(Photo: Metal Blade Records)
San Diego's As I Lay Dying formed in 2000 and has since morphed into one of heavy metal's most popular bands. Named after William Faulkner's classic 1930 novel, the quintet's upcoming Nov. 8 release, Decas, is a compilation celebrating over a decade of the band's storied history.
The group gave listeners their first taste of bludgeoning breakdowns and soaring harmonies on 2001's Beneath the Encasing of Ashes. Subsequent releases courted new fans, and their last effort, 2010's The Powerless Rise, reached No. 10 on Billboard's Top 200 chart.
The group has found such success while remaining open about their Christianity. In a genre known for its secularism, As I Lay Dying stands out from the crowd by spreading God's message in mosh pits. In an interview with The Christian Post, drummer Jordan Mancino gave details about Decas and doing right by the divine.
CP: As I Lay Dying's last record came out in 2010. How do you feel about that CD, The Powerless Rise, now that some time has passed?
Mancino: I feel good about it for sure. That record was a big push for us musically, and I feel it represents where we were as musicians and songwriters after all of these years.
We plan to continue our musical and lyrical progress, as always, when we follow up The Powerless Rise with our next full-length.
CP: What does As I Lay Dying hope to accomplish with its next release, the compilation album Decas?
Mancino: Decas is a definitive celebration of our tenth anniversary. This release gave us an opportunity to produce things that wouldn't normally end up on a LP, which is why we chose to do several covers, a medley, and some remixes per our fans' request.
It ended up having a lot more to it than we originally planned, but we are very happy about that.
CP: What will Decas offer fans old and new?
Mancino: It will give them something different than what we would normally put out. You won't see anything like this from us again for a long time.
Like I said, this ended up having more to it than we originally planned. I know our new and old fans will like it, especially the new songs.
CP: As I Lay Dying is unusual in the extreme music world for being openly Christian. How does that fact set As I Lay Dying apart from their peers?
Mancino: Being open about our beliefs doesn't necessarily set us apart from our peers on a musical level. Like many bands, Christian or not, there is more to our music than the riffs and drumbeats we play.
The common bond amongst our peers is music, so based on that we have a mutual respect for one another and one's beliefs.
CP: Do you think Christians unfairly judge heavy metal? Why or why not? What's one thing they should know about it?
Mancino: I think they do sometimes. I don't think the label "Christian band" or "Christian heavy metal band" makes any sense, and those that embrace that label most likely have made a contradictory connection in their mind.
For example, just because something is produced (as in created) by a Christian, that doesn't make it a Christian product. It's like me saying that the burrito I ate last night was a Christian burrito because the person that put it together happened to believe in the resurrection.
A product is a product. Music is music. There's no such thing as Christian metal. Christianity is something more than a product and shouldn't be associated with one.
CP: Conversely, do you think more secular music fans pass on As I Lay Dying for their Christian background?
Mancino: No, I don't think so. I'm sure there might be someone out there that does, but overall I think music fans are interested in the music itself and not necessarily what the band might represent beyond the musical content.
CP: Decas will contain songs from bands like Slayer, Judas Priest and the Descendants. Do any of you worry what your Christian fans will think of you covering these more secular songs? Why or why not?
Mancino: Who knows? I'm sure someone will complain or make a stink about it, but I would just argue my point with them about music being music and Christians being Christians.
And based on that argument, I would ask those people if the last thing they ate, drove or wore was made by a Christian. I could safely say it probably wasn't, so why would they choose to only judge musical products and not other products they enjoy, use or consume?
There's so much brain washing going on in the secular and non-secular world today. Hopefully we can help reverse the damage.
CP: How does your Christianity affect your band's songwriting?
Mancino: On a lyrical level, our singer Tim Lambesis' beliefs definitely affect his writing, as would any lyricist with conviction and life experiences.
Our beliefs don't affect anything on a musical level. God doesn't inspire mosh parts and sick heavy metal riffs as far as I know.
CP: As I Lay Dying is currently touring Europe. How does Europe differ from America?
Mancino: It differs from America quite a bit culturally, but there are still Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere you go so it can't be that different I guess.
I really enjoy being in Europe though. I like waking up and experiencing a new town and hunting down that Starbucks coffee.
CP: What's next for As I Lay Dying after Decas?
Mancino: We are going to start writing again in January and hopefully get out another full-length record by late summer 2012.