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Restraint is dead. - 80%

Diamhea, November 13th, 2007

Not bad at all. For some reason As I Lay Dying really lost something after Shadows are Security and failed to replicate the scintillating fusion of unrestrained melody and choppy rhythm passages present here. This album basically takes all of what made Frail Words Collapse enjoyable and seriously beefs up the production values, all the while streamlining the overarching approach and going straight for the jugular as opposed to inveigling the listener with experimental departures like "Forever." While that does signal some concern due to the memorability of some of the atypical elements present on Frail Words Collapse, it doesn't necessarily matter much in the end here.

Lambesis' barking aside, the emphasis is almost universally on the surge of the melodic lead. This is where the higher production values are felt most, as the leadwork features a razor-sharp, slicing aural edge that cuts to the forefront of the mix with ease. While the rhythm is more subdued and lacks punch in comparison, the band has the wherewithal to crank it up during the few fleeting core intervals or breakdowns that sporadically surface. "Confined" features a real neck-jerker of a breakdown near the end that proves on it's own that this style has potential. "Through Struggle" is a bit more refined in it's approach, but follows a similar path. For some reasons many of the breakdowns are accompanied by an accentuated bass drop, which has always struck me as interesting. Seems like this is one of the cases where the band that did it first did it best. Shame it spawned such a menagerie of inferior coattail-riders...

Anyway, the vocals are more of a mixed bag. Lambesis is pretty tolerable on the whole, but recycles the same vocal patterns over and over again. It grows rather tiring by the midway point of the album, even while I found myself constantly coming back for Shadows are Security's melodic element. The guest vocalists who contribute on the chorus of "The Darkest Nights" make it a highlight on it's own, and more clean vocals would have gone a long way to establishing this record as a modern classic rather than an isolated snapshot of the best a sub-genre has to offer. I also really dig the atmosphere during a lot of these songs. I know, atmosphere on a metalcore album? It happens, especially later in the procession on tracks like "Morning Waits" and "Repeating Yesterday," both of which summon a gloomy slant that finally equals the anguish of Lambesis' lyrics.

All of this considered, "Meaning in Tragedy" is the song you should track down if you want to see if Shadows are Security is your cup of tea. It contains all of the great elements: the biting leads, the crunchy breakdowns, a great melancholic passage (around 1:40), and manages to fit it all in just above three minutes. This is a very accessible album, and proves that there was great potential in As I Lay Dying's formula. I can't believe that a chance encounter of me finding this CD lodged behind a couch at a college house party kicked off my association with the band. The first two records are good stuff, but they definitely lost something afterward. As I Lay Dying's (and metalcore's) best.

(Revised/Updated 6/2/14)