Review Summary: Metalcore kings As I Lay Dying release a metal masterpiece that is just short of a metal(core?) classic.
Ah, As I Lay Dying. The band that people either love or hate. There is absolutely no in between. I for one love them but please don't write off my review as fanboyish just because of that. I feel as songwriters they truly deserve it. Now for those who don't know, AILD could be considered the forefathers of modern metalcore along with Killswitch Engage. This could be viewed as both a blessing and curse. Sure it's great to be king, but they also get blamed for the influx of generic metalcore wannabees post-2002. That's not entirely untrue, but the hate comes when people automatically lump AILD in with those other bands because they are the same genre. However I have always felt it was AILD's fantastic songwriting abilities that put them well above their peers.
Now yes "Shadows Are Security" was generic metalcore at its worst, but the next album "An Ocean Between Us" was much more pure metal than anything else and proved they were moving away from the very stale metalcore genre.
"The Powerless Rise" takes this idea to a whole new level. The album has very few hardcore influences, and I would go as far as to simply call it a METAL album. That's not to say the breakdowns AILD is renowned for are gone completely, as track 2 "Anodyne Sea" has arguably one of the best breakdowns they have ever done. Now that said, metalcore junkies expecting another breakdown fest in the vein of the classic AILD album "Frail Words Collapse" are going to be disappointed. That is a good thing to me though, especially because it allows guitarists Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa to prove they are very capable guitarists and can do much more than constant breakdowns.In fact opener "Beyond Our Suffering" is a very thrashy song in the vein of Slayer of Living Sacrifice, and features some very tasty guitar solos sprinkled throughout. Also, songs "Parallels" and "The Plague" feature some very impressive solos. The riffing is always fantastic, and the bass playing by Josh Gilbert is much more audible than a standard metalcore album. The drumming isn't amazing but is very tight and does its job perfectly. The musicianship of the band is incredibly tight and better than ever.
On to vocals. Tim Lambesis has always been one of my favorite metal vocalists, and his performance on here in nothing short of amazing. "The Plague" and "The Blinding Of False Light" are the best example of his amazing range on this, from his usual screams, almost blackened screams, and even some death growls. His vocal performance is completely unrelenting. He basically steals the show, but when vocals are this good I'm okay with that.
Now onto the bad... if only he really did completely steal the show vocally. Josh Gilbert- I like him as a bassist, but I hate him as a vocalist. His clean vocals mostly interrupt the great feel of the album, they are too high for my taste, and he just sounds bored all the time. If they must have clean vocals (still the number one reason you could call this "metalcore") I wish the would at least use a more capable singer. The lyrics also aren't anything amazing. They're a little better than the typical metalcore fair, but don't expect anything to truly surprise you or blow you away.
In the end, despite the somewhat predictable lyrics and annoying clean vocals, this is one of my favorite metal albums. AILD have released the best album of their career. The musicianship is incredibly tight, the guitarists show they have some decent chops, and Tim's vocals are amazing. I would STRONGLY recommend this album to any fan of metal.