Let’s lay out some ground rules before we get started here. I’m not here to pick sides. I’m not here to discuss the controversy or redemption that surrounds the name of the band you just clicked on a review for. If you want to know why that controversy exists, you obviously have the internet at your disposal. If you want to know what the band, including infamous singer Tim Lambesis, has done prior, during, or after the events detailed in your previously mentioned personal research, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Either stick to the status threads and message boards or take what you want from the mini-documentary released by Heart Support, but here is only a discussion of music and art. I’m not here to justify or condemn actions made by people I don’t fucking know. I’m here writing this piece today because love ‘em or hate ‘em, San Diego, CA crown jewel of the new wave of American metal movement of the early 2000s, As I Lay Dying, are to release a new record entitled Shaped by Fire, on September 20th of 2019. I received a sneak release to spill my guts out to and like all art and interpretations of, you can take it or fuck it.
Shaped by Fire marks the first full length recorded effort from As I Lay Dying in seven years, and yet somehow hits like the most diverse and powerful release since the commonly beloved Shadows are Security. We’re not listening to a different beast but one that’s had time to age and mature. All the elements that made AILD the polished heavy hitter they were renowned for prior to their hiatus are all present, while both new elements and old have joined the foray in different shapes and fashions. Compositionally speaking, the very breakneck-paced European inspired style of metal that the band molded into in their previous release Awakened stands at the forefront of a listener’s pallet, while tones and riff compositions all somehow simultaneously scream metalcore’s AILD of days past without being stale or overly rehashed. Vocal performances from both Lambesis and bassist Josh Gilbert have taken shape in a fashion that can only merit respect and impress. Rhythm sections sported by drummer Jordan Mancino have always been that of standard for incredulity and have in no way shape or form fallen from said throne here.
The production quality bears no fault to the untrained ear and a legion of incredibly respected members of the metal engineering community have their stamp on this release, leaving no room for anything short of pants-shitting perfection. Though a common mistake made by any band trying to survive the top ranks of the metal market was made here in releasing what was easily the most unique and captivating tracks off this record in advance, this by no means insinuates that the rest of the record is remiss in its duty of supporting said songs. Track by track, something leaps out and grabs your attention. If the fresh and bright albeit ridiculous riffage of the title track “Shaped by Fire” doesn’t do it for you, then the intensity of “My Own Grave” will remind you what brought you to listen to this record in the first place. Neither you say? Then try to tell me that “Gatekeeper” doesn’t bring you back to the days of An Ocean Between Us. Not interested in the excessively heavy? Then find peace in the ebb and flow of groove and melody on “Torn Between.”
I could do this with you all fucking day but the fact of the matter is, this is easily the most impressive material As I Lay Dying have released in over a decade. It’s mature, it’s clean, it’s complex, but goddamn it, it’s fucking As I Lay Dying and at some point or another we all have to sit down and call a duck a fucking duck. This is an incredible record and if you never want to support this band again, that’s perfectly cool, but this duck definitely doesn’t plan on sitting quietly while you choose to ignore it. This duck plans on burning the world down around you and maybe fucking your favourite piece of household furniture while you watch.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Danielle Kenedy