San Diego's AS I LAY DYING have accomplished a lot in 10 years, not the least of which includes becoming recognized as one of metalcore's elite acts. They are also one of the very few that continue to blend smokin' hot metal with great melodies, not to mention consistently mastering the always-tricky tightrope walk of balancing aggressive vocals with clean singing. They've got the record sales to prove it too and reached that level of commercial success without sacrificing an ounce of artistic integrity; all they do is get better, my regretful (and since reconsidered) scoring of 2005's "Shadows are Security" notwithstanding. Hey, it happens. All that finally brings us to "Decas", an album of new material, covers, electro-remixes, and one medley of ancient cuts released in celebration of AS I LAY DYING's 10-year anniversary that works surprisingly well.
Similar releases from other veteran acts tend to feel unnecessary, rushed, and/or less than invigorating. Not so with "Decas", my initial impression aside (more on that later). "Decas" doesn't set a new standard or raise any creative bars for albums of this sort; it does however prove that a little thought and lot of passion goes a long way. The three new songs are pretty standard AS I LAY DYING cuts, which in the case of this group is a good thing. "Paralyzed" and "From Shapeless to Breakable" come across even more aggressive than usual (the latter in particular); the melodic cleans of the former are decent and the level of violence in the delivery of the latter (with a notable exotic-tinged guitar solo) is impressive. "Moving Forward" is the most accessible of the trio and includes more clean singing than usual; "pretty good" is about the size of it.
The cover choices are great and the band's versions of them satisfying. SLAYER's "War Ensemble" is given its brutal due and Tim Lambesis' vocals give it a deathly makeover, while JUDAS PRIEST's "Hellion/Electric Eye" (presented as separate, though connected tracks like the originals) works far better than most would expect. The band also cruises through the short 'n frenetic punk of the DESCENDENTS' "Coffee Mug" with a gleam in the eye and a smile on the face.
"Beneath the Encasing of Ashes" is a re-recorded medley from the 2001 release, which represents well the rawness and hunger inherent in the material at the time. The difference is a better mix that makes the edges sharper. The idea was a clever one and the results are reasonably successful.
It is the last four tracks that may shock and polarize. Since the whole point was to do something different by offering electronic remixes of "The Blinding of False Light" (Innerpartysystem remix), "Wrath Upon Ourselves" (Benjamin Weiman remix), and "Confined" (Kelly "Carnage" Cairns), and "Elegy" (Big Chocolate remix), it is with some confidence that I state that AS I LAY DYING has accomplished its mission. The risk pays off in all four cases, especially with the dub of "Wrath Upon Ourselves" and the techno dance-y version of "Confined", although even a bad remix of "Confined" couldn't disguise that incredible chorus. Enjoyment of the four does require some appreciation of the electronic end of the spectrum though; those that can't stomach it in the first place will find no reason to begin loving it now. Nothing brilliant here; just interesting and rather fun.
So my initial inclination was to rate the album as above average, but hardly mandatory (i.e. 6/10), but every time I put it on I end up listening all the way through and enjoying the heck out of it. As such, a 7 seems more appropriate. It comes down to the opinion that "Decas" presents a musical snapshot of the elements that have made AS I LAY DYING an enduring, professional, and quality metalcore band, while at the same time offering some strong new material, high spirited covers, a different look at the band's beginnings, and some intriguing electronic makeovers. Maybe "Decas" is not essential for the average metalcore fan, but it most certainly is for AS I LAY DYING punters. OK, a 7 it is then!