I don't listen to a huge amount of straight metal these days (let alone New Wave of American Metalcore), unless I'm pretty sure it will be something that is worth my time. BUT--I've heard a lot about As I Lay Dying from both metal and hardcore fans, and seen the influence they've come to be in the current scene, so I thought 'why not?' Another turn on was Tim Lambesis' production skills and knowledge, I mean wherever you see this guy's name you know you're going to get something decent. The fact that he's worked with Sworn Enemy (producer on their last record) says it all for me. Sometimes it's good to see the personal work of the people who have helped create something you totally dig, and try to draw the parallels.
So... I'm not going to BS you: I like this record. I even carry it around with me on my ipod this week. It has a perfect production sound, I mean crystal clear and meaty at the same time, and it is filled with all the right little elements that comprise a good metal record that doesn't bore you at all. It's fucking heavy, the riffs are all good, the solos are insane, the drumming is perfect, and Tim Lambesis' vocals are totally on the spot. in general, this record covers a pretty wide range of different metal and hardcore styles, all crammed into one amalgam to keep you interested all the way through. So thumbs up for AILD!!!
It goes as you might think if you happen to keep an eye on the current state of music affairs: the severe metal attack is exchanged with super-melodic parts and these are in turn exchanged with huuuge mosh parts that even Hatebreed would be jealous of (OK that's an overstatement). In that way, As I Lay Dying thrash out and give you a lot on your musical plate, so you can enjoy and give the record repeated spins. This is very good in these wafer-thin times, when so many records don't deserve more than a couple of tries and get boring so easily.
Another thing that came to me as a surprise is the good lyrics. I haven't sat down with the lyric sheet, but I can tell that they're a poetic (dare I say) take on philosophical and even spiritual issues in life. From what I hear they have their Christian connections and they keep to them pretty tight. Hmm... This is so much better than what so many others sing about in this genre (depression, hurt, teenage angst, loneliness, betrayal--anything what will get those kids buying, right?). At least As I Lay Dying show that you can manage to sell records, without having to go totally by the book.
All in all, I'd say that As I Lay Dying are one of those bands that lead the bandwagon, keeping their finger on the pulse, so I can't say anything against them even though they belong to the mainstream. They are leaders and not followers. It's like a tight-knit business, a well-greased war metal machine, a whatever you want to call them but they do it professionally. Now watch them succeed!
Tim Lambesis: the mastermind behind it all