Have you ever been blinded by the pain?
Losing yourself inside the heartache
And does that mean we cannot change?
Or will we always been seen that way?

As I Lay Dying – Blinded

Failure.Heartache. Anger. Acceptance.

Forgiveness.

We all know the story of As I Lay Dying. We all feel differently about it – weather you’re a fan or family or just heard about it because you read it on some little blog. And if ever there was a story of redemption, well, this album is what you get when you’re working on that last part – forgiveness.

You see, people think that forgiveness happens in a bubble. That after the stuff up, the mistake, if you just try to be a good person, then you’re almost owed forgiveness. “Look at everything I am doing to make it right!” you think, dishing up another bowl of soup at the homeless shelter you’re volunteering at. But often what is really missing is a down-to-earth, heart-wide-open, completely truthful “I did this. And I am sorry.” Owning up to actions, and then actually apologizing for the outcome of those actions, thats where forgiveness begins.

And thats where Shaped By Fire comes in.

As I Lay Dying didn’t have to come back – they had made their music, the members were all involved with different projects, they had all found different voices, they had moved on. They could have ended at acceptance, or even at anger, and left it at that.

Or they could have come back and tried to pretend nothing happened, tried to pick up where things left off in 2011 and sweep it under the rug. They could have said that sure, we forgive and forget, without showing it.

They could have done any myriad of these options.

But they didn’t.

They chose to go public with their failure, heartache, anger, acceptance and, of course, their forgiveness. In doing so, they have become one of my most respected bands. They chose to go the hard way, if for no other reason than to be an example. That their story will help others. And for that, this album is more than just sum of its parts. This album is a mind shift, a movement, an inspiration. This album shows what people with backbones are capable of, when they accept difficulty and when they understand that its about more than just them.

Shaped By Fire – not only a title of an album, its a way of life. Taken at face value, its easy to see – through trial and tribulation, they emerged as better people, better band mates and a better band. But look a little deeper – without the fire, they would not be here. Without the hardships, there would be no forgiveness. (Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form condoning any actions here. I am not saying that you have to go to jail to become a better person.)

This album is an album of acceptance and forgiveness. That is its core message. The fact that musically its the good ole As I Lay Dying you know and love from An Ocean Between Us is just the icing on the cake.

Drums, guitars, bass and vocals are on point. If you like As I Lay Dying, you’ll feel right at home. In fact some of it reminds me of 2003’s Shadows Are Security in its visceral nature.

Shaped By Fire track listing

Shaped By Fire opens with Burn To Emerge, a fantastic intro lasting 52 seconds that paints the picture for what this album is. And be honest, when last did you hear an intro that got you ready for what is to come?

Will I ever escape?
Can we ever change?

Blinded is one of my favourite tracks on this album. The lyrics are open and honest, a quality that echos through this entire album. Musically, the boys are on freaking point. The growls mixed with the clean chorus drives home the message of this song. But one verse sticks out in particular…

I need someone to shake me
To wake me
I don’t even need full clarity
Just need to start the shift from blind to blurry

Blinded

This whole song is so refreshingly honest. This is Tim’s heart wide open. I don’t even think he wrote it to sing really, but more to put his emotional state into words. This song alone is worthy of accolades.

The title track – Shaped By Fire – is another amazing track. Bringing the feel of some of 2010’s An Ocean Between Us into the mix and dealing with the idea of change through pain. I love the chorus of the song. Its a reminder than anything worth doing is typically uncomfortable, hard or just plain painful.

(Shaped by fire) We aren’t born this way
(Shaped by fire) We are reborn through pain
(We are reborn) We are reborn in flame
(We are reborn) We are reborn through pain

Shaped By Fire

Undertow feels straight from 2003 and the Shadows Are Security era, and I love it! The music is crushing, pulling, just like being caught in an undertow.

No one had built up the bonds used to hold me captive
I had locked away myself in a captain-less ship
Destined to destroy ashore
Destruction was my savior

Undertow

The last song I want to highlight on this album is Redefined. And I want to quote its lyrics in full, simply because of how amazing they are. When you separate them from the music, you get the full emotional impact of what its been like and what it will continue to be like for Tim and for the band going forward. You find a band that has not only gone through heartache and anger, but have gone through and come out the other side of acceptance. Only by moving past acceptance, can forgiveness begin. And yes, you can accept a stuff up, it doesn’t mean you agree with it. Its about what you do with the cause and effect at the end.

Did you choose to become a victim and blame others? Or did you choose to take responsibility, and step up to the plate and grow from it?

I refuse to let go of the memories
‘Cause they’ve changed everything inside of me

If I could go back now to save myself the loss
Substanceless character brought back would be the cost
Agony today is tomorrow’s strength
So don’t run away ’cause misery is

Evolving into something that we can’t see
Evolving and becoming, transforming
So don’t run away

The pain can never be erased
Remain and turn it into strength
Turn it into strength

Turn it into strength!

What do we value in the midst of complacency?
But in despair we beg for something, anything
Even our mistakes can have the power
To light the way like a glaring tower

The pain can never be erased
Remain and turn it into strength
From our failures we are refined
Replacing frailty
Allowing us to be redefined

Healed scars can be stronger than skin
The wounds we have can be rewritten
Redefined, redefined, redefined
Agony today is tomorrow’s strength (redefined)
So don’t run away

The pain can never be erased

The pain can never be erased
Remain and turn it into strength
The pain can never be erased
Remain and turn it into strength

From our failures we are refined
Replacing frailty allowing us to be redefined
From our failures we are refined
Allowing us to be

Be redefined

Don’t run away
Misery’s evolving

Redefined

With Shaped By Fire, As I Lay Dying have not only brought metalcore back from the 2000’s, but added an openness and honesty that has been missing. And already, with the other metalcore releases this year, the impact can be felt. This album is an open letter of heartache and pain, but also of acceptance and forgiveness. Its not just an album, its an apology to family, friends, band mates and fans. I hope they continue down this path – showing the world what forgiveness and growth looks like practically.

With all the other role models people are looking up to, its nice to have some that are so brokenly human.

Tim, you did something horrible, and that can never be forgotten.

But it can be forgiven.