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I have listened to Awakened 4 or 5 times through and this is a difficult review to write. Not because the album is complex and difficult to explain, no its much worse than that. As I Lay Dying's album Awakened just...isn't that good. As a big fan of this band it is just hard to admit, but there it is. Awakened isn't by any means a bad album but the band made what I would say are a few mistakes in the process of its creation and they stick out like a sore thumb.
On a review I read of the album on another site someone mentioned how AILD has created the first "retro metalcore" album. I think that description is apt, and I also believe that is what takes this from what could be a great album, to just ok. The riffing is a lot more choppy reminiscent of your generic metalcore band. It contains a lot of the stop start guitar parts which sap the riffs of their strength and just makes thing a tad boring. Still the fellas can still shred and Wasted Words is a thrashy tune for the most part. Another track that stands out and being good is A Greater Foundation which has probably the most memorable chorus of the album.
Vocally Tim Lambesis even sounds like he kind of phoned it in this time around. His performance on Awakened almost reminds me of the vocalist for another christian metalcore band, Mychildren Mybride. In fact the album holds more than that in common with said band. And you know, Josh Gilbert's clean vocals never really bothered me too much. But on Awakened they annoy the living hell out of me. I'm not sure if he sings more on this album than the previous two or what. But it seems to rub me the wrong way, like how when he sings it just pops out above everything else.
One of the highlights of the album has to be listening to Jordan Mancino's drumming. It's always a treat to hear him behind the kit. The album seems to even be pretty much driven by the drumming, perhaps a little higher in the mix than the other instruments. Mr. Gilbert's Bass is of course back in the mix, its there but barely discernible. The production is well done at least. Its clear and clean without any noticeable sonic blemishes.
On Awakened AILD have seemed to of mixed their style on An Ocean Between Us and the Powerless Rise with their older more generic metalcore style. This hurts the album. As soon as I heard the breakdown on Cauterize I knew something strange was up. Like I said before, Awakened is not bad by any means but it is not up to par with the last two albums. There is too much whiny singing, and the riffing at times can be a pain. Musically this album may have more melodies, but it is somehow less memorable overall. If you are a diehard AILD fan you may be on the fence about this album like me, otherwise if you are new to the band just pick up The Powerless Rise or the seminal An Ocean Between Us. Hopefully Awakened is a grower.