As I Lay Dying

Shadows Are Security

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The third full-length from this California band finds vocalist Tim Lambesis and drummer Jordan Mancino the only remaining ties to the band that made 2003's Frail Words Collapse. Fans need not worry, though. The new recruits -- guitarists Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa and bass player Clint Norris -- have more than meshed with Lambesis and Mancino; they've helped make As I Lay Dying a stronger band. Detractors have often noted the debt these earnest hardcore kids owe to Scandinavian metal and while comparisons to In Flames are still viable here, especially on album opener "Meaning in Tragedy," there are plenty of other elements peppering Lambesis and company's take on metalcore. If anything, Shadows Are Security sounds like a more American record, with songs like "Confined" and "Empty Hearts" bringing a strong thrash element into play, although no one will ever confuse As I Lay Dying with the revivalist neo-thrash of Three Inches of Blood. Elsewhere, there are riffs drawn straight from the late-'90s nu-metal canon ("Reflection") and emo choruses ("Losing Sight" and "Through Struggle") that would lead metal purists to call for an old-fashioned record burning. These are things that shouldn't work on a metal record, but As I Lay Dying have proven here that they can. It's that seamless incorporation of populist elements that has made them one of the more interesting metal-hardcore crossover bands. Some will consider Shadows Are Security too ambitious and arbitrary in its envelope pushing, but for others -- and there are plenty of them if the crowds at As I Lay Dying gigs are any indication -- this is one of the strongest releases of 2005.

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