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Lamb of God Ashes of the Wake

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 @ 11:07 AM


(Epic)

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Here we go: LABEL ALERT!!! LABEL ALERT!!!

The New Wave of American Heavy Metal.

Boy, it doesn’t happen every day when you get the press trying to place a moniker on a grouping of bands that plays similar form of music… yeah, ok. Anyway, the interesting part this time around is that after years of treating metal as a second class citizen, record labels and mainstream press are finally so desperate to try to find and incorporate the next big movement that they’ve even decided to “condescend” to look towards the lowly confines of metal in an effort to jumpstart stagnate sales and create a buzz among the nation’s youth. I dunno, maybe record executives are finally figuring out that a significant portion of people are getting tired of repetitive beats that seemingly function only to provide a backdrop for countless tales of blunts, bitches and hos. Then, of course, there is the whole diva thing and the American Idol business—all of which have been played out to epic proportions. I mean, when fans of diminutive, elfin-chimp, Clay Aiken are referred to lovingly as “Clayheads,” you know the apocalypse is near. Mainstream music is just in a lousy place right now, and the surprising sales of latest Shadows Fall LP, the subsequent Ozzfest buzz regarding Lamb of God and the bright hopes for the metalheads of Mastodon have numerous execs and followers of the genre believing that if LoG’s album sells briskly, then more signings could be in the offing.

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The primary reason there is such a push regarding this band (as well as Shadows Fall) is that the instrumentation is top notch. The guitars, drums and bass are all utilized to their precise maximum, and in this regard they have only improved since their days as Burn the Priest. It is because of the exemplary guitar work of Willie Adler and Mark Morton and the drumming of Chris Adler that makes the inevitable comparisons to hardcore seem unfair and misleading. That isn’t to say there isn’t a powerful element to the group’s music or that Randy Blythe’s delivery isn’t militaryesque in style, but the musicianship on display here suggests this band is much more. When Lamb of God recently made the jump from Prosthetic Records to Sony/Epic, the label needed a new product to promote. This meant that the group basically had about five months to create their major label debut and follow up to the stellar albums New American Gospel and As the Palaces Burn. This type of finite pressure could have either served as impetus to create a true metal classic, or conversely, it could eventually reveal itself as the primary cause of a harried, less-inspired offering.

This disc begins with the best track on the record, “Laid To Rest.” Thankfully, it is also the selection receiving the most promotion and is a song certain to satisfy all Lamb of God fans--especially those who were ready to start casting stones after first hearing that their beloved underground heroes had signed to a major. Unfortunately, this classic track is followed up by “Hourglass,” which is at best an average LOG song, while “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” is somehow even worse as it takes far too long to get to the tempo changes or the parts of this tune that would make it endearing to the discerning metal aficionado. Just when the listener starts to believe this album to be a monotonous trip into mall core, track four, “The Faded Line,” comes along and rocks with the type of drum-guitar-bass interplay that has made this group a favorite of metalheads all over the country. The fifth song, “Omerta,” begins with Randy reading the following:

“Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward. Whoever cannot take care of himself without that law is both. For a wounded man shall say to his assailant, ‘If I live, I will kill you--if I die, you are forgiven.’ Such is the rule of honor.”

From there, the song plods along at what can best be described as a midlevel pace--especially for a group that once recorded as the blitzkrieg known as Burn the Priest. This track simply never cuts loose, and when Lamb of God doesn’t let it go at breakneck speed, the tendency is for the emphasis to quickly shift to Randy’s vocals which are--to be quite honest--the weakest part of the group’s sound. There is basically nothing about his delivery or tone to differentiate him from dozens of other vocalists in this or any of the other related genres. The strength is in the music, and that is where the focus should remain.

Now, the second half of the record starts off screaming as “Blood of the Scribe” begins at 100 MPH only to drop back down a few moments into the song. After the initial onslaught, the tune changes speed, but still never really regains the momentum it should have established and maintained from the beginning. “One Gun” is a typical below average song from this band, which comes equipped with the usual “I’m being serious and screaming from my scrotum sack” type uttering. From there, the track just treads water, and to make matters worse, during the lyrical delivery for “They’ll hallow your name for your saaaccrriifiicee,” the pronunciation is so over the top and ridiculous that I felt like laughing. There is a nice guitar solo about two minutes into this track although it’s unclear what it’s doing in the construct of this song as it doesn’t seem to fit in this selection very well. “Break You” has some great axe work, and the drumming is solid, but again, the vocals are a distraction as this chorus is a nut-laden turd. It only serves to hold the song down while annoyingly remaining and refusing to flush regardless of how many tempo changes or derivative cadences Lamb of God shits out.

Just as it was appearing that Revolver and everyone else was completely and totally full of crap, “What I’ve Become” blasts the speakers and instantly proclaims itself a classic--it is that good. Everything is present in this track including the type of guitars that make people metal fans in the first place. It’s just too bad that more of this album couldn’t have been like this. “Ashes of the Wake“ is actually a taste of what this band is capable without the requisite screaming and monotonous vocal expression. The band is just tight here-- although they could have put the foot on the gas a bit more, it doesn’t change the fact that this is probably the fourth best tune on the disc. Lamb of God’s major label debut concludes with “Remorse is for the Dead.” This song is interesting enough with certain musical shifts, and it could basically be construed as the type of record-closer that fans have come to expect with its momentum building, slow burning introduction. It is an appropriate way for the disc to end and suggests that that group does have a foot in its past as it attempts to move into the future.

Lamb of God deserves consideration as a band with potential and possibilities that are certain to tapped in another album or two--provided that next record doesn’t appear next year. The group needs to take a little bit of time to work on the intricacies of their craft like the different textures in the drumming that appeared in earlier works and figure out a way to either bury the vocals or do something a little more impressive with them. Whether or not the group is allowed this opportunity remains to be seen…everyone knows that major labels have ruined more careers than they have cultivated, and the people should note that big money will only be around until something else comes along. Lamb of God’s job is to take the added exposure and the opportunities that go along with it, create quality music and increase their fan base while not pandering to the casual fan. Metalheads are certainly not the majority of record buyers, but they are without a doubt the most loyal. If they don’t feel alienated, many will remain fans for life. This is a quality record, but it isn’t likely to go down in history as the band’s best…I reckon it does beat the hell out of rap or being a Clayhead though.

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