As I Lay Dying are back. After releasing their “comeback” single “My Own Grave” in mid-2018, the quintet have now delivered the culmination of several months of work and their first full-length release since 2012’s Awakened. But, do they still have it and can they still be considered the “kings of metalcore”?
Right from the first notes of opening tracks “Burn to Emerge” and “Blinded”, it is clear that the band mean business and are not afraid to shake things up a tad. Everything which made up an AILD song in the past is there, with the harsh vocals from Tim Lambesis and clean vocals from Josh Gilbert in particular sounding much more refined than previously. However, it is the title track where the tried and tested formula gets amended slightly with the down-tuned guitars giving the track a lot more meat.
The following track “Undertow” hearkens back to Shadows Are Security days with minor based melodies and a mid-2000’s style breakdown that’ll make any mosh-pit go insane. It’s a nice little homage to the band’s earlier days but with a little modern twist to bring it right up to date. “Torn Between” follows this up with some rather fantastic singing from Josh which contrasts nicely with the harsh vocals from Tim. It’s “Gatekeeper” however that really takes centre stage out of these tracks. Running at breakneck speed for nigh on the whole song and featuring a guitar solo that Kerry King would be jealous of, this is a track which’ll no doubt get the bodies flying at shows.
The pace slows down a tad for “The Wreckage”, with everything taking a slightly more reflective slant courtesy of some expert riffing from Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso. It’s a song which, in some ways, might be more at home on Awakened, but it slots in nicely on this album as well. And then there’s “My Own Grave”. Not much really needs to said about this track other than it’s awesome. “Take What’s Left” continues the trip down memory lane and almost sounds exactly like a modern version of “The Sound of the Truth” from An Ocean Between Us. And just like that track, this is one of the best on the whole album and possibly one of the best tracks the band has written.
“Redefined” follows on with a focus on more of the modern elements introduced in the newer albums. It features some fantastic guest vocals courtesy of Jake Luhrs from August Burns Red and a breakdown that could rip a continent in half. Continuing with more of the modern trend, “Only After We Have Fallen” crashes in and can hold claim to being the fastest and heaviest track on Shaped By Fire. Again, this is a killer track and one that’ll go down an absolute storm live.
Ending the album, “The Toll It Takes” starts off calm before crashing in like a tonne of bricks. Keeping the speed and heaviness from the previous track along with the expert clean singing of Josh, the song perfectly mixes them both to create an excellent track to end the album.
Whilst the circumstances surrounding the near 7 year gap have been covered in detail by many other sites, truthfully, the gap has not affected the band musically. If anything, it has elevated the band to new heights and helped them to create what can be considered their finest album yet. So, in answer to the question at the start, can As I Lay Dying be considered the “kings of metalcore” once again?
Yes. They most certainly can.
Shaped By Fire is released on the 20th September via Nuclear Blast Records.