Review: “Shaped By Fire” by As I Lay Dying

There isn’t that much that can be said about returning San Diego California Metalcore crew As I Lay Dying that hasn’t been said over the last few years. They blazed a trail between 2000 and 2014 with 2003’s “Frail Words Collapse” and 2005’s “Shadows Are Security” making waves in the first run of Metalcore. But a break of 7 years between albums caused by frontman Tim Lambesis going to prison at the end of the “Awakened” tour cycle suggested it was all over. We’ve already expressed our opinion on what happened next, as has the World as his wife, so we’re not going to get into that at this point. What happened next was the band made amends, played some shows to which fans turned up on mass and then “Shaped By Fire” got recorded, with “My Own Grave” appearing as the first single a year ago…

…so looking at the song titles and knowing the background and story, were expecting some deep and meaningful lyrics delivered with passion and power as Tim Lambesis spends his time searching for forgiveness for his sins from those he let down. Entering the Gates of Hell as depicted by the cover art, “Burn To Emerge” is a tone setting atmospheric introduction with the repeated lines “will I ever escape, can we ever change” before diving headlong into “Blinded”. As you might expect, there is little deviation from the classic early Metalcore sound at the heart of As I Lay Dying. Josh Gilbert’s clean vocals are mesmerising and a fine example of how they should be done while Nick Hipa smashes out a collection of lead flourishes and solos in blistering fashion. It’s a track that could happily sit on “The End Of Heartache” by Killswitch Engage. Album title track “Shaped By Fire” gallops in like a Jousting Knight upon horseback with some relentless kit work from Jordan Mancino and lyrics about being reborn through pain. Breakdowns piled upon breakdowns and some neat change ups in the rhythmic patterns make for a solid cut. A similarly relentless battering ram “Undertow” is a tale of the falling of Tim Lambesis, how he lost himself and how he fought to escape the current. A masterful use of dark spoken word to create swirling moods and some brutally aggressive unclean vocals are counterbalanced perfectly by the bright lead riffs and clean vocals. It’s this sense of balance that we wish Wage War had found on their latest offering.

Slowing things up a notch and introducing some of the Wovenwar sound “Torn Between” has that melodic edge while maintaining the aggression in shortened verses so as not to be cut apart from the other material. The chorus is the kind of thing that A Day To Remember at their finest produce and the heartache of the clean vocals is a real insight into the bands World. “Gatekeeper” signals the halfway point of and album that has already delivered a serious volume of quality and it shows no signs of letting up with some necksnappingly headbangable Melodic Death Metal riffs and a whammy bar crossover Thrash solo that is nothing short of immense. After a clean vocal break, they’re back for “The Wreckage” which returns with the big chorus and some pummelling Metalcore isms. Lambesis has lost none of his vocal prowess and the contrast between his voice and Josh Gilbert’s is the making of the band. The tale of stormy waters ahead is well told with the notion that deep roots that refuse to budge being an interesting one. Co-Produced by Drew Fulk and mixed by Adam “Molly” Getgood of Periphery fame “My Own Grave” has been around for a year at this point so there can’t be many who are interested who haven’t heard it already. Tearing it up in fine form and marking the return of the band, “buried alive inside of my own grave and there is no one else to blame” is the chorus and sentiment of the cut that essentially takes all the best component parts of the As I Lay Dying sound at its best, turns them up to 10 and screams “Honey I’m Home!” as it puts an axe through the locked door. If the World had thought about turning it’s back on the band due to Tim Lambesis actions, then this cut is the wake up call, shot across the bows that says that the band still have that chemistry and if you’re interested, you know where to find them.

Slowing things down for the meloncholy introduction of “Take What’s Left” before opening up the throttle once more, it speaks of there being no choice but to start over and rebuild from scratch, a sentiment that not only applies to Lambesis himself in life but also as a band who have taken plenty of flak from all sides in their decision to return. Smashing down all the walls, “Redefined” tears the roof off with hints at mid career Lamb Of God influences and an interesting little synth break and vocal digital distortion from Phil Sgrosso. The presence of August Burns Red vocalist Jake Luhrs is as decent an excuse as any to add some DJent groove into the mix and a well worked chorus makes it one of the highlights of the album. “Only After We’ve Fallen” is a powerhouse cut that is nothing short of flat out while including a gang vocal that adds another dimension to the sound. The question is whether the audience’s will be able to chant along with it live because it’s so fast. Josh Gilbert’s bass is allowed to bleed though the mix in places as “The Toll It Takes” keeps up the high energy and battery of pummelling riffs. Not being able to fix the past but refusing to let go in attempting to make amends is the sentiment and it’s a fine way to end what has to go down as one of the most intriguing come back stories of the recent past. “Shaped By Fire” as an album demonstrates less obviously than others some cathartic writings that leave you with plenty to think about as well as being a return to form second to none. The music speaks for itself, if you’re prepared to give it the time of day and that is all that As I Lay Dying are asking [8.5/10]

Track listing

  1. Burn To Emerge
  2. Blinded
  3. Shaped By Fire
  4. Undertow
  5. Torn Between
  6. Gatekeeper
  7. The Wreckage
  8. My Own Grave
  9. Take What’s Left
  10. Redefined (ft. Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red)
  11. Only After We’ve Fallen
  12. The Toll It Takes

“Shaped By Fire” by As I Lay Dying is out now via Nuclear Blast

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