this time, they seem to intertwine more with the sound as a whole, and are much more noticeable and original as a result.

I’m pretty sure very few people will argue with the fact that Confined, off Shadows Are Security, was a mind-blower of a song, and a brilliant song choice for the first single. But yet again, As I Lay Dying prove they could do one better with one of the best metal songs I have ever heard, Nothing Left. Right from the word go, the superb opening guitar riff accompanied by the pounding drums manages to give the listener the impetus to headbang even before the song really gets into the groove. The band also do well to delay to the first chorus, which displays excellent clean vocals. On this first ‘official’ song (with Separation, the first track and the track before being an instrumental one), a solo appears and does really well to keep the mood up. Then before you know it, the album launches into the title track, which simply hardly ever stops. The speed of which the opening guitar riff is being played is just sublime. There are hardly any points in this song to take a breather, as the intensity is maintained throughout and again, clean vocals with much better range than on the previous album really work well for the band.

Shadows Are Security boasted one of the band’s most melodic songs, The Darkest Nights which was a real highlight to many. With a splendid dual guitar melody causing the hairs of the listener to stand on end, it was clear that As I Lay Dying could do amazing things. While that song was one of the best tracks off Shadows Are Security, Forsaken is arguably the best on An Ocean Between Us. The first minute of this one is instrumental, beginning with a solid, medium-paced melodic guitar riff before the drums blend in. Once vocalist Tim Lambesis comes in with one of his famous screams, the song completely changes colour, as if from white to black. Once again, Josh Gilbert’s clean vocals lead the charge during the chorus to great effect. Breakdowns may be aplenty in this genre, but the one at the two-minute mark on this song is one of those which stands out among the rest. A killer lead riff is accompanied by a heavy, chugging rhythm, giving the song an amazing feel.

Prior to the release of An Ocean Between Us, As I Lay Dying utilised clean vocals pretty much only during choruses. The great thing about this album is that clean vocals are used during other parts of songs, such as during the bridges of Forsaken and I Never Wanted, both of which happen to include some really emotionally meaningful and brilliant lyrics. Based on my knowledge of this band, I have never heard them make a key change in their music, but they did so during the bridge of I Never Wanted.

Back to the topic of solos, the band really ace it them this time around. Comfort Betrays, one of the heaviest songs ever done by the band, in particular, sports a great technical 20-second solo. Along with this, Nothing Left as well as second single The Sound of Truth amongst others, As I Lay Dying seemed to have given the lead guitar that bit more work to do in the solo department. Also, the little dabble with the piano on This Is Who We Are to close up the album was a lot better written than on Repeating Yesterday, off Shadows Are Security.

With An Ocean Between Us, As I Lay Dying have every right to be proud of their achievement as they have struck up a formula which seems to work. While continuing to improve in the many aspects of technicality, the atmosphere on this record is definitely a huge plus point. Despite that, I still feel they can do even more, to turn even more heads. So can they fulfill that, and what do they have in store for us in the near future? We’ll see.

Rating: 4/5

1 comment:

Dina said...

Damn Jeb.
I miss you lah.
Can't wait to see you tomorrow.

Hahaha, random but true wtf :(