Some Better, Some Worse
Metalcore has become a difficult genre to inhabit. Ever since Lamb Of God migrated towards that sound, they’ve raised the bar so high that what was once considered good is now considered mediocre. And the job becomes even more treacherous when you insist on injecting Christian rhetoric and imagery into a form of music that prides itself on secular and satanic moors. This is the crevice that Detroit denizens As They Sleep have fallen into with their sophomore outing, Dynasty.
To be fair, vocalist Aaron Bridgewater is not as ham-fisted with his lyrics as other Christian rockers, preferring subtle jabs at the rise of science over faith in “Oracle Of The Dead,” the general godlessness of America in “To The Republic,” and condemnations of Nazi Germany in “The Third Reich,” There are even descriptions of the plagues of Egypt in “Bedlam At The Nile,” the Mayans’ prophecy of doom in “The Offering,” and historical dramas about Attila the Hun in “Attila” and ancient Greece in “God Of War.” The wording is very poetic, yet one gets a strong feeling of disconnection between the lyrics and the music. It seems as though Bridgewater wrote free verse poetry on his own, away from the rest of the band, then brought his work to practice and tried to wedge it in. As certain riffs of the song return, so do particular lyrics, with little regard for narrative structure.
The instrumentals have a similar feel, as if the riffs were composed, then placed into a hat and drawn at random. In particular, “To The Republic” and “Attila” seem like two songs each, placed end to end for no other reason than length. Granted, the performances are all stellar. Bridgewater masterfully utilizes both shrieks and growls, guitarists Nick Morris and Barry Gomez harmonize with ease, and bassist Derek Kosiba locks up effortlessly with drummer Tony Lukitsh. From a production standpoint, everything sounds great. As a unit, As They Sleep are doing nothing wrong, but they’re not doing anything spectacular, either.
Bottom line: this is a metalcore record with subtle religious overtones. As Dynasty is only their second record, things may get better from here. However, only ardent fans of metalcore as a genre, or fans of Christian metal, need to pick this up. The rest can let it pass by.