As I Lay Dying sounds evil. Blistering guitars, vocals with smeared aggression like Pantera's Phil Anselmo, double-kick drumming that sounds like machine guns mowing down innocent song structures. It's rage, rendered in a technical fashion that resembles Swedish death metal. Y'know, evil stuff that evil people play as the soundtrack for evil deeds.
They've played with Danzig, if that tells you anything.
And actually, it doesn't. The four members of the San Diego band are Christian kids. Their brand of chaos still includes the usual sentiments-mortal wallowing, pain, despair-but almost always ends with the hope that comes with a firm belief in the afterlife.
Formed in 2001, they've already signed with big-time heavy-metal label, Metal Blade and hit MTV. And now they're set to join P.O.D. and Switchfoot as the mind-boggling number of breakout bands from San Diego who give it up for Jesus.
On the eve of their CD-release party for Shadows Are Security, CityBeat demanded lead singer Tim Lambesis explain himself:
CityBeat: Everyone who talks about your band mentions the influence of Swedish hardcore. You've done adult films in Stockholm?
Tim Labesis: If by "adult film" you mean live concert footage of fans mangling each other while we play, then that film is soon to come. We are about to make our first appearance in Sweden Sept. 25. The Swedish metal sound has been a big influence on our music because bands like At the Gates were the first to combine melody with very aggressive drumming. I think my first influence in guitar melody was actually Iron Maiden, but the Swedish band took their ideas a step further in my opinion. Similarly, I think that we have taken the Swedish sound a step further in some aspects by combining it with our own bit of aggression.
What attracted you to heavy metal? Why not folk-out like those smelly dudes at Lestat's? Is it because you were angsty and troubled in your youth?
As early as I remember, I was always drawn to heavy sounds. I was too young to be considered a troubled youth when I first heard Metallica. In fact, I probably have two of the best parents in the metal and hardcore scene right now [Laughs]. I was amazed when I heard Pantera to know that there was something even harder than Metallica. From there, the search was on.
What the hell is up with all the Christian rock bands in San Diego? Do our churches play Pantera during the Lord's Prayer?
I think if you don't drink, do drugs, get sleazy with girls or whatever, then one of the best outlets for a hyper teenage Christian kid is to start playing heavy music.
You have black-metal and death-metal influences. Isn't putting spiritual lyrics to that kind of dark music like Michael W. Smith playing piano on a Marilyn Manson record? A bit strange?
I always hated how out of touch with reality most metal bands were back in the day. All of the evil or fantasy lyrics just made it impossible to relate to the songs. Shocking lyrics are easy to write and somewhat of a cliché, in my opinion. It was pretty cool when I was in junior high, but the smarter I get, the less traditional metal lyrics appeal to me.
I don't think that every person who listens to our music will relate on a spiritual level, but there is so much more in our lyrics that are left open to interpretation. It is also much easier to relate to someone who is writing about what they are genuinely passionate for.
I hear the cops busted you guys once for holding hostages with a squirt gun.
You know us, the big San Diego thugs that we are. It was a pretty intense situation for me as the driver. I pulled over and looked in my rear view mirror window and the cop was pointing his gun right at me. After spending about 45 minutes on our stomachs with our faces to the concrete on the side of the freeway, I found out that some trucker thought our squirt gun was a hostage-holding pistol. The Oklahoma police thought they were the world's most important crime investigators of all time. The power trip they must have felt for that hour. They pulled together three different cars and were yelling at us like prison inmates.
You're all huge now, so you can be honest. Did you feel like those with the ability to help your career in the San Diego scene gave you enough love when you were just starting out? Note: this is the first article this stupid newspaper has done on your band.
We have a lot of friends here that have supported us on a personal level, but it seems like we went from unheard-of to headliner. There wasn't much support bridging the gap. Support from San Diego press aside, I can sympathize with bands that are getting started in the San Diego area. The unfortunate thing about the music industry in general is that it is more about who you know and less about how good your music is.
Why did the other original members leave? And don't give me no "creative differences" malarkey-I want the story about how you squashed the guitarist's hamster in an argument over chord structure.
Girls, girls, girls. And some guys hated being away from Mommy for so long on tour. Actually... I think that touring constantly made each member of this band really evaluate if their motives for playing music were the same as Jordan and I. Everyone who is in the band now is in it to win it.
As I Lay Dying holds their CD-release party with Eighteen Visions, N.I.V. and In the Red at Soma, 7 p.m. on June 24. $13. 619-226-7662.