As I Lay Dying – Shaped By Fire (Album Review)

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A fire-themed album is most appropriate for a band trying to rise from the ashes after more than half a decade in limbo. However, it seems that rather than emerging as a phoenix, As I Lay Dying has found themselves burned by repetitive songwriting and poor production in their latest album “Shaped By Fire.” 

Once mainstays in the American metalcore scene, As I Lay Dying was forced into indefinite hiatus following the arrest, and eventual sentencing, of front-man Tim Lambesis in 2013. Rather than stagnate through the duration of Lambesis’ imprisonment, band-mates Phil Sgrosso, Nick Hipa, and Josh Gilbert formed alternative metal super-group Wovenwar as an interim creative outlet. This project departed somewhat from As I Lay Dying’s typical offerings, focusing instead on the crisp delivery of well-mixed breakdowns as support for strong, clean vocals.

Time spent with Wovenwar seems to have had little impact on the variety of technical skill found within the tracks that form “Shaped By Fire,” if any at all. Rather than allow flexibility for the band’s new host of stylistic capabilities, this album marks a return to the time before “Awakened,” an album which earned As I Lay Dying numerous accolades throughout 2012. 

The variety that graced listeners across the diverse tracks of “Awakened” has dissipated entirely in the offerings of “Shaped By Fire.” The repetitive songwriting that defined earlier albums, such as “Shadows Are Security,” has reared its head once again. It’s a gimmick that the band has used for years; a recognizable muted intro commands the listener’s attention, lingering for only a moment over gentle chords before a wall of screaming and shrieking guitars descends. While this bait may be a tantalizing hook when used sparingly, “Shaped By Fire” utilizes this strategy ad nauseum. The intended effect is lost entirely by the album’s completion, lulling listeners into complacency as track after track falls into the same pattern.  

“Shaped by Fire” Album Artwork

In structure alone, “Shaped By Fire” shows itself to be little more than a one-trick pony. Lambesis’ guttural screams prove to be at the top of their game, sustaining the range and endurance of a much younger musician, but are bogged down by the contributions of three additional vocalists. Backing vocals have the potential to add depth to albums that focus heavily on speed and breakdowns, but this album’s subpar production has ruined any possibility of that magic. By layering backing densely on top of two sets of clean vocals, tracks such as “My Own Grave” become oppressive and claustrophobic. A heavy hand has ruined the stark distinction between talented vocalists and the relentless energy of the lead guitar, resulting in a muddled, directionless sound. 

Speed may be one area where this album finds no fault, but it was the slowest track of the album, “Take What’s Left,” that showcases the potential that poor songwriting and production has otherwise obscured. By slowing down the roaring speed and passing control to the profound musicianship of lead guitarist Nick Hipa, the track meanders tentatively into the soulful songwriting characteristic of melodic death metal. But just as quickly as this reprieve arrives, it dissolves into the brisk but forgettable track, “Redefined.” 

Hipa’s brilliant work with the guitar is not confined to this one track, also shining briefly in solos across “Blinded” and “Gatekeeper.” Among songs that mirror one another in both structure and in style, these solos are the brightest flames in an album that struggles to find itself.

Released By: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: September 20th, 2019
Genre: Metalcore


  • Tim Lambesis / Vocals
  • Nick Hipa / Guitar, Vocals
  • Phil Sgrosso / Guitar, Keyboard, Vocals
  • Josh Gilbert / Bass, Vocals
  • Jordan Mancino / Drums

“Shaped By Fire” Track Listing

 1. Burn To Emerge
 2. Blinded
 3. Shaped by Fire
 4. Undertow
 5. Torn Between
 6. Gatekeeper
 7. The Wreckage
 8. My Own Grave
 9. Take What’s Left
10. Redefined
11. Only After We’ve Fallen
12. The Toll It Takes

6.5 Average

Genre veterans As I Lay Dying emerge from the ashes of their empire with the same technical strength upon which they had built their following, but their potential to grow wings and fly to new heights is stuck simmering among the embers

  • Songwriting 6
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 6
  • Production 6


    • We respect your opinion as you are entitled to one. The reviewer did listen and expressed his views. If you don’t agree is fine, you can stop reading and go somewhere else. We stand behind what we published.

      • All I can say is your reviewer better open their ears a bit more. I am not going to search this website, but I am sure the same reviewer said Slipknot was good.

        • You should search, because it was a different reviewer. And I believe you would agree that listening to music is a completely subjective experience. No one can feel it the same. An album that takes you to the moon can be un-listenable to others. Therein lies the beauty of opinions

      • The reviewer very clearly made a false statement comparing the song structure to that of their earlier albums frail words collapse and shadows are security. One listen to the album and musically it is nothing like those and much more similar to their more recent offerings. I’m not saying that because I don’t agree that the album was scored poorly. I’m saying your reviewer intentionally gave a false review because of Tim’s Crime

  1. I respect your opinion but I think this album is f’n sick. It’s puts the new KSE to shame. It’s heavy and the lyrics I think are so personal to Tim and company and myself. In a time where metal and rock have been watered down, I f’n love the resurgence lately. AILD, KSE, Knot, Korn, Tool. In a pool of garbage and wannabes I cherish albums like this. ✌🏻❤️🤘🏻

    • Paul, we respect your opinion as well. I personally haven’t listened yet, but I’m very glad to hear that you love it and that you have liked recent releases like the one you mentioned. We reviewed KSE, Knot and Tool, see if our opinions in those align better with yours. Thanks for reading!

  2. I don’t really agree with your rating. The song writing is emotional and songs like “Undertow” show Tim Lambesis struggle to change and his mindset during the controversy. It’s an album of redemption for As I lay Dying and shows some of their strongest work yet. Personally I would give it a 9/10.

    • We are glad that you took the time to read. You opinion matters as is as valid as anyone’s else. Thanks for coming here and give us the chance

  3. The reviewer seems to hate everything about AILD. It feels like they have a personal enmity with AILD. The tone is really weird. Hope you’re okay man XD.

    • Sorry that you felt like this, but none of our reviewers take the task of analyzing an album in a personal way. Thanks for reading though!

    • It’s a middle of the pack metalcore release at best..which is what the reviewer said. Just because you enjoy something, doesn’t mean everyone else does. That is a childish way to think about things. He gave it a 6.5. That is a pretty high score for this album.

      • Why would you assume this review is written by a guy? Isn’t that like “…a childish way to think about things.” As with all published work, details of the author can be found just under the title.

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