The album kicks off with lead singer Tim Lambesis taking a big deep breath. Needless to say he will need it. This album is both a marathon and a sprint. It is hard hitting and fast but also deliberate and patient. It offers everything you come to expect from As I Lay Dying. This is everything I want from a metalcore album. It is heavy, fast and loud but packed with melody. The musicianship of this band continues to grow. Lyrically, it deals with the difficulties of life but also how to deal with that and come out stronger.
This time they worked with Bill Stevenson, drummer of Black Flag and the Descendents. He has worked with Rise Against, Silverstein, and NOFX. He is a legend in rock music but his style and production style worked really well for this band. The band described the situation as really beneficial because he was an outside voice. He brought a different perspective to the table and it paid off on the production of Awakened. He was able to bring that unique view to the band to advise on the sound and give suggestions on little improvements or changes to make.
On the opening track “Cauterize”, Lambesis talks about his struggles with his identity, “I’m caught between the feeling of being pulled apart and stuffed into a cell”. The song itself is powerful but bassist Josh Gilbert destroys on the hook, his singing is powerful while also being melodic. It is the perfect choice for single.
“This letter’s written to no one,” Lambesis screams at the beginning of the next song, “A Greater Foundation”. ‘This letter’ is about overcoming the difficulties in life to make life into what you want. Overcoming difficulty has been a consistent theme for this band and it is very present once again on Awakened. “Sometimes we have to watch our whole lives fall apart before we can rebuild them again – a greater foundation.” What a difficult life lesson to learn and to deal with. They are definitely not shying away from tough talk on this album.
“Resilience” has a pummeling rhythm section that is constantly bowling you over like wave after wave of an angry sea. Drummer Jordan Mancino sounds great on this album and especially here. Working with a producer that is a drummer has pushed him to even greater heights this time around. This song is about resilience and finding hope by seeing others comeback from adverse situations. “My source of hope is seeing the weak prevail.” It proves that you don’t have to be strong to prevail, just persistent, “You bring me through the darkness of myself and show me that frailty can be turned to strength. Suffering, persistence, such sorrow yet resilience.”
On “Wasted Words”, Lambesis talks about not wasting time on regret, “I will not leave wishing I had done things differently.” This is another lesson that people are well served in learning. Try to keep from singing along to the chorus of “Whispering Silence”. Can’t be done. This song talks about how all the little choices in life change you. “Whispering silence. The subtle contradiction. Compromise creeps in, forgetting who i once was. Slowly changing, who I once was.” The build up to and the breakdown in this song? OH YEAH.
“No Lungs to Breathe” reveals the struggles Lambesis was dealing with, “I fought who I am inside, until I wanted, I wanted to die. Instead of finding balance, I found hatred. Consumed by failures and ignoring my own strengths. Pushed out to sea without learning to swim or stranded in the desert with no lungs to breathe. With no lungs to breathe, I had almost lost everything”. “No Lungs to Breathe” features a super awesome guitar solo followed by the chorus and a brutal breakdown to end the song. The music was as brutal as the lyrical content.
The interplay of the guitars of Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso in the intro draws you into the next song, “Defender”. Gang vocals are sprinkled throughout this album but come to the forefront with the chant of, ” Drained, Spent, Determined, Intent,” and it’s awesome. “Washed Away” is another signature instrumental. It does the same as the other instrumentals on AILD albums, give you a break from Tim’s punishing vocals. This instrumental is so much of a bridge I hardly recognize it. It feels like a part of either the song before it or the one after it. It definitely does its job.