Review Summary: With The Powerless Rise, As I Lay Dying write an album that surpasses all previous releases and could possibly be the makings of a Metalcore classic.
(Just to give you the heads up; this is my first review, so all positive critisicism would be greatly appreciated, as this may be sloppy in places, and I need a bit more practice).
Melodic Metalcore tends to be a genre that tends to be criticised (especially from those who strive for metal purity) for it's generic screaming vocals, chug-chug breakdowns and bland Gothernberg-like riffs (which, one could argue, copy the sound created by bands such as Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and At The Gates, while bringing nothing new to the table). It seems to be very hard for bands that play in this genre to venture outside the box, so to speak, or display any imaginative songwriting or instrumentation. With this in mind, I believe that As I Lay Dying have created an album that completely separates themselves from the rest of the pack and shows the world that better than average metalcore is a possibility. The Powerless Rise is an album that displays more inventive songwriting techniques than previous releases and therefore each song is memorable.
Tim Lambesis' growls are better than ever and his vocals shift into a more familiar metalcore scream more often than An Ocean Between Us, but they are performed incredibly well.
I always quite liked Josh Gilbert's vocals, but they can be a bit bland at times. However, his vocal delivery on this album far better, and his singing adventurous and full of power, although Lambesis is still at centre stage.
Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso's guitar skills are quite simply incredible, combining thrashy riffage with heavy yet catchy melodies, and the solos are varied and technically profficient.
Jordan Mancino's delivery on the drums seem to be even better than before, with more creative drum lines as opposed to the fairly monotonous beats on Shadows Are Secrurity (which improved on An Ocean Between Us, but clearly, there was still room for improvement).
My only criticism of this album is that the bass is still not very audible, although it shows up more clearly at certain parts of the album, but in some ways, this best so it does get in the way of Gilbert's stunning vocals.
Beyond Our Suffering - 5/5
Probably the heaviest track on the record, and also one of my favourites, Beyond Our Suffering displays As I Lay Dying's thrashier side at it's best. At only 2:49, this song is short and to the point, and the riff that enters at 1:28 makes this song great. The two solos are long enough to be memorable but short enough for the song to have a big enough impact and not become slightly tedious. This a perfect opener and gave me high hopes for the album.
Anodyne Sea - 4.5/5
This song starts out with a fairly average riff, but as the song progresses, it gets better and better, with a breakdown that isn't too repetive and a very catchy chorus. The highlight of the song is at about 2:16, with a spectacular riff which is short lived but repeated further on in the song, after a great breakdown, which doesn't just follow the usual chug-chug. A very good song off this album, mixing the previously displayed thrash with AILD's more melodic side.
Without Conclusion - 4/5
The second of a selection of the more brutal songs, this track is very good but is one of the less memorable tracks off this album. More light-hearted than Beyond Our Suffering, this song sounds very much like the work of Tim Lambesis' comedy side-project, Austrian Death Machine. Although weaker than other tracks on this album, it is still a very good song in it's own right, and it is hard to criticise it.
Parallels - 5/5
After three quite heavy tracks, Parallels shows AILD's lighter, more Gothernberg-inspired side, and is another great song. The opening riff is catchy and puts the song in full swing, followed by a good verse, but then the chorus comes in, which is brilliant. The leads are impressive, and Gilbert's vocals here are some of the best on the album, showing that he is actually a very capable singer. Lambesis' vocals are good, but Gilbert's are the ones that are supposed to stand out here, and are stunning. The ideal single for this album.
The Plague - 4.5/5
After Parallels, this track is a return to the thrash sound that litters this album. The riffs are powerfull and memorable, and although this is a more hard hitting track, the solo has enough melody to make this song quite memorable. This song although shows the band's capabilities as songwriters as well as musicians, with an interesting structure to it. Not quite a standout, but still a great song and one that makes this album a classic.
Anger And Apathy - 5/5
This is certainly the best track off this album, and the opening riff it quite simply breathtaking, full of melody and catchiness. The verses are heavier but contain some great lead work, as well as a more high pitched scream from Lambesis that recalls Frail Words Collide days of the band. The chorus is stunning, and again, Gilbert is the focus. The clean section of this song further highlights AILD's ability to write great songs, and the song as a whole has to the be the highlight of AILD's career.
Condemned - 4.5/5
It seems that the balance between thrash and melody is in equal measure on this album, and AILD produce another great heavier track. With pinch harmonics and dischordant riffing, Hipa and Sgrosso's skills are highlighted on this song, as well as with some excellent solos. This song is one that will surely be a great staple of AILD's live performances.
Upside Down Kingdom - 5/5
Another great song, one of the slower tracks with some of Lambesis' more gutteral vocals. The intro has a great amount of impact, followed by some brilliant riffage. Lyrically, this song is at the centre of the album, with the album's name mentioned, and this song generally seems to round off all the different techniques of this album, one of the best tracks.
Vacancy - 5/5
This song seems to follow the same formula that is laid out with Parallels, and is one of the very few tracks on here to feature a hard hitting breakdown. The chorus is great, and the vocals here are great as usual. The guitar delivery is the highlight of this album, with brilliant tremolo picking and melodic riffs as well as some dischordant guitar parts. Breakdown-full, this song is a more typical metalcore track, but is stunning in it's delivery.
The Only Constant Is Change - 4.5/5
The intro to this song recalls AILD's melodic side, and this song at first sounds like Parallels and Anger And Apathy, but a twist is pulled, and there is an abrupt but necessary transition to a quite heavy verse. The verse is melodic, but is lacking in Gilbert's vocals, but it feels as though the break in clean vocals in necessary. The guitar parts are great, and Lambesis' vocals are very strong here.
The Blinding Of False Light - 5/5
At 5:04 minutes, this song is the longest of this album. Slower than other songs, The Blinding Of False Light is a stunning and majestic closer to a breathtaking album. The vocals from boths singers are strong, and the breakdowns are creative, well supported by some brilliant leads. The almost Death Metal-like riffage that enters at around 3:00 is probably the heaviest on this album, and is supported by Lambesis' impressive growls. Although not as memorable as other tracks, this song contains very inventive songwriting from AILD.
As I Lay Dying have surely created the best album of the year here, one which deservedly has gained them some success already, debuting at #10 on the Billboard 200. Any metal fan will be impressed by this album, and I insist that you should buy this album, as it is already one of my alltime favourites. The Powerless Rise definately proves As I Lay Dying to be the kings of Metalcore, and will go down as a metal classic.