Sound — 9
In 2007, San Deigo metalcore band, As I Lay Dying released their fourth studio album, An Ocean Between Us, which greatly launched their career forward. Now, 3 years later, they've released their follow-up, The Powerless Rise. So the question stands, can they build on what they accomplished on their previous album? The answer is yes. Right from the get-go this album reflects everything they've learned over the years. Beyond Our Suffering starts off with what almost seems to be pure noise, until you listen closer and hear lyrics and a guitar riff leading up to its explosive introduction. Anodyne Sea keeps the pace chugging forward with more blistering riffs and powerful vocals. Here we also catch our first glimpse of bassist Josh Gilbert, once again singing great clean vocals in the form of, "In my convictions I've found my own grave, but amongst the dead we all fade away." Anodyne Sea is easily an album highlight. Next up we have Without Conclusion. I'm personally a huge fan of pick scrapes being used as part of a riff, as opposed to being merely a transition between two, and the intro to this song makes good use of this technique. The album continues getting better and better until we come upon Condemned, where it hits the roof. This is definitely the most brutal song on the album, from its infectious stop/starts to the great solo near the end. Upside Down Kingdom opens with a nice bass riff, courtesy of Josh Gilbert, before the rest of the guitars come in with a great melody to contrast it. The rest of the album continues at about the same pace--fast, heavy, and melodic. The band doesn't really slow down much for this album, but it's not a bad thing in this case.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are great as always. Tim Lambesis lets you know where he stands, and has the vocal talent to back it up. His vocals are also a lot more varied this time around, venturing into lower growls as well as his higher shrieks that were common on the last album. Josh Gilbert's clean vocals are also in tip-top shape here. Upside Down Kingdom is a great showcase of both Lambesis' and Gilbert's lyrical/vocal talents, with the chorus, "Simplicity is not a curse where strength is humbled and the powerless rise. This is a kingdom born upside-down. This is a kingdom where the broken are crowned."
Overall Impression — 10
To pass this off as 'generic metalcore' is doing this album AND this band a great disservice. As I Lay Dying was there when the genre first began to peak out of the cracks and gain popularity, but now they are taking the steps forward to make it their own. An Ocean Between Us began the march forward 3 years ago, and The Powerless Rise is a definite showcase of the band's progression. This is a solid album and every song leaves you wanting more, but not in a sense that they're all lacking, but in the sense that you just don't want it to end. Album highlights are Anodyne Sea, Without Conclusion, Condemned, and Upside Down Kingdom.