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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Lamb of God

Ashes of the Wake

Review by Mike Korn

The last few years have seen the rise of a new generation of American metal bands. The new blood has included Shadows Fall, God Forbid and without a doubt the most vicious of the bunch, Lamb of God. It's good to see youngsters picking up the gauntlet of bands like Slayer, Metallica and Pantera and no band seems to merge the aspects of those giants like the Lamb.

"Ashes of the Wake" is their first effort for major label Epic. One thing is immediately apparently after hearing it and that is that Epic in no way influenced them to tone down their sound. Or if they did, they were completely ignored. This material just flat out crushes all in sight and if Lamb's influences are sometimes a bit too apparent, there's no doubting their fury. They possess one monster of a frontman in D. Randall Blythe. The sheer anger and conviction behind his raging growls put a perfect voice to LOG's tales of outrage. Not quite death metal in his approach, Blythe is nonetheless one of the most extreme frontmen in the scene today.

Lamb of God is one of those rare bands that can play violent and hateful material and still sound very precise and musician-oriented. Their drummer Chris Adler is a great technician who actually demonstrates an almost Neil Peart-like touch to his drumming while still unleashing hellish blasts of double bass destruction. His brother Will and Mark Morton are a fine guitar duo, as well. "Ashes of the Wake" could very well be a "Master of Puppets" or "Far Beyond Driven" for a new generation of metal fans. It looks like the future is in pretty good hands.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Laid to Rest
This is just a taste of things to come. It's a catchy and forceful attack of crunching metal that crosses Pantera groove with Megadeth precision - a good opener but there's better ahead.
Hourglass
The band's old-school thrash roots show here, as this has the texture of old Exodus and Metallica to it. Blythe's angry roars reveal cheerful sentiments like "it's only getting worse". There's some pretty tasteful guitar picking amidst the mayhem here.
Now You've Got Something To Die For
Now the record really kicks into high gear. This is the sort of scorching thrash attack that just forces us to play air guitar and headbang wildly. The second half of the song slows a bit to unleash punishing grooves upon the listener. Blythe's screams put the acid in lyrics like "Bombs to set the people free/blood to feed the dollar tree/Flags for coffins on the screen/Oil for the machine."
The Faded Line
This has got to be one of the most lyrically bitter songs ever written. The constant repetition of the word "hopeless" really does make things seem...well, hopeless. The cut has sort of a downbeat, epic feel to it.
Omerta
"Omerta" was the code of silence practiced by Mafia members. This track starts with a brief recitation of the code before slamming into some slower paced, crunching metal. The tune has a really stalking, menacing tone and shows that LOG does not have to hit the speed pedal to create a powerful tune. One of the record's best, this creeps up on the listener like a hitman for hire.
Blood of the Scribe
Why can't Metallica and Megadeth do songs like this anymore? This blasts right out of the gate with the purest thrash of the record. Exodus is a pretty good comparison to the riffing style here and it's a sure bet any fan of the Bay Area style will dig this. Despite that, this throws in enough "modern" touches to make it more than just a Bay Area knock-off.
One Gun
This is fast and heavy but sounds a little generic for my tastes. Not a bad cut but lacking the distinctiveness of the others. The lyrics are spot on: "The eyes of the patriot fixed through the scope/The unknowing tyrant walks through the rope/They'll hallow your name."
Break You
Blythe unleashes some of the most harrowing screams of the record on this one. It's a punishing cut that has a bit of the modern metalcore feel with a lot of choppy, staccato riffing. Chris Adler's drumming is just phenomenal on this song and along with Blythe's singing, propels it into the above average category.
What I've Become
I really dig the frantic thrashing that kicks this one off. There's a very cool Middle Eastern flavored solo to the mid-section that helps it stand out. One of the record's more interesting cuts, this is pure metal all the way.
Ashes of the Wake
This is an epic instrumental where the LOG guitarists get to show their chops. To give thanks to their roots, they invited Alex Skolnick formerly of Testament and Chris Poland formerly of Megadeth to play along. As you might expect, there's some killer soloing and guitar interplay here. It's played over a narrative of a solider that tells us that "to us, every civillian in Baghdad was a terrorist" and that "this is a new kind of war, it's eradication".
Remorse is For the Dead
For the first time, the band let up on the gas a little bit for the start of this one. A haunting acoustic based melody kicks this off, but don't worry, they drop the hammer before too long. A driving heavy rhythm kicks in with Blythe's throaty growls over the top and away we go again, into a very strong fast paced song. More cheery lyrics: "Poisoned nerves and a bloody antidote/Violence is not an aberration, it's a rule/Dying beyond the pale."
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