As I Lay Dying: An Ocean Between Us

As I Lay Dying really tighten the screws on their fourth album.

As I Lay Dying

An Ocean Between Us

Label: Metal Blade
US Release Date: 2007-08-21
UK Release Date: 2007-08-27
Metalcore is on its last legs.

-- Tim Lambesis

There is a website that calls itself the American Nihilist Underground Society that argues that "Metal and Christianity are enemies." San Diego’s As I Lay Dying have set out to disprove that very theory, bringing their God-fearing music to the metalcore fold, and have their position as one of the forefront bands of the scene to show for it.

As I Lay Dying, after the William Faulkner novel, is an oddly romantic name becoming increasingly unsuited to an outfit whose closest point of call is In Flames and Hatebreed. This has never been more evident than on their fourth disc, an album that does away with all the melodramatic excess that found them favor with the mainstream crowd and crafts a controlled blast of vicious metal that bares their bones and revolutionizes their sound -- there’s a reason this project was originally intended to be christened Evolution.

You really get the feeling while listening to An Ocean Between Us that they were aiming for all-out heaviness; left behind for the most part are their Iron Maiden tribute guitar harmonies, the oft-clumsy melodic vocal passages that dragged 2005’s Shadows Are Security down ridiculously due to ill-timing (and when they do return here it’s in particularly cheesy doses -- opener "Nothing Left" goes for a Ricky Martin chant-along chorus, no less). Even the solos of guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso are wisely confined to two brief interludes, "Separation" and "Departed"; the latter is a surprising expression of twiddly Muse wankery.

This leaves them to knuckle down to dissonant flurries of choppy, down-tuned distortions, whiz-kick drumming, and all-over meatier music… the result is their peak as of yet. Jordan Mancino has improved tenfold on the kit; his hyperspeed double-kick is a blur that punctuates the rapid-firing guitars. And the roars of vocalist Tim Lambesis are far more powerful and mature than the throaty half-scream that was his home on Shadows Are Security.

Nothing could change his outlook, however; his song-writing is still melancholic and unusually poetic, with usually just a single verse comprising a song -- "How many years have we waited / For a ship that never set sail? / I sat ashore and watched / As one hopeless wave crashed upon another," he snarls. The middle of An Ocean Between Us constitutes the bulk of its burly new style -- unusually, it gets its worst tracks out of the way first, with the title track and the energetic but uneven "Nothing Left" acting as mere warm-ups to the ‘unofficial’ single "Within Destruction", an all-too-devastating example of the band’s uncompromising new look. A tumble-dryer of incisive guitar parts and drums that literally hiss, the cut maintains a brisk, furious pace and is utterly devoid of those unnecessary melodies.

"Wrath Upon Ourselves" and "The Sound of Truth" are veritable steamrollers apiece, one wild discord cutting with the sharpness of a hundred razors, transferring effortlessly to the next, pinned down by Mancino’s mighty and relentless stick-pummeling. "Comfort Betrays" and "Bury Us All" run for less than three minutes, true examples of a band pushing themselves to their very base limits. And it works a treat: when As I Lay Dying get going they’re truly a force to be reckoned with, harder and leaner than any metalcore band out there. So much so that when they declare "This is who we are" on the album’s last track, you actually believe them. How much stronger An Ocean Between Us would be if not for its closing minute of piano, if it faded out to the feedback of its last, broken guitar chord.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all relating to the band’s fourth disc is that it was produced by Killswitch Engage mainman Adam Dutkiewicz. The album is as far a cry from his typical resonant, clear-as-a-bell production as a metal record can be... bursting forth with a burning, unstoppable up-against-the-wall intensity, reaching that rare status of being throbbingly heavy and not remotely self-parodying.

Regardless of that, An Ocean Between Us is better than both Killswitch’s As Daylight Dies and Shadows Are Security, and the best metalcore spin of the year. As I Lay Dying hate being labeled a Christian band, but God would surely be proud that An Ocean Between Us shatters its way to high heaven.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.