As I Lay Dying is a really good band. They have seemingly found that perfect balance between mainstream appeal and street cred. This is evidenced by their ability to draw crowds on big package tours like Sounds to the Underground as well as on the stages of those big European metal festivals like Wacken.
However, when it is all said and done, it doesn't matter what types of crowds they draw, it is the recorded music that will ultimately dictate their worthiness. I must say, The Powerless Rise is as good a reason as any to like them and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Why do hey need this? Well, this happens to be one of those bands that a few years ago I was willing to write off. I did the unthinkable and lumped them in the screamo crowd that I was not terribly interested in. Then came the 2006 Sounds of the Underground tour. They were the first band I saw and they completely won me over. Simply put, they were heavy, brutal, and melodic, and completely engaging. From then on I was a fan.
It has been interesting to watch them develop over their first few albums. Shadows are Security, my recorded introduction, was a solid metalcore outing. The follow up, An Ocean Between Us, saw more metal styles blending with the metalcore. Now with The Powerless Rise there is a much stronger metal feel.
This album still has that classic metalcore base that has helped define them over the years, but there are elements of heavier styles infecting the crunchy riffs and melodic passages. As I listen to "Beyond Our Suffering," "Without Conclusion," and "The Plague" I detect some thrash, death, and black metal. There are other times I hear a little hardcore. The short of it is this is their heaviest and most accomplished album yet. This is not to say it is my favorite, I will need to spend more time with it, but there is no denying the band's growth.
I am not really sold on the idea of As I Lay Dying being innovators. With that said, I can no longer consider writing them off. While they may not be at the forefront of innovation, they have to be considered to be a strong member of the NWOAHM (New Wave of American Heavy Metal, this is still a used term, right?).
This is a band that knows how to be brutal, melodic, and completely catchy at the same time without being annoying about it. Even when they are in their more mainstream mode, like "Parallels," they know how to execute. They then turn on a dime and turn out the chunky heavy stuff like "Condemned."
Tim Lambesis sounds as strong as ever, growling and screaming his lungs out with recent addition Josh Gilbert playing bass and providing te clean vocals. They are backed by Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa providing the guitars, which are a solid, heavy, and layered giving the music a lot of texture and depth. Last, but certainly not least is drummer Jordan Mandico, a madman with some serious double bass skills.
Bottomline. If you like metal, check this album out. If you don't think you'll like them, check this abum out anyway. If you are a fan, you likely already have it and can attest to its strength. Strong from top to bottom and side to side, this quintet know how to write a good song and execute it to its logical conclusion in the strongest fashion possible. They just keep getting stronger.