Metalcore hasn’t always had the negative connotation it carries now. Back before some of you even knew who (insert popular band name here) was, bands like Botch, Shai Hulud, and Shadows Fall seemed to be helping pave the way for what we hear and see today. It was a fresh and unique time in music history, as they were taking the whole crossover movement to an entirely new level, and nothing would ever be the same. However, if you’ve been listening to music the past few years, you’ve seen that metalcore has hit a rut, of sorts, and become somewhat of a cesspool of musical talent.
However, despite the scarcity of unique and proficient musicianship in the metalcore genre, As I Lay Dying has always done their best to stand out and Decas is their way of saying they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. True, it’s easy to write off the band as generic or boring, but there’s no way you can deny the impact they have had in the music scene, and too often we look at bands that try to emulate them and blame As I Lay Dying, as if it’s their fault. I’ve seen the same thing done to August Burns Red: they may not be your favorite band, but they do what they do well, and the fact that other bands rip them off has no bearing on the music that August Burns Red plays. After several listens of this album, I’ve decided to separate it into three portions: new songs, covers, and remixes. If you weren’t aware, this album is merely a commemorative album for 10 years of being a band, and to reward fans for being so supportive over the years, so it’s not as if this is entirely new material.
Right off the bat, you’re assaulted with “Paralyzed,” a song that was oddly released on September 11th, but seemingly has no connection to the date. What I notice immediately is Adam D and Tim Lambesis (vocalist) did a phenomenal job when it comes to the sound quality of the album, especially with this song. I have a fairly decent sound system in my room and Decas definitely sounds great. The solo is phenomenal, the drums are relentless, and Tim’s vocals are as good as ever, especially for over ten years of doing this. Overall, it’s a fairly predictable As I Lay Dying song, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve always found the band knows how to write songs where the instrumentation compliments each individual part, rather than having one instrument steal the spotlight (or not even receive any recognition).
Guitar wise, “From Shapeless to Breakable” has some clearly evident death metal influences, and luckily, Tim’s vocals don’t conform to the changes, which helps them keep their own sound. I’m not overly-familiar with music theory, but the solo in “From Shapeless…” is in a key they don’t generally play in, which helps add to the lasting appeal of the song. “Moving Forward” is one of my least favorite songs on the album, only because I felt that it was a b-side from The Powerless Rise. There’s a huge chance this song will get radio play, because when it comes to vocals, there was approximately one second of screaming for three seconds of singing, something I found interesting and surprising (ended up being about 108 seconds of singing and 36 seconds of screaming, minus background vocals). It’s not a bad song by any means, but compared to the other songs on the album, it just seems to stand out like a sore thumb.
NOTE: I would comment on the lyrics, but I didn’t have any on hand, except “Paralyzed,” but from what I hear, they sound like typical As I Lay Dying lyrics: touching on Christianity and faith-related topics without taking a Bible and force-feeding anyone. As a Christian, I definitely respect the fact that they stand up for their faith without coming off as holier-than-thou and actually loving kids for who they are, not trying to turn them into mindless religious drones.
In all truthfulness, this has been my favorite part about Decas, due to the fact that despite my love of hardcore and metal, it has been hard to get into bands like Slayer and Judas Priest, even with how “iconic” they may be. Maybe it’s the recording quality of some of their stuff, or the vocals; I don’t know for sure. All I can say is As I Lay Dying’s renditions of “War Ensemble” by Slayer and “The Hellion/Electric Eye” by Judas Priest are top-notch. If anything, they took the power behind the original songs and amplified them substantially. I found myself listening to “Electric Eye” numerous times the other day, and laughing at the fact that when you look back at older AILD material, it’s obvious where their influences come from, especially with the intro riff. Even their cover of “Coffee Mug” by the Descendents is incredible, as well, albeit an unpredictable choice. I’m one of those people who have heard the name “Descendents” numerous times, but never gave them much of a listen, and after hearing the original and AILD’s rendition, I know I need to give them more of a listen.
This is where my listening of Decas became divided. While I found the new songs and covers enjoyable, it took a while for the remixes to grow on me. “Beneath the Encasing” doesn’t fall into that description, however, as it is a medley of songs off their first album, “Beneath the Encasing of Ashes,” but re-recorded, which makes it an enjoyable listen, yet there is something to be said about taking numerous songs, mashing parts together, and making it sound like a completely new song. I’ll let you decide how you want to feel about the matter.
The remixes following “Beneath the Encasing” completely change the gears in Decas and you find it’s a new breed of animal. If you’re not a fan of techno or dubstep, you’re definitely going to dislike these songs, as there are remnants of As I Lay Dying songs to be found, but overall, it’s all synth, bass lines, and programmed drums. I don’t know much about the whole techno/dubstep scene, so I won’t spend too much time trying to explain each song, but I’m sure by now there are videos on Youtube for each song, so you can make your own verdict. Overall, the first three remixes were the best in my opinion, and Big Chocolate’s was just a huge disappointment. The song is disjointed and spastic, something that I’d expect from Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan), but oddly enough, Ben’s remix was well-constructed, whereas Big Chocolate’s was just poorly written. Kelly “Carnage” Cairn’s remix of “Confined” falls more into the techno side of things rather than dubstep and pretty much recreates the original song without too many extra bells and whistles, which makes it equally enjoyable and lackluster in my eyes (er…ears).
In closing, it’s an As I Lay Dying album that I feel will alienate some fans. On one side, you have the straight-up metalheads who will enjoy the first half of the album and throw a huge middle-finger up at the techno remixes, and then you have the kids who grew up in a semi-Christian-fundamentalist household who can listen to metal, but the Judas Priest and Slayer covers will be deemed as unclean and sinful. It’s a good way to look back at how much they’ve changed, because you can’t deny it: not only have they grown, but they’ve laid way for so many bands to enter into the metalcore realm. They have taken the passion and anger found in heavier genres of music and made it accessible for a wider audience, something a lot of bands try, yet fail miserably at (I’m looking at you, The Great Commission). Despite the highlights, I’ve found this isn’t an album I will be listening to as a whole in the future, yet it will keep me satisfied until their next release. Let’s just hope they don’t ask Big Chocolate to touch it, because while peanut butter and chocolate go well together, Big C is something that shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s diet.