Review Summary: AILD seem to have mastered and appropriated the art of indiscrete thievery, borrowing styles and techniques from their many influences and combining them together with eclectic ease. The result is an album that, although built upon old tricks, emanates a
With their fifth full length, The Powerless Rise, As I Lay Dying have embarked on a long march through uncharted territory, breaking new ground and forever shaping a genre that has been stigmatized for a clear lack of creativity and subpar musicianship. That genre, of course, is metalcore; a genre all-too-familiar with mimicry and often void of originality and ingenuity, as it borrows bits and pieces from a myriad of influences ranging from the obvious, metal, to the not so obvious, punk, hardcore, etc. However, as more and more bands like Asking Alexandria and The Devil Wears Prada continue to catch unwarranted attention, it is difficult to entirely brush off the endeavors of whom many consider the forefathers of this cesspool of overrated knock-offs. AILD have managed to create a unique sound all of their own, marginally separating them from their less-fortunate contemporaries with the clear distinction being their uncanny ability to write music that surprisingly captivates. While their methods are not entirely unprecedented, the quintet have found their own niche by simply honing in on the skills that first gained them their stardom back in 2005 with Shadows Are Security. The Powerless Rise is the poster child, the exemplar of modern metalcore; a clear result of a veteran band polished after ten years within the trade.
Dynamically, The Powerless Rise is second to none. AILD seem to have mastered the art of indiscrete thievery, borrowing styles and techniques from their many influences and mixing them together with eclectic ease. With tracks like Beyond Our Suffering, Without Conclusion, The Plague, and Condemned, it appears that the band has expanded upon their thrashier elements, showing clear improvement with respect to instrumentality and song writing. The rhythm guitar is more technical, the leads are more savory, the drumming is tighter, and the vocals from Lambesis are more seasoned and ear-piercing than on any of the group’s previous albums. It is not until the vocals of Josh Gilbert—bassist—begin that the listener hears the dynamic interchange between scream and sing, and understands just what it is that earned these guys their years of success. They are perhaps the only band within this genre that can pull off the scream/sing balancing act that has been the bane of metalcore’s existence. However, as any good critic should take habit of, this is not to be understood without caveat.
While three out of the six songs that incorporate Gilbert’s cleans are superb (Anodyne Sea, Parallels, and Vacancy), the remaining three are lackluster (Anger and Apathy, Upside Down Kingdom, and The Blinding of False Light). With the exception of Upside Down Kingdom’s intro, the guitar work within these songs falls short of what I’ve come to like about this genre. Personally, the constant alternate picking in Upside Down Kingdom and Anger and Apathy is simply boring and lacks rhythmic pulse, greatly taking away from the intricate melodies these songs are built upon. This method of playing sounds like a last resort when riff generating becomes a futile effort. Maybe a three-year interval between records isn’t quite enough for these guys. I’d be more than happy (as I’m sure many of their listeners would be) to withhold my cravings for an AILD record in return for eleven mind-blowing tracks. I'm probably being overly critical here, so I will accept The Powerless Rise for what it is and expect something of mind-blowing proportion on their next record.
Being as successful as they have proven to be, it comes as no surprise that the San Diego natives have created another solid record. They have expanded their sound, made it tighter, and improved overall as musicians. With the exception of the purely melodic tracks, the record is entertaining throughout. At the time I am writing this, As I Lay Dying has just finished recording their sixth album following The Powerless Rise. The hype is large and the expectations are even larger. Only time will tell if these guys can write a record that fully displays their talents. For now, they seem to be content with where they stand.