Admittedly, I was nonplussed with 2005's "Shadows are Security" from metalcore heavyweights AS I LAY DYING. It is not that it is a sub par album, and it is better than many similar albums in what has become a morass of mediocrity, but seemed to lack the vibrancy and sharp edges of its predecessor, "Frail Words Collapse". Then again, it is also an album that just as many critics found to have numerous redeeming values. Considering that it went on to sell a whopping 275,000 copies meant that fans had no problems with it either. Regardless of the opinions held by folks of said album, I find "An Ocean Between Us" to be a well-rounded and often thrashy metalcore album, as the band has struck an effective balance between aggression and accessible melodies.The most pleasant surprise about "An Ocean Between Us" is the guitar work of Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa. A ton of great, modern thrash riffs are found throughout the disc, "Comfort Betrays" and "The Sound of Truth" just two of several prime examples, the latter also featuring a hot solo. The driving rhythms and powerful licks are certain to get even the most jaded fan of heavy music finding a reason to head bang. Front man Tim Lambesis' harsh vocals are as good as they've ever sounded as well. The production team of Adam Dutkiewicz and AS I LAY DYING, with Colin Richardson credited with the final mix, has created a sound that hits hard and accentuates the guitars. Though the growl-verse/clean-chorus formula has been driven into the ground, AS I LAY DYING does it exceedingly well on "An Ocean Between Us". Songs like "Forsaken" and "Nothing Left" feature surprisingly catchy, clean vocal choruses, the melody-drenched singing coming courtesy of bassist Josh Gilbert. It is the kind of balancing act that KILLSWITCH ENGAGE does so well, even though I tend to find the last couple of albums from KE lacking the infectiousness of the "Alive or Just Breathing Days". Though guilty of being one of the AS I LAY DYING naysayers since the "Shadows are Security" days, I cannot deny the quality levels achieved on "An Ocean Between Us". It is about as good as it gets in the metalcore arena. A #8 debut on the Billboard chart would seem to indicate that the fans agree.
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