Tim Lambesis: Vocals
Phil Sgrosso: Guitar
Nick Hipa: Guitar
Jordan Mancino: Drums
Josh Gilbert : Bass
It's hard to believe that a veteran metal band like San Diego's As I Lay Dying could be just hitting their stride now, some 10 years and five full-lengths into an already stellar career. Still, even after just one listen to the quintet's latest, The Powerless Rise, you can't ignore the obvious: One of modern metal's best just got better.
Similar to their approach on 2007's Grammy-nominated An Ocean Between Us, the band chose to employ the production prowess of Adam D. and record a majority of the album at singer Tim Lambesis' own private studio. The end result is The Powerless Rise; the first true collaborative effort between the current AILD lineup.
Although they didn't know it at first, the band's creative potential kicked into overdrive with the introduction of bassist/singer Josh Gilbert in 2007, who played on Ocean but was not involved with the writing. For the previous two albums, the brunt of the instrumental development was spearheaded by guitarist Phil Sgrosso, whose penchant for melody and riff-conjuring suited the notoriously powerful drum stylings of drummer Jordan Mancino, complimented the lead guitar work of Nick Hipa, and exacted Lambesis's vision for the bands' overall intensity. The aforementioned format remained the same on Powerless but with the addition of Gilbert's musical contribution, added yet another facet to an already established creative dynamic. The result is an album built upon the strength of its parts and the remarkable ways in which those parts become a cohesive whole.
For this current round of lyrics, Lambesis gravitated toward a concept centrally represented in the song "Upside Down Kingdom," which posits that the suffering of the world stems from the broken, upside-down nature of society. In addition to providing the line that became the album's title, the song lays out the guiding premise behind many of The Powerless Rise's ideological excursions—the notion 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. Lambesis stresses that rather than fill an album with bitter ranting, he's attempting to offer a solution with Powerless.
So yes, it may come as a surprise to some that AILD would attain an entirely new level of artistry and urgency with their fifth release Powerless when many others might consider phoning it in, but once you appreciate all the various ingredients essential to the album, it's no shock at all. By taking the trademark AILD sound then adding a band-wide effort and Lambesis' novel approach to writing lyrics, the group has truly outdone themselves on The Powerless Rise, at least for now.