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Metal Blade (2012)
Rating: 10/10

Long separated from their early works, San Diego, California’s As I Lay Dying have been one of the hardest working groups in metal music for the last decade. Although their debut for Metal Blade Records, Frail Words Collapse (2003), helped spark the metalcore movement, the band have become more than a little predictable over the last few albums. Awakened takes note of that, bowling you over from the moment the first note hits, and puts the entire heavy music scene on notice.

While ‘Cauterize’ steamrolls you in a classically metalcore way, it steps up its game with a high energy performance that immediately brings to mind the band’s powerful live shows. Instead of just continuing the rollover though, As I Lay Dying come out swinging in a different way on ‘A Greater Foundation’. Filled to the brim with machine gun riffing, desperate sounding vocal work, pissed off gang vocals, soaring choruses, and over the top lead work, this is easily the best song the band have ever recorded and quite possibly their most dynamic as well.

‘No Lungs To Breathe’ is another fine example of the reigniting of As I Lay Dying. Putting the hardcore element more in the forefront than usual, it stands out among many of the other songs. When Tim Lambesis laments “With no lungs to breathe, I had almost lost everything” it will resonate far and wide with metal fans who have felt isolated and desperate (and that’s most of us at some point, right?) at some point in their lives. ‘Defender’ couples with it as if bringing it full circle like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

‘Wasted Words’ has a huge sound that is probably as close to a commercial sound as we’ll ever get from the band. The insane lead guitar work hardly takes a breather as the song weaves in and out of hardcore breakdowns and the traditional metal onslaught. ‘Tear Out My Eyes’ takes the album out on a blistering note that screams to be played in front of tens of thousands of people at festivals worldwide.

There really aren’t any negative moments on Awakened. Much like Killswitch Engage’s The End of Heartache (2004), it exemplifies what metalcore should be. If it were all this way then there would certainly be no debate about it within the metal community. This is the album Lambesis and drummer Jordan Mancino have been trying to make all along. As far as metal goes, this is my album of the year. If you love heavy music, you need to own Awakened. It’s that simple.

Mark Fisher

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