Review Summary: Upon studying their past work, I'm 100% confident in saying As I Lay Dying get better with every album. The Powerless Rise is most definitely not an exception to this statement.
As I Lay Dying is arguably the hardest working band in today's modern metalcore scene. After taking their longest break yet between albums, stating they are lucky enough to be able to afford to, they use this time appropriately to work their asses off on what is 2010's A Powerless Rise. AILD are one of the few bands that I am 100% confident in saying get better with every album. Past works such as 2003's Frail Words Collapse and 2005's Shadows Are Security feature straight forward, fast paced and rather monotonous metalcore, with a few catchy-as-hell choruses thrown in. 2007's An Ocean Between Us was a huge leap forward for them, breaking away from their stale metalcore past by incorporating better song writing, vocals, harmonies, and some straight-up impressive leads. With An Ocean Between Us being such a success, it seems the band grabbed that momentum to take an even larger leap forward and launch themselves into the metalcore elite.
What really held AILD back with their previous attempts, was song writing. They seemed to really want to highlight their songs with the chorus, and that is where all the work went into. Besides each album having a few exceptions to said statement, their previous work was really a chore to listen to from start to finish. The Powerless Rise features AILD’s best song writing to date. They spend less time on the clean vocal choruses (which are still featured on tracks such as Anodyne Sea, Parallels, Anger and Apathy, Upside Down Kingdom and Vacancy) and really work on varying each song’s structure and making sure each track has some definitive value to it. Not only has song writing improved but so has every aspect you have ever expected from AILD. Unlike previous albums, where Lambesis has taken the back seat to guitars and clean vocals, The Powerless Rise is the “Tim Lambesis Show”. This is a good thing. I’m not sure if it was Austrian Death Machine that served as such a catalyst, but his vocals are infinitely better than previous work. Look for songs such as Beyond Our Suffering and The Plague which feature Tim’s best work to date.
If you think song writing and vocals are the only things worth hearing on this album, you’re in for a treat. Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, once again, amaze me. From the spine tingling guitar harmony in Anodyne Sea, to brutally tasty riffs in Condemned, and finally dissonant and creepy melodies found in The Blinding of False Light, this album features the guitar duo’s most varied and impressive performance to date. Also, let us not forget about the leads. Nick Hipa, has done more than exceed my expectations. If you think solos from songs such as The Sound of Truth or Within Destruction were good, go have a listen to the face melting licks displayed in Parallels, The Plague, and Beyond Our Suffering. Jordan Mancino is a beast on this album. You have to be in order to keep up with some of the blazing fast riffs. For his best work listen to songs such as Condemned, Without Conclusion and Beyond Our Suffering.
Although the song writing is leaps and bounds better, there is still a lot of room to improve. Some songs still have this feeling of emptiness. For example, consider Upside Down Kingdom. Such an epic intro gives high expectations but the rest of the song doesn’t deliver. It contains a great chorus but by the end of the song, you feel like it just hasn’t gone anywhere. Not to say every song does this, The Blinding of False Light is possibly the best song they’ve ever constructed. What is keeping this album from a 4.5 rating is the song writing.
If you are a long time fan of AILD, this will blow you away. If you like melodic metalcore in general, listen to this album. AILD have improved in every aspect, and have continued their trend by improving once again, and releasing their best work hands down. You can’t help but like this album, it is just so varied. You can expect epic intros (Upside Down Kingdom), choruses that will be in your head for days (Vacancy/Parallels/Anodyne Sea), some groovy thrash (Without Conclusion), and dark/moody melodies (Blinding of False Light). The album has great repeat playability. I’ve listened to this album at least 10 times start to finish, and I can honestly say I am nowhere close to being finished with it.