Thursday, November 10, 2011
As I Lay Dying - "Decas"
It's been ten years. Ten years since The Fellowship of the Ring released in theaters, kicking off the greatest cinematic trilogy of all time. (screw you Wikipedia! Citation NOT needed!) Ten years since Halo forever changed the landscape of video gaming and catapulted the Xbox into the forefront of adolescent preoccupation. Ten years...since As I Lay Dying officially began their journey as band - practically inventing metalcore and then keeping the bar set almost unattainably high. And to commemorate those ten face-melting years, As I Lay Dying released "Decas" - a retrospective/compilation/cover/remix/EP/full-length CD.
As a huge As I Lay Dying fan, the first pro I feel I have to mention is...NEW AS I LAY DYING. The wait from "An Ocean Between Us" (2007) to "The Powerless Rise" (2010) was almost too long, so to only have to wait a little over a year for new tunes from America's #1 metalcore band was merciful news. But "Decas" isn't exactly a "new" CD. The album features 3 brand new tracks, one re-recorded medley, 4 remixes, and 4 covers. It's a grab bag, no doubt about it. But fortunately it's a good one overall.
The 3 new tracks in question kick off the album with "Paralyzed." The song is about as As I Lay Dying as any you've heard, showcasing the band's already spit-polished musicianship and fine-tuned mixing and mastering skills. It's not anything you haven't heard before, and as much can be said of the next two tracks - "From Shapeless to Breakable" and "Moving Forward." If you like As I Lay Dying, you'll like these songs. If you're completely new to metalcore, these songs are as good as any to give you an idea of what to expect from the genre.
The covers on this album are the tracks that really shine though. As I Lay Dying brings their signature ferocity to Slayer's "War Ensemble" and the less serious "Coffee Mug," originally by Descendents. No holds barred, just shred-tastic thrash and sledgehammer-to-the-face hardcore, respectively. Sandwiched between those two gems is a little Priest. Judas Priest, to be exact. They certainly aren't the first to cover "Electric Eye" (or to thankfully tag on its intro, "The Hellion") but they do it justice and frankly, As I Lay Dying covering Judas Priest is about as METAL as things come.
The remixes. Just about any gripe or shortcoming this album can be accused of is thanks to those damn remixes. As I Lay Dying isn't a band that really *needs* to be remixed anyway, and making metalcore songs into dubstep abominations is about as bad as any remix of any kind can get. Their only saving grace is that they don't take up the majority of the CD. And to give credit where credit is due, Kelly "Carnage" Cairns remix of "Confined" actually does the song justice, mainly by leaving it largely intact and just changing up some of the instrumentalization. And to avoid sounding like a total cynic, Big Chocolate's (who you hopefully recognize from either Disfiguring the Goddess or Commissioner or both) remix of Elegy is pretty good, too. It's a remix, so there's only so much "good" to go around for it. But if you like Commissioner's sound and have always wanted to hear what that formula would sound like applied to As I Lay Dying's music, "Decas" has your golden ticket.
"Decas" can best be described as somewhere between a retrospective album, a best-of CD, and a compilation project. New songs, old songs, red songs, blue songs; if you like As I Lay Dying then you should definitely pick this one up because they're a band worth supporting.
If you only want to snag a few songs from this CD via iTunes or what have you, I'd recommend the new tracks and the covers. And their "Beneath the Encasing Ashes" re-recording medley, of course. Personally, one of the biggest drawbacks to their debut album was the low production value, so hearing a few of the great moments from that album rolled into one and mixed professionally was a real treat. But the remixes really aren't anything to write home about...unless your favorite things in life involve good music being run through a "wub wub" machine and coming out full of glitches and tweets.
It's not a new full-length album, but for my money it's worth having a little memento of As I Lay Dying's ten years as a band. And word has it this album's release is kicking off their "Decade of Destruction" tour with iwrestledabearonce, The Ghost Inside, Of Mice and Men, and Sylosis. So I'll take the good with the bad.