Originally written by Erik Thomas
Recently, a non-metal friend asked me to recommend some of my more “tame” material for him to listen to – something with nifty guitar work, some real singing, and no cookie monster vocals. As I Lay Dying, another superb addition to the homegrown talent over at Metal Blade, fit the bill perfectly.
AILD are part of the new breed of US acts that has incorporated many Swedish melodic death metal influences into their hardcore sound, and do it very proficiently, with only a slight nod to their hardcore roots via some fairly generic breakdowns and lyrical content. Otherwise, they have fully absorbed and manipulated the Swedish sound very well, while keeping their Christian ideals intact. While certainly not as heavy as many of their peers, AILD make up for that shortcoming by having harmonies and melodies by the bucket load. The dual guitar work weaves a suitable balance of intricate layering and often emotional soloing that lends to an almost “emo” feel. When delivering more emotionally charged material, such as the sobering “Behind Me Lies Another Fallen Soldier” and “Song 10”, AILD excel. When these emotive melodies are mixed with more traditional, upbeat metalcore stylings, the combination works very well together.
Early tracks, like “94 Hours” and “Falling on Deaf Ears”, are both expressive and melodic. However, when AILD try to revert to their more hardcore-inspired past, they fall a little short. When dependent on breakdowns and more spastic riffing rather than the flowing harmonics of their Swedish counterparts, they seem to stumble a little. Prime examples are “Distance is Darkness” and “The Pain of Separation”, tracks that stutter and jerk with forced hardcore machismo and less thoughtful intricacies that simply can’t compete with the pure devastation wrought by less harmonious acts like On Broken Wings and How It Ends.
Intensity wise, Darkest Hour these guys are not. The faster moments never quite deliver an endless wave of blows to the face, but that’s fine, as the more controlled delivery comes across as far more convincing. As a result, the album never really forces you to listen to it based on intensity alone. So around seven songs in, my attention starts to wane, as each song essentially retreads its predecessor: shouted rasps of agony, clean vocal interludes, dual guitars, and the occasional breakdown.
Only “Song 10” stands out during the later part of the album, a ballad of sorts with little to no hardcore trappings. That’s not to say its bad, but it doesn’t make me want to sit down and pay attention for the album’s duration like, say, Hamartia. The other thing that irked me about an otherwise fine album is the drum sound. It sounds way too robotic, mechanical, and lifeless, almost like a drum machine. However, these minor quibbles should not stop you from checking out this fine US band.
Props to Metal Blade – with these guys, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Vehemence, they have three parts of the very promising future of US metal under their belt.