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As They Sleep - "Dynasty" (CD)

As They Sleep - "Dynasty" CD cover image

"Dynasty" track listing:

1. Oracle of the Dead (3:23)
2. To the Republic (3:53)
3. The Third Reich (3:44)
4. Bedlam at the Nile (4:07)
5. The Darkest Ages (4:46)
6. Ritual (1:31)
7. The Offering (3:11)
8. Attila (3:11)
9. Poseidon (3:46)
10. God of War (2:50)
11. The Unseen (3:35)

Reviewed by on November 28, 2010

"If 'Dynasty' is where the future lies for As They Sleep, things are looking bright for the young band in their forthcoming endeavors."

Michigan’s As They Sleep kept to metalcore trappings on their uneventful debut “Blacken the Sun.” Having a second album allows the quintet to drop any pretenses of metalcore and fully commit to roaring death metal. There were hints that the band had a brutal side to them on “Blacken The Sun,” but “Dynasty” seems like a completely different band. The clean singing has been buried six feet under and the soaring guitar leads are abolished. The band’s focus is scaled down, dropping most traces of melody that bogged down their metallic attack. As They Sleep’s new direction is a force of aggression that spits in the face of hooky choruses and good-natured harmonies.

The rise and fall of various dynasties is the main concept behind the album. From the rise of Hitler to the merciless hand of Attila the Hun, each song takes a look at a certain regime. It’s an interesting take, though it’s a little scatter-shot with every song shifting to a new one. Taking that approach doesn’t allow any one regime to get any significant face time. The whole concept does wrap up nicely with “The Unseen,” which is the band’s idea of the perfect kingdom. Being a band with Christian beliefs, faith plays a role in their image of said kingdom, though it isn’t forced upon the listener.

“Oracle of the Dead” is a kick to the groin, a visceral assault that takes command and never lets up. The growls are rough, interspersed with painful screams, lacking any appeal to the trendy hipsters that call Hot Topic their home away from home. This is a band angry and out for blood, never relenting from the blistering pace set from the beginning. “To The Republic,” “The Offering,” and “God of War” are able to match the intensity of the opener.

While the band maintains a brisk death metal sound, there are flourishes of deathcore grooves and melodic breakdowns. They don’t overwhelm the music, but their presence is a sign of past transgressions acting up. “Attila” has a calm passage in the middle section that provides a slight break, which is also the main appeal of interlude “Ritual.” There are few breakdowns, only becoming a hindrance on “Poseidon.” For the majority of the album, it’s unfiltered death metal; not the freshest sound, but adequate enough to maintain the short running length.

“Dynasty” pushes As They Sleep away from metalcore and into the realm of solid death metal. This shift does come at a price, as melody and flashy guitar solos have been all but abandoned. That’s not a bad thing, but it does hurt the album’s value in the short run. There isn’t anything immediate to grab the listener; however, this does change over time and a few winners emerge. If “Dynasty” is where the future lies for As They Sleep, things are looking bright for the young band in their forthcoming endeavors.

Highs: Push towards a death metal sound, vocals are much more brutal, fascinating concept, no cheesy clean vocals

Lows: Slight repetition near the end, the guitar leads have been scaled down

Bottom line: As They Sleep moves away from metalcore to show an aggressive side on their furious sophomore effort.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)