Listening to metalcore in 2007 is a lot like eating the same meal every day except it's prepared by a different cook each time. There's some minor ingredient variations, an occasional tasty spice added here and there, but overall, you're still getting served the same shit day in and day out. Leave it to genre titans As I Lay Dying then to prepare another batch of meat and potatoes metalcore complete with all the hallmark trimmings disguised by a wealth of eye catching, though rather unfulfilling garnish.
Surgically sharp Swedish tinged guitar work, hearty gallops, chugging breakdowns and an armada of thrash overtones are all sailing this ocean. Keeping up with their career arc, the band have also once again cleaned up their sound considerably. While not exactly ample, there is some room to breathe here and considerable care is given to harmonies and atmosphere, as well as expected clean vocal choruses which do dally a bit towards emo balladry.
Still, the problem with this release is that it's more parts of songs, certain searing build-ups and thundering breakdowns, that catch the ear rather than the complete tracks. Flashes of genius are repeatedly marred by the generic traits that plague the genre. Surely it's all intense and at times even progressive, but it fails to forge new ground, instead just sharpening the already pre-defined edges. This is largely in part due to the album being a heavily polished refinement of their past work.
Perhaps that's the problem with metal or metalcore as a whole these days. Everything is stuffed so tightly and meticulously together that the true musical expressionism has to take a backseat to blinding feats of technical ability. In turn, the emotion and creativity of the music is left to emerge in a 20 second outro or bridge making for an experience that isn't quite stale, but feels plain all the same. This album may carry the title of "An Ocean Between Us", but realistically the only thing between As I Lay Dying and their peers is a couple hundred thousand albums already sold.
(3 / 5)