On Friday, June 8th, As I Lay Dying released their first song in six years, ‘My Own Grave‘. We all know the details surrounding this new release, so let’s just hone in on the actual music for a minute. In short, it’s not very good.
‘My Own Grave’ is just As I Lay Dying doing exactly what they did on their previous three records, with nothing about their now out-dated melodic metalcore formula having really changed. Neither the vocal styles, the riffs used, or the overall song structure. To be frank, there are far better AILD songs; songs that come from a time before vocalist Tim Lambesis went off the rails, juiced too hard, and chose to hire a hit man to murder his wife. Giving an undercover police officer disguised as a hit man $1,000 (the full hit was going to reportedly cost $20K), as well as his wife’s home address, photos of her, and her security gate access code. All so he could maliciously take custody of their three children following her death. And thank god he didn’t succeed!
People heralding this new track as a “banger” or as some mighty return for metalcore either haven’t moved past 2010 musically; don’t relly listen to the genre’s older bands that are still going strong; or don’t pay attention to the younger bands doing the rounds now that are keeping metalcore afloat, for better or for worse. It also tells me that they’ve forgotten or maybe haven’t even heard the frankly better AILD tracks that exist in the band’s catalogue. From that perspective, there’s songs like: ‘Nothing Left‘, ‘Through Struggle‘, ‘Behind Me Lies Another Fallen Soldier‘, ‘Confined‘, ‘Beyond Our Suffering‘, ‘94 Hours‘, ‘A Greater Foundation‘, ‘Parallels‘, ‘Control Is Dead‘, ‘Forever‘, ‘The Sound Of Truth‘, ‘The Darkest Nights‘, and ‘Paralysed‘. The list just goes on!
Yes, All That Remains have gone downhill majorly this decade. Yes, Killswitch Engage hasn’t dropped records anywhere near as strong as ‘Alive Or Just Breathing‘, ‘The End Of Heartache‘ or ‘As Daylight Dies‘. And yes, both Underoath and Parkway Drive have proved that a band can still work and still be successful when moving beyond metalcore. Besides, Converge and Norma Jean haven’t gone anywhere; Code Orange are doing great things for underground heavy music; and Employed To Serve put out an incredible record last year that more people really should’ve listened to. Hell, even Bury Tomorrow are doing well these days with their newer, solid output.
While the individuals of those bands mentioned might not be perfect human beings and may have their own personal flaws in their lives, they haven’t been convicted of trying to solicit the killing of their spouses. Some people are out here sweating ‘My Own Grave‘ like they’ve never even heard metalcore before, goddamnit.
Lyrically, ‘My Own Grave‘ shows that Tim definitely isn’t making excuses for himself, which is good to see, I must admit. What with the song’s verse reading, “Delusional enough to think I’d designed something great/Like a giant headstone inscribed to describe my shameful fate“, or during the song’s chorus with the vocal refrain of “Buried alive inside of my own grave/And there’s no one else to blame“.
Yet what irks me about that chorus is that those particular lyrics aren’t sung/screamed by Tim, rather, bassist and clean vocalist, Josh Gilbert, delivers them instead. Given the events surrounding their return and how Tim is the contentious focus here, I find it odd he didn’t take the full vocal reigns on this track. Then again, this entire fucking song is just the band rehashing their old songwriting formula so I can’t be surprised. Also, c’mon, “Buried alive inside of my own grave/And there’s no one else to blame“? That just sounds like any other cookie-cutter metalcore band lyric these days.
Look, if you want to listen to ‘My Own Grave‘ and actively support the band now, go right ahead – I ain’t stopping ya. Just please don’t be surprised if people then call you out on it, especially when no other statement or interview from the band has come (at least, not yet). Me personally? I just don’t at all care for the song – I’ve heard better and will hear better. And Jesus Christ, the music here is the least egregious matter on the table for discussion. Speaking of which, let’s get into all of that!
It’s been disappointing to see many within the Australian music industry welcome the band’s return, without any other context save for this new song. From fans, other writers and editors, to promoters and those working in radio, to even members of local metal bands who will never receive a fraction of the success AILD achieved. All of these people know who they are and I’m not going to out them here. Social media makes it very easy to see where people stand on a lot of matters, I find, anyway.
To these individuals, they don’t really care about the morals here and they won’t care if the band/Tim have actually changed. No, they care about the spectacle of it all. For them, it’s all just “interesting” online drama they can lap up as they get ready to jack off over the potential press runs possibly moving forward for AILD. Everyone loves a controversy, after all. And no doubt, this AILD story will be one of the biggest stories in heavy music for 2018 – if not the biggest – and many in the music media have been swept up in it all, with their bias heavily showing. If they can admit that, great, yet many can’t or will flat out refuse to. And to them, if they get some “sick riffs” in return, then in their eyes, they don’t need to give a fuck about morality.
Which is humorous, as those are often the same people who scream that we should always – always – separate the art from the artist. Yet during 2003-2007, when As I Lay Dying’s music was heavily centred around faith, Christianity, and their spirituality, it was themselves as artists reflecting themselves in their art. And said people, with zero self-awareness, listen to those older records regardless. Only using said “art vs. artist” argument when they want to make themselves feel better when consuming the creations of shitty people. Whatever helps them sleep at night, I suppose.
However, it’s also been encouraging to see people reject not just this single but the band’s comeback too. It was great to see people like For All Eternity frontman, Shane Carroll, calling out the hypocrisy of the heavy music scene for crucifying bands over allegations yet welcoming Tim/AILD back with open arms. So too was it good to see people like The Faction’s Tim Price not wishing to give the band any actual air-time on his digital radio station, refusing to throw support behind domestic violence. (Which is what this Tim issue is, by the way. Call it by any other name you want, this is DV).
Then, on a much larger scale, props to Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta over Twitter for echoing similar sentiments; questioning the process of this return, where the rest of the band members are at, and to not follow it blindly. Similarly, Sumerian Records founder/owner, Ash Avildsen also heavily condemned the way that AILD have handled their return and this new song’s roll-out as well. It’s just good to see some real high-profile people and bigger media outlets standing up and questioning this shut, like Metal Injection or Loudwire did recently, and not just blindly covering this new for mere clicks like others have.
I’m not going to make a grand statement like Axl and Vince from MetalSucks recently did, in saying that they’ll NEVER cover the band again after this. (We’ll see how long that lasts, honestly). The very nature of my article here would be hypocritical against taking such a stance if I was to say we’d never cover them again. Especially if I or KYS covered other controversial artists too. (Oh, and in that regard, With Confidence are actually releasing new music and you can bet there are some fuckin’ words coming from me about that shit soon enough).
I also disagree with MetalSucks that we as a community need to protect how metal is seen to the rest of world. I disagree because of the fact that XXXTentacion’s latest album ‘?‘ sold very well out here in Australia despite that dude’s insane rap sheet, and in how Chris Brown (somehow) still has a career despite violently beating up Rihanna. What I’m saying here is that every style of music has its own problems and controversies to properly deal with. And right now, heavy music is in no different of a period.
To anyone chiming in that because no one was actually killed – that there was no blood, and therefore, no foul – we should all move on, I must ask you to re-think that. For that is a ridiculously regressive argument to have. I’ve also seen some people say, “but Tim’s re-married or he is getting re-married, so it’s all good“. Which is odd, as that’s got nothing to do with the conversation at hand. If you’re one of those people using that as an excuse, stop it. You look bad and you should feel bad.
Others will say, “Oh but Alex you self-entitled prick, he did his time, didn’t he?“. Ah, this chestnut, let’s get into that. For those who don’t know, Tim only served two and a half years on a pathetic six-year sentence for the solicitation of his wife’s murder and was let out on parole in late 2016 for good behaviour. Prison also isn’t really about rehabilitation, more about punishment for a crime. And we’ve yet to be shown whether Tim really is a changed man – something his bandmates did not themselves believe to be the case just a couple years ago! He very well might be, we just don’t know as the band haven’t said anything yet (apparently, many things will be addressed by the group later this week), and assuming that Tim has changed we know otherwise doesn’t do anything for this important conversation.
Of course, Tim is more than welcome to come back from prison and re-build his personal life and find other work – ain’t no one saying he can’t do that. But as his actions have tarnished the band’s music for so many, and due to the seriousness of his choices, he shouldn’t be able to come back as an artist to the heavy music world. Especially not with the piss-poor rollout of their new song and the sheer silence from the band amidst their return thus far. Of all the times to open the door from the get-go and talk about what’s happened and what is happening, last week was as good a time as ever. Here’s hoping the band really do open up this public discussion later in the week.
A few years ago I had to reconcile the fact that the Ender’s Game series was the most formative literature in my life and it was written by a homophobe. I find myself in a similar position with new As I Lay Dying.
— The Jim Riley (@SpartaDTD) June 4, 2018
Others will say that the remaining members – guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, the aforementioned Josh Gilbert, and drummer Jordan Mancino (who co-owns the AILD name with Tim) – have obviously forgiven the frontman. Therefore, we all should too. No, fuck that. They weren’t the ones he planned to have killed! Unless we hear otherwise, the remaining four dudes in AILD have merely returned to the more successful, more well-known band. A band that did and will do infinitely better than their other project, Wovenwar. (And while it was great to see Oh, Sleeper’s Shane Blay returning to music with Wovenwar, it just wasn’t as good as their respective past bands were).
This sends up the biggest red flag, all due to how vocal the band was just two years ago against Tim. In 2016, Hipa spoke to Billboard about the $35 million dollar lawsuit Tim brought against two Southern California detention facilities for denying him prescriptions, with him saying said drugs were to offset the side effects of his steroid withdrawal. Hipa said that that court case was evidence Tim hadn’t learned from his mistakes and was still the same person, saying:
“It’s sad to see somebody that we spent so much of our lives with end up in such a place. He could have made such a great impact on this world, but he just gave in to the worst parts of himself. Even more discouraging for me is the fact that he’s trying to file a lawsuit for that amount. It says to me he’s still the same sort of personality at his core; nothing has changed. He thinks of himself a certain way, and he thinks of himself in a situation he created as a victim.”
Hipa also took umbrage with that incredibly in-depth AP interview with Tim in May 2014 (that’s since been taken down), angered that his former bandmate was given such a platform to defend his actions:
“The day he had to account for what he had done, all this comes out. And then the response to that was a lot of people supported him. A lot of people said negative things about Meggan and her family, and it was very hurtful to them. They felt like [as] the victims of the situation [they] never had a voice, never stood a chance.
None of them know those kids or that woman like we do. They don’t understand what he put them through to get her to a place to be like, ‘You know what? I have to protect these children from you. If anyone can look at the situation objectively, they can even see this guy tried to have someone murdered, and his reasoning was that he was on steroids so he was unable to think rationally, and he lost his religion, so he wasn’t able to make any moral decisions. This is who he says he was at the time, and that’s why he tried to kill her. If that’s the type of person you’re admitting to being, what sort of good mother do you think would let their kids hang around with that [kind of] personality?”
Perhaps AILD’s intention is to let the music speak for itself and for their latest song to show the world where they’re all at now in 2018. Which would be fine if they were coming back from a murder-plot-free break-up; really not so much under these kinds of circumstances, though. If the band can put their money where their mouth is and prove real change has occurred, many can move past this, to not become die-hard fans again and buy tickets to shows but to at least live and let live – myself included. Whether via a no-bullshit video speaking directly to fans, friends and family about the past, what’s been reconciled, or throigh donating money to charities supporting DV victims, there are real chances here to change people’s minds and hearts back onto the band. It’ll be interesting to see if they take that road or not, lest this issue grow even larger. And hopefully, it’s not just a fuckin’ wall of text statement like this piece.
Where is the interview? Where’s the public statement for all involved, including the other guys? You don’t just throw a new song and a video up and see what happens. Have you zero respect for everyone around except yourselves? Wovenwar doesn’t make money so sell your soul instead
— Ash Avildsen (@ashavildsen) June 8, 2018
Lately, I’ve had friends point me in the direction of the Twitter feed of The Ghost Inside’s Jim Riley. While indeed eloquently put, none of what Jim says there is an objective take. Mainly because his band played with AILD numerous times and he’s admitted that he’s good friends with their members whose names aren’t ‘Tim Lambesis’.
Others have brought up recent comments fromFear Factory guitarist Dino Cezares that due to Californian State Law, Tim’s wife and kids may actually receive compensation from his music royalties. That might be a little, it might be half, or it might be all of it – we don’t know. But if that’s indeed the case, then it’s the law’s doing, and not Tim out of the goodness of his heart. He might be and happy with that arrangement, but with no statements about these deeper matters from the band or from himself as of yet, the silence is deafening. They were happy to self-release new music first, but not address the elephants in the overly crowded room.
In comments made on Trunk Nation last year by Dokken guitarist George Lynch, Tim also apparently has a book-deal as well. Whether that remains to be seen is another matter entirely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a book from the vocalist or a big tell-all doco coming within the next year or two as some giant expose into his life and what happened with the band. Or, at the very least, some long-format Metal Hammer feature.
In recent arguments over Facebook, I’ve had people tell me that Tim must absolutely be back in a genuine manner; hoping to support his kids because he originally wanted custody of them six years ago. Which is part of what drove him to plot to murder his now estranged wife. I’m only going to say this once for people willing to do such insane mental gymnastics, but please listen up:
“Plotting to have your wife killed =/= supporting your kids. Fuck outta here with that nonsense.”
— Jake Higgins (Not) @ #E32018 (@jhiggins2987) June 8, 2018
Also, here’s another BIG point: this wasn’t just an allegation levelled against Tim from someone on Tumblr or Twitter. This was something that he actively sought out to do. He didn’t cheat on Sharon like Ozzy did; he didn’t utter some tasteless joke about dead country music fans like Fat Mike recently did; and he’s not a recovering heroin addict that’s completely ruined his band’s reputation like The Faceless‘ Michael Keene has. No, he opted to snuff out his wife, Meggan – through not even his own cowardly hands.
Which is what I keep thinking about whenever I’ve heard ‘My Own Grave‘ and whenever I see this AILD story pop up; I just keep thinking about how his wife and kids must feel. I cannot imagine what it’s like to go on to Facebook posts about AILD and see idiotic comments like, “Their new album is going to be a… hit!“, or “Band should be called As My Wife Almost Lays Dying” and understand that such things were written about yourself personally or about your own mother. That would be one fuckin’ scary existence.
And honestly, if Tim’s ex-wife, Meggan can forgive him – of all people – then I think I can too. Hell, I think that most could move on from this if that was the case, given that she herself told a judge at Tim’s sentencing in 2014 that “I am plagued by vulnerability“. But there’s been nothing else said from her on that front, and until we know otherwise, defending AILD and supporting Tim just isn’t okay in my books.
Many will swallow whatever As I Lay Dying offer, but just as many people will want to know where all parties stand before casting their own final judgement. I’m in that latter camp currently and I sincerely hope that you are too. All we can do now is wait.