A Long March: The First Recordings
Strange, but what isn't in the world of indie metal? As I Lay Dying releases, A Long March: The First Recordings via Metal Blade, which includes their debut album, Beneath the Encasing of Ashes, and their follow-up EP As I Lay Dying (recorded as a split with American Tragedy), only to precede that material with re-recorded versions of the EP material. Certainly the band had progressed considerably during that time, but by putting the best stuff first, it leaves plenty of room for an aesthetic let-down -- which certainly happens -- but what's done is done. Beneath the Encasing of Ashes and its follow-up were recorded for the tiny Pluto Records label in California.. The lineup at that time was vocalist/guitarist Tim Lambesis, drummer Jordan Mancino, and then-guitarist Evan White. Given the tiny budget the original recordings were made on, A Long March: The First Recordings sounds surprisingly clean, although the drum sounds are a bit muddy and sheeny in the cymbal end. But the guitars come off suitably crunchy. The brevity of the tunes on the debut is itself refreshing, with nearly everything falling below three minutes and offering a sledgehammer quotient to the entire album. Highlights are "Forced to Die," "Breath in the Eyes," and "Refined by Your Embrace." By the time they issued EP the songs had already begun stretching to over four minutes, though the material itself is solid: "The Beginning" and the closer "Forever" being highlights. Yet again, the newer versions are indeed superior. For fans who came to the band after these fine slabs went out of print, this is your chance.