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The ability to outgrow things is an inevitable part of any life. The child that outgrows the cot because they are too big, the teenager that trades in their bicycle for a motorised dirt bike and so on, change is natural. In an endearing and strikingly ironic way it appears As I Lay Dying have outgrown the very genre they essentially helped pioneer in modern times. The ‘metalcore’ tag is gone – or at least the ‘core’ element. This is ‘metal’ in every sense of the word. Naysayers and staunch purists may still bicker but take note, ‘The Powerless Rise’ is one of the premier examples of heavy music we have circa 2010.
While a large amount of bands that borrowed heavily from the At the Gates musical blueprint are now nothing more than a footnote, AILD have endured, with ‘The Powerless Rise’ proving this was by no means an accident. The San Diego Christian metal quintet prove a blasphemous musical persona, complete with a certain fire and brimstone imagery is not the only avenue available to create music that is fast, loud and equally accessible. With bassist Josh Gilbert now a permanent fixture in the fold, the line-up’s continuity is reflected in the music itself.
‘The Powerless Rise’ begins in fifth gear and does not slow down. 2007’s ‘An Ocean Between Us’ deviated slightly from predecessor ‘Shadows Are Security’ opting for more emphasis on guitars riffs and for a lack of a better word musical ‘power’. This offering, the fifth in the band’s growing catalogue, continues with the said assertions. The abrasive and layered feel of ‘An Ocean Between Us’ and the raw dynamic of ‘Shadows are Security’ merge well to create eleven tracks of consistent metal on ‘The Powerless Rise’. The difference being, this time around the sound is much more even.
‘Anodyne Sea’ is an early highlight while ‘Parallels’ is a prime instance of the group’s intent. A heavy verse section is juxtaposed with a clean sung chorus. Tim Lambesis’s vocals are deeper while Gilbert’s melody is more refined (case in point 1: ‘Upside Down Kingdom’). Concurrently, ‘The Plague’ and ‘Without Conclusion’ are the trademark ‘heavy’ tracks in the band’s repertoire.
Big props need to be given to Adam Dutkiewicz and the fellow album mixers and production assistants for the impressive sound quality the release generates. There is a clean resonance, which gives the album a strong and identifiable presence.
For all the praise though, this is not a faultless release nor is it a genre-defining one but those musical efforts are rare. ‘The Powerless Rise’ is neatly positioned at the front-end of the competitive heavy metal pile. In a funny way, the album’s penultimate track is probably the most prophetic summation – ‘The Only Constant is Change’.
You have to admire As I Lay Dying. The band could have easily continued milking every last drop of the ‘Gothenburg’ meets ‘breakdown’ style, however what we are instead presented with is a release that suggests its initial impact will be matched by its longevity.
1. Beyond Our Suffering
2. Anodyne Sea
3. Without Conclusion
5. The Plague
6. Anger and Apathy
8. Upside Down Kingdom
10. The Only Constant is Change
11. The Blinding of False Light