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As I Lay Dying - "The Powerless Rise" (CD)

As I Lay Dying - "The Powerless Rise" CD cover image

"The Powerless Rise" track listing:

1. Beyond Our Suffering (2:49)
2. Anodyne Sea (4:34)
3. Without Conclusion (3:15)
4. Parallels (4:57)
5. The Plague (3:42)
6. Anger and Apathy (4:25)
7. Condemned (2:49)
8. Upside Down Kingdom (4:00)
9. Vacancy (4:26)
10. The Only Constant Is Change (4:07)
11. The Blinding Of False Light (5:10)

Reviewed by on May 6, 2010

"The band has managed to stay relevant and popular in both mainstream and metal circles despite playing an increasingly lampooned style of music."

As I Lay Dying can be considered one of the first mainstream metalcore acts. Getting their start back in 2000, they have managed to rank quite highly on the Billboard charts and get regular radio and MTV play. All this while still getting huge crowds at Wacken and being welcomed alongside bands like In Flames, Cannibal Corpse, and Behemoth. That amazingly magical formula is on full display on “The Powerless Rise,” while As I Lay Dying combines touches of mainstream friendly croons with a heavier dose of brutality.

“Beyond Our Suffering” and “Without Conclusion” typify the band’s brutal side. Featuring warp speed drumming that borders full-on blast beats, lower register death growls, buzz-saw riffs, and layered guitar lines take these two short bangers to neck-snapping nirvana. “Parrallels” encapsulates As I Lay Dying’s mainstream approach (and has to be the next big single). A big, melodic intro, mid-tempo grooved breakdown and cleanly-crooned chorus all scream “radio friendly.” The song builds over the almost five minute run time to the dramatic solo and powerful conclusion.

The key to As I Lay Dying’s continued success over the last decade, and the source of the consistent quality on “The Powerless Rise,” is their ability to spread the clichéd metalcore pieces around. Only four of the eleven cuts have clean singing, and only seven of the eleven cuts have a prominent breakdown. They are most focused on playing hardcore-leaning metal, with touches of black and thrash. “The Plague” and “Condemnded” eschew the populism and focus on thrash riffs and hardcore vocals exclusively, while “Anger and Apathy” and “Vacancy” reach for the hardcore/punk side of the musical aisle while mixing in a searing solo or two.

It comes as no surprise that the shorter songs are the better songs, as longer run times give As I Lay Dying more opportunity to stray away from what they do best. While “Anger and Apathy” has a good vocal and melody combination, it is easily a minute too long. “Anodyne Sea” stretches its wings over the last 90 seconds to incorporate anthemic clean vocals and breakdowns that the first half of the song didn’t really need. And album closer “The Blinding Of False Light” can’t quite get the slower tempo single-note melodies and bends to draw as much blood as the fangs on “Condemned.”

The lyrics of “Upside Down Kingdom” reflect on the idea that “if we do the opposite of what the modern world tells us, many of the problems this current world causes will no longer exist.” It is an interesting philosophical thought for sure, and applicable here in more than one way. The band has managed to stay relevant and popular in both mainstream and metal circles despite playing an increasingly lampooned style of music. “The Powerless Rise” will continue this trend for As I Lay Dying, and that is backwards enough.

Highs: “Condemned” is a phenomenal piece of hyper-aggressive and heavy riffing.

Lows: The last three songs get old, as if the band has used up all their ideas by then.

Bottom line: Another solid release from one of mainstream metalcore’s founding bands.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)