Metalcore exploded onto the scene in the late 90’s and early 00’s, and regardless of how you may feel about it now, for many of us it was an exciting time. Mainstream metal in America was in a state of complete disarray. Pantera had disbanded, Metallica had been seemingly lost for years, Megadeth and Slayer were in major slumps, and heavy metal was a thing of the past. In the late 90’s and early 00’s, we were left with the likes of Rob Zombie, Static X, Slipknot, Godsmack, and Limp Bizkit. This was mainstream “metal”. When bands like Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, God Forbid, and As I Lay Dying came out, it was a welcomed breath of fresh air for people like me who had all but given up on metal because of the circus it had turned into. What made metalcore special, was the fact that these bands were taking melodic death metal, groove metal and hardcore, and fusing those styles together to create an innovative and aggressive sound that had never been heard before. These bands were incredible live, and the scene was unpretentious, full of integrity and bursting with energy.
By the mid 00’s, metalcore and the new wave of American heavy metal had all but completely decimated nu-metal, and had ushered in a new era of mainstream metal in the United States. Ironically, this cultural and musical paradigm shift would prove to be metalcore’s inevitable downfall. Why? because it was serving as a conduit for American metal to get back to its roots, thus diminishing its own relevance in the process. Death metal began to thrive even more, bands were making thrash and groove metal again, and fans were all over it.
Fast forward to 2012. The metalcore scene was on life support, and, in my opinion, there was one band left that was carrying the torch for this once mighty sub-genre. That band was As I Lay Dying. This was one of the bands that had helped lay the foundation for metalcore, and I believe it died with their disbanding. This is the year that As I Lay Dying released their album, ‘Awakened’. In my opinion, this was the last great metalcore album from the last great metalcore band.
With ‘Awakened’, As I Lay Dying were returning to form after experimenting with a more progressive sound with their two previous albums. This album is loud, aggressive, dark and angry. ‘Awakened’ is a reflection of the struggles that frontman, Tim Lambesis was going through in his personal life. He was a man who had lost his faith, and had been consumed by pride, vanity and anger. He was no longer the man he once was, and as a result, his life began to fall apart. This was of course a terrible ordeal for him and his family, but it definitely made for a great album. Metalcore is known for being a genre that generally promotes positivity, hope, and strength, but ‘Awakened’ is something much darker. This album is a window into the world of anger, frustration, loneliness and despair. ‘Awakened’, in my opinion, is As I Lay Dying’s best album. Tim’s vocals and songwriting were at their apex, and musically, this album delivers the very best of what made metalcore such a powerhouse in its glory days, but with a more sinister ambience.
Now here we are in 2017, Tim Lambesis is in prison, As I Lay Dying is no more, and metalcore is dead. When I say it’s dead, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t metalcore bands making metalcore music anymore. It means that it reached its peak years ago, and has accomplished all it’s going to accomplish. Most of the big names in the genre have disbanded, moved on to different things with varying degrees of success, or like Killswitch Engage, become soulless, watered down versions of the bands they once were. The scene isn’t what it used to be because American metal has reinvented itself by embracing what made it great in the first place. Fans are over it. It may be dead, but it served a great purpose, and it was a fun time in metal history. I loved seeing these bands in the intimate club venues in my area. Metalcore reignited my passion for extreme music, and for that I am thankful.