Review Summary: As I Lay Dying releases epicness on a disk, A.K.A. 'The Powerless Rise'.
Christian rockers As I Lay Dying
- a semi-popular mix of high-end metalcore and death metal - recently (and I use the term very loosely) came out with their 2010 release 'The Powerless Rise'. As some YouTube genius put it, the title of this particular album has more than one meaning; you can't rise without power, but it could also signify the rise of those who were once powerless.
So, after contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and metal, you pop in the music and listen to what As I Lay Dying has become. "The Powerless Rise" inherits the band's high polish and trademark layered vocals, and puts them to very good use in this record. For those less word-savvy, 'layered vocals' describes a scenario when you hear more than one vocal track interlaced at the same time (pretty much every band uses this, even in the metal genre; AILD just never DOESN'T use it). Their past albums, particularly An Ocean Between Us and Shadows Are Security, make use of polish and vocals, but the latter record sounds markedly different from their latest. In The Powerless Rise, As I Lay Dying has really taken a new approach to the base structure of their music. It's refreshing to see a band taking such leaps in production and structure rather than simplifying their works more and more each record (cough, Bodom).
But enough stalling. What's happened since '07? The songwriting hasn't necessarily "improved" per se, but it has changed focus from one topic to another. The political twang of the title carries over to the lyrics, which are as "deep" as ever, and provide a fresh look at an otherwise dull take on things if you bother to check out the lyric sheets. Sound-wise, everything about The Powerless Rise is heavier than An Ocean Between Us, though still bears some resemblance to the older records when the rhythm guitars break out (which is often and always
epic). The drums are beaten harder and kicked faster, and as much as that sounds like a dirty, twisted fantasy, it's true, and jibes with the rest of the newfound sound very well - although really, you can only get so original with metal drums these days, particularly death metal drums. The vocals are just plain metal, from the brutal cookie-monster growls to the high screams more reminiscent of black metal, and the clean vocals fit the sound amazingly on the tracks they were included in. Speaking of tracks...
What about the SONGS?
Ah, the songs. The things I wrote all this junk up about. The music. Friggin' beautiful music, man...
I'll start by saying that 'Beyond Our Suffering' is the most brutal opening track to any album that could remotely be considered metalcore. If you're looking for a good example of the sound change between records, listen to 'Nothing Left' from '07 and then 'Beyond Our Suffering' from '10. The next track, Anodyne Sea, is the first time we hear the clean vocals in action, and they sound perfect
. The first two tracks are great, and give a taste of the band's new style while keeping some things in reserve to make you want to hear what comes next even more. A bit recommendation to any metalhead out there is the sixth track, 'Anger and Apathy'. This song is incredible, from it's memorable guitar/drumwork in the intro/outro to the signature "quiet" moments in the song, where it focuses on a single point before getting back into the action. The eighth track, 'Upside-Down Kingdom', is the most meaningful track on the record, I think, and may as well be the title track. The last album highlights I'd give out would be 'The Only Constant is Change' and 'The Blinding of False Light', the last two tracks, which both contain unbelievable harmonies between instrument and voice.
No album is without faults, though, and 'The Powerless Rise' is no exception. Though it is quite a memorable record that I've enjoyed till now and will continue to enjoy long after As I Lay Dying's next release, certain tracks like 'Vacancy' don't always seem to fit, which detract from the atmosphere created by the album as a whole. The band spent a careful amount of time crafting atmosphere. When they break it like that, the sound can suffer from it. Sure, it doesn't always end poorly, and it shows the willingness the band has towards different approaches to their music, but this time around their break in the atmosphere just didn't feel right
. Nonetheless, their approach on songwriting is something many other bands could learn and benefit from, and the trait of breaking your own mould is indeed a respectable one. If you enjoyed their past sound(s), you'll love 'The Powerless Rise'.
Go pick it up if you haven't already. That's all.