The notion that heavy rock is dead as a doornail gets asserted every couple of years, but the recent chart ascent of the heavier-than-plutonium thrash-masters As I Lay Dying proves that there’s still a lot of life in the bludgeon-rock beast.

By lobbing their just-released fourth album, An Ocean Between Us, into Billboard’s Top 10—right between Fergie and Nickelback—in its first week of release, the San Diego-bred foursome have shined the spotlight on the often shadowy metalcore scene. They’ve also cast a net over the new generation of metalheads who want their music hard and fast but not sinister. As I Lay Dying have won over fans of Christian rockers Underoath through the spiritual-not-preachy lyrics offered up by Tim Lambesis (who named the band after a William Faulkner novel) and have kept Thrice fans on their toes with tunes that are high concept and highly accessible.

“For a long time, if you were angry, you listened to metal, but there was no positive advice or lyrics that inspired you to overcome struggles,” explains Lambesis. “That didn’t exist until more recently.”

That’s not to say that As I Lay Dying are softies. The uncanny interplay between guitarists Phil Sgrosso and Phil Hipa—both of whom do their damage with Les Pauls (Sgrosso a Standard, and Hipa a Custom)—have fueled some serious moshpit infernos while on tour with bands as diverse as Cannibal Corpse and the Deftones. That ferocity can also be traced to the breakneck speed and precision of Jordan Mancino’s furious drumming.

Much like the Slayer tandem of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, Sgrosso and Hipa turn the classic lead-rhythm structure on its head, whirling around each other like trained martial artists on aggressive-yet-atmospheric songs like “Within Destruction” and “Comfort Betrays” (to name two of Ocean’s highlights).

Lambesis himself gives a great deal of credit to that dynamic duo, saying, “a large part of our melody comes from the guitars as opposed to the vocals and that’s something we have become known for. That’s part of the reason there is always a chance for us to do more, even with more people that don’t necessarily listen to metal.”