September 16, 2019 As I Lay Dying – Shaped By Fire (Album Review)
Some bands possess deep roots that refuse to break. Life has not been without some incendiary pitfalls for the men of As I Lay Dying, an original pioneer of the Metalcore subgenre. With Shaped By Fire, the quintet rise from the ashes of their past to embrace a bold new future. Nuclear Blast Records deliver the flame-broiled Metal on Friday, September 20th, 2019.
Formed in California in 2000, and a part of the original OC Metalcore scene of the early 2000s, the Grammy Award-nominated As I Lay Dying has endured nearly two decades of highs and dramatic lows, including line-up changes and personal troubles. Their 2001 debut, Beneath the Encasing of Ashes, paved the way for the band to issue five more albums over the next eleven years, ranging from 2003’s Frail Words Collapse to 2007’s An Ocean Between Us to 2012’s Awakened. Acclaim has followed the band wherever they go, leading them to share stages with the likes of Rob Zombie, Slayer, Disturbed, Hatebreed, Killswitch Engage, and nearly everyone in between.
Fans understand well why it has been seven years since the band’s last release, and that period of time has shaped As I Lay Dying—Vocalist Tim Lambesis, Guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, Bassist/Vocalist Josh Gilbert, and Drummer Jordan Mancino—into the men they are today. Understandably, their seventh studio offering, Shaped By Fire, digs deep into the personal, allowing Frontman Lambesis to be vulnerable before his fans. Produced by As I Lay Dying, the 12-track collection represents the dawn of a bold new era for this talented quintet.
“Will I ever escape? Can we ever change?” are the questions that open the collection as Shaped By Fire launches into “Burn To Emerge.” At just under a minute, this epic introduction provides the exciting build into the album’s proper first track, “Blinded.” Brutal blast beats and Lambesis’ despairing howls fuel a sonic inferno that is capped off by Gilbert’s soaring melodies embedded in its confessional choruses.
Djenty, Prog Metal theatrics ascend into the core of the titular “Shaped By Fire,” with sludgy verses that detonate into infectious choruses packed with a mighty pain born of experience. If you stream only one track from this album, make this the one! But that doesn’t mean to skip the rest, as continuing to prove that they are a vital force of Metal mayhem the band present the pummeling “Undertow.” A current of self-destruction ebbs through the track, a deeply personal admission that sometimes we have to crash and collapse before we can find control and freedom.
Continuing to throttle the senses, “Torn Between” contrasts its harsh, haunted verses with its Gilbert-led choruses, paving the way for “Gatekeeper,” where the “self importance of the moral elite” sits at the center of the quintet’s devilish attack. Apropos of its title, the blistering condemnation tackles those that never practice what they preach, who capitalize on other’s pain and despair. Firing on all cylinders, the band stomp into another stand-out offering, “The Wreckage,” an autobiographical look at their collective struggle to endure when the skies turned gray, and their ensuing fight to rise like a phoenix from those flames.
Lamenting the loss of a path and having no one else to blame, the ferocious avowal of “My Own Grave” paves the way for clarity to arise in the equally incendiary “Take What’s Left.” Vicious gang vocals caress the core of “Redefined”—featuring Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red—an evolution and transformation forged from agony and failure. A bold acknowledgement that he had to fall from grace to find a cure for his cancer, “Only After We’ve Fallen” sees Lambesis empowering himself through his vulnerability.
Ultimately, Shaped By Fire ends with “The Toll It Takes.” Blast beats coexist with soaring, melodic choruses to tackle the topic of a self-imposed sentence, one that is cleaves a man in two as he tries to face the fact that he cannot fix the past—there’s only the future. If the goal is to leave listeners feeling hope, As I Lay Dying achieve this with a heavy finesse that ends their collection on a truly redemptive note.
Shaped By Fire is a deeply personal detailing of the past few years in Lambesis’ life, the internal struggles to overcome and find peace. Laying his soul bare in his lyrics allows As I Lay Dying to craft a throttling yet emotive collection that slaughters the senses while it simultaneously hits deep to the heart of every matter it tackles. Personally vulnerable yet blistering and ferocious in sound, Shaped By Fire is a proud return for a band who have truly been forced to battle their way out from the fiery pits of Hell. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give As I Lay Dying’s latest 4 of 5 stars.
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