With An Ocean Between Us, As I Lay Dying expanded metalcore to new places. Now with The Powerless Rise, the group has comfortably settled into a signature sound miles ahead of their competition in maturity and complexity while maintaining accesibility. The rawness of their breakout 2003 album Frail Words Collapse has melded with the improved structuring and professionalism of their later releases to form an album that is not as expansive as their last, but more focused on a specific metal sound. All the maturity gained through years of experience was used to revisit a darker vibe in a new way that sounds fantastic and brutal.
This time around, things are heavier. In some cases, much, much heavier. When “Beyond Our Suffering” hit the band’s MySpace, many wondered aloud if a deathmetal route was in store for the new tunes. “Without Conclusion” and “Condemned” certainly contribute to this thinking, all hitting hard without any clean vocals to speak of. Moshers will surely unite in the heavy riffage and blazing solos, going ape-shit in the process.
Never fear though; the clean vocals may be fewer, but their shine is even more immense than before. If “The Darkest Nights” had the influence and sound from An Ocean Between Us, you would get “Parallels.” The track stands out as the ideal single of the group, with an interesting intro, metal verses and a gigantic chorus a la Gilbert. It is melodically infectious and easily placed on repeat for ten or twenty listens. “Vacancy” and “Anodyne Sea” use the same formula to make for the signature AILD sound.
It feels almost pointless to try to name individual tracks on an album that packs so much power. Everything is great. Even still, “Upside Down Kingdom” seems to be the essential track. It contains the album title in the lyrics, it has all the elements the band tries to employ and fits perfectly in the eighth slot in the tracklisting.
As always, it is hard to pinpoint a star player in AILD when there is so much talent behind each instrument. Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa riff through the entire record with ease, employing a great balance of standard metalcore guitarwork with melodic bridges and solos new to their armory. Gilbert’s bass work may be hard to pick out in the heavy mix, but his clean vocals are stunning; anytime the man opens his throat, the song’s energy explodes into a melodic sing-along that few other bands can compete with. Ringleader Tim Lambesis leads with a wider array of screams than previous releases, reaching back to the FWC days for gutturals that have been absent the last few years. Jordan Mancino continues to be the best backbone around though. No drummer can match the man’s speed, technique, complexity or poise, shifting from overdrive metal-mode to calmer tempos on a dime.
This is a 5-star record. An ‘A.’ Ten out of ten. I’d argue that An Ocean Between Us just slightly nudges it, but once again, As I Lay Dying has proven to be the king of metalcore.