(Photo: Metal Blade Records)
San Diego's As I Lay Dying has weathered over a decade in the heavy metal underground. Through it all, they've remained dedicated defenders of Christianity and written music that slams as hard as their secular peers. Their latest release, Decas, drives this point home with a mosh pit ministry that should appeal to sinners and saints alike.
Decas does this by diving into As I Lay Dying's dominance of the Christian metal community and never looking back. Releasing tomorrow, it's a compilation album collecting the band's latest B-sides along with remixes, medleys and covers likely to court controversy among the converted.
"I don't think the label ‘Christian band’ or ‘Christian heavy metal band’ makes any sense, and those that embrace that label likely have made a contradictory connection in their mind," Jordan Mancino, the band's drummer, told The Christian Post in an interview. "Christianity is something more than a product and shouldn't be associated with one."
All the same, Mancino maintains that his band's Christian background helps build its message. Since their 2001 debut, Beneath the Encasing of Ashes, they've given fans insight into struggles with friendship, faith and personal demons.
"Being open about our beliefs doesn't necessarily set us apart from our peers on a musical level," Mancino said. "Like many bands, Christian or not, there is more to our music than the riffs and drumbeats we play."
The three new songs starting Decas offer proof that As I Lay Dying does their best striving for deeper truth among a playlist of pulverizing metal. "Paralyzed," for example, finds vocalist Tim Lambesis soul-searching as huge, chugging guitars and icy harmonies drift behind his roars.
"The answers that I've found are all the same," he howls. "They uncover questions that still remain ... my soul is broken, but easily fixed. I must be reborn, I must be reborn."
The tune's mix of relentless riffing and somber melodies easily make it the most brutal but beautiful cut on Decas. "From Shapeless to Breakable," in contrast, amps up the aggression with a breakneck pace and battering rhythms. "Moving Forward," meanwhile, sees the band deliver a moving power ballad with the emphasis on power. Loud and proud, it makes the most of a soaring, inspirational chorus.
"We are lost but keep moving forward," the entire band croons. "To find the truth, we must turn around."
As I Lay Dying next unveils a series of metal covers that may alienate their more religious fans. Kicking things off with Slayer's "War Ensemble," they barrel through the nasty, brutish and short anthem with relentless fury. They next jump into a pair of Judas Priest covers, with the guitar melodies of "Hellion" transitioning effortlessly into the lean guitar and drum gallop of "Electric Eye." Last but not least is a cover of The Descendants' "Coffee Mug" that honors the original with 40 seconds of pummeling punk fury.
The band also resurrects and reinvents older material from 2001's Beneath the Encasing of Ashes for a whole new generation of music fans.
As I Lay Dying does right by their fans by showing such willingness to experiment on Decas. By playing heavy metal that contains a Christian background, they attract fans of darker fare that haven't yet found light in their lives. Alternatively, their extreme music is a testament that Christians can reach the unsaved through even the most unusual methods. It might render them pariahs on both sides of the fence, but Decas shows such an approach has yielded dividends for the band for a decade and counting.