AS I LAY DYING Shaped By Fire gets 8/10

As I Lay Dying
Shaped By Fire
Nuclear Blast


It’s been almost a year and a half since the music video for My Own Grave appeared from out of nowhere on As I Lay Dying’s Facebook page, following the band’s apparent disbandment in 2014 in the wake of the well-publicised imprisonment of frontman Tim Lambesis. As far as comeback albums go, this one seemed unlikely. Lambesis’ bandmates had spent the last four years evading questions around how they felt about their former singer’s attempts to have his wife killed, and whether they’d ever forgive him… The overwhelming feeling was that they couldn’t. Add to that the discussions by fans on social media around “Is it still OK to even listen to As I Lay Dying after what Tim did?” and there was a pretty huge mountain to climb.

And yet, despite all that, the metalcore heavyweights present us with Shaped by Fire – their first album since reforming in early 2018 and their seventh overall. There’s been plenty of humble, public apologies from Lambesis and a rigorous world tour to hype up the release. But have As I Lay Dying given us something that will realign them as one of the most exciting metal bands of modern times, and make everyone forget about what Lambesis did? Well… No, but that’s the whole point. This album isn’t a band sweeping their past under the rug in hopes it would be forgotten. For Lambesis this is acceptance of his unforgivable behaviour and a message, to those who are willing to listen, that he is facing his demons and is emerging a changed person – hence the title Shaped by Fire

Intro track Burn to Emerge is mostly atmospheric with the repeated lines “Will I ever escape? Can we ever change?” before launching into the machine-gun-drums and driving riffs of Blinded. This track throws a spotlight on guitar duo Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, and reminds us that these lads can fucking shred. Drummer Jordan Mancino is on lightning fast, hard-hitting, almost mechanical form as always, and bass player/clean vocalist Josh Gilbert treats us to one of his trademark high and melodic choruses. 

Title track Shaped by Fire solidifies what this album is all about with the clear message “Shaped by fire, we aren’t born this way, shaped by fire, we are reborn through pain.” Undertow kicks off with a tight drum roll intro with growling vocals, building in intensity before another burst of high speed drums and tech heavy, catchy riffs. This continues until the inevitable breakdown and a guitar solo that seems to lose steam pretty quickly on this occasion.

Unfortunately, the album does follow the typical metalcore formula of heavy verse into melodic reverb and delay-soaked chorus. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, the songs are solid and the album is thoroughly enjoyable, but it does make picking standout tracks pretty difficult. Gatekeeper, however, is a different beast. Fans of Lambesis’ side project Austrian Death Machine will recognise the everything-turned-up-to-11 nature of this song when it comes to drums and guitar, while lyrically it’s more simple and to the point. There’s even what sounds like a trademark Austrian Death Machine “Nyaaahh” as the song launches into an uncharacteristic (for As I Lay Dying) face-melting, whammy heavy guitar solo. No sign of clean vocals here either which again sets it apart as something very different on the album. 

My Own Grave, the first single from this album released last year, is undoubtedly the track of the album. It’s fast, it’s technical and holy shit it’s uplifting for a song that’s this self-deprecating. Lambesis digs deep, acknowledging his ego and the pain he put people through. It’s hard to pick a single line to sum up this song, but “I thought I was an architect but I was just moving dirt/ Stacking mud over malice covered-up forming nothing but a pile of hurt” is a good place to start.  Musically, it’s relentless, heavier than the band have sounded since their early days, but well-constructed with a hooky, singalong chorus. 

Overall, Shaped by Fire kills it. As I Lay Dying had a hell of a job to do in order to be taken seriously again, and this could prove to be the album of their career. It’s just a shame that inevitably, at least for the time being, whenever this album is praised it will be prefaced with “I don’t condone what Tim did, but…”


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