Lamb of God - Ashes of the Wake
Epic Records
Aggressive Thrashy Metalcore
11 songs (47:46)
Release year: 2004
Lamb of God, Epic Records
Reviewed by Aaron
Album of the month

Lamb of God's New American Gospel introduced them to the discerning metal world, most of whom welcomed the Virginian newcomers with open arms as one of the leaders of the now-stagnating NWOAHM, characterized by their sound, a blend of Swedish metal, hardcore, and thrash. Lamb of God put most of the emphasis on the thrash side of metalcore, with great results, and the album was lauded critically. And with good reason- New American Gospel had but a few flaws, and they were overshined by the many good points- the savage production, the powerfully Anselmo-influenced vocal delivery, the excellent songwriting... what else did such a band need?

Full label support, of course, and they got it with the 2003 followup, As The Palaces Burn. Signed to Prosthetic Records, they were able to get the support and time they needed to create a masterpiece, but it fell short due to thin production that drowned out the drums with guitars that sounded like they'd been plugged into My First Amps from a children's toy company. The vocals were definitely a departure from the high-pitched Anselmo-ish screaming that was entirely impossible to understand, and many complained they had been watered down. This was not the case- vocals are (usually; depends on the genre) more effective when you can understand what the fuck the vocalist is saying. See The Bleeding by Cannibal Corpse for an example. No further arguments.

To describe Ashes of the Wake in a nutshell- imagine As The Palaces Burn with increased technicality, better production, and an overall more polished feeling. This, of course, doesn't do many more improved aspects of the band justice. The lyrics are more mature, the guitars are tighter and more focused, the drumming is even more insane (Chris Adler is a modern drumming GENIUS), and everything is basically turned up to 11 while keeping it all under control and sticking to a proven formula. All of the anger and hate that Lamb of God pours into their music is directed rather then all over the place like their previous works were.

The riffs are the biggest nail in the shoe- some of them are just unimaginative and derivative, and this detracts from the record. Still, Wille Adler and Mark Morton are a great guitar duo. For proof of this, listen to Laid to Rest- they each play off one another's strengths and weakness and never let up. They play with amazing technicality, executing simple guitar riffs with style and precision. A guitar duo for the ages, methinks.

The first three songs are a mixed bag- Laid to Rest has already been heard by many, and so many are already aware that it kicks ass, an undeniably metallic song with stellar riffing and vocals, which are almost Pantera -like in conception, but benefit greatly from Randy's charismatic delivery. Randy is another of the bands' almost limitless strengths- he's one fuck of a capable, attention-drawing frontman, and he is awesome live. His furious growls are a bit more honed here then they were on Palaces, as if he's ready to stop fucking around and become one of the best vocalists in a genre saturated with Schuldiner-imitators and whiners. Now You've Got Something To Die For is mediocre and rather generic, unfortunately. Everything about this song screams ‘rushjob.’ Hourglass is one of the highlights- it showcases every strong aspect of the band. It isn't quite the quintessential Lamb of God song, but it gets close with cutting lyrics and standout riffwork.

The rest of the album is unsheathed like a well-used broadsword: a bit worn, but deadly all the same. The Faded Line contains a wonderful metal moment around the end that I refuse to spoil; Blood of the Scribe has numerous tempo changes and odd lyrics laid over a veritable sea of skull-smashing riffs, and One Gun is one of the best anti-war songs in a sea of such works.

Break You sounds like another Pantera homage, and boy does this one work. Phil would be proud of this one, thanks to the nigh-insane rage that spews from Randy’s mouth as he growls-nay, roars- ‘Son of a bitch, I’m going to BREAK YOU! BREAK YOU! BREAK YOU!’ Ah, such sweet aggression sets my heart a 'racin.

Unfortunately, after that we begin to slip into a small rut- the subsequent song, What I've Become is generic, and ruins the flow entirely. Of course, the album was written in a hurry, so we can forgive that, thanks to the next two songs.

Ashes of the Wake is an instrumental, and a fine one at that. Featuring four, count 'em, four guitar solos. (One performed by Chris Poland of Megadeth fame.) Those of you that complain about the lack of solos in Lamb of God's music- listen to this, and try to close your gaping jaw afterwards. The voice-overs that start and end this piece don't detract from it, and complement the song well.

They've saved the best for last, which seems to be a trend with Lamb of God records lately. Remorse Is For The Dead starts off with a mood-altering intro and smashes into a powerfully heavy riff and some impressively technical drumwork. Has Chris been listening to a lot of Meshuggah lately? Sure sounds like it. Randy taxes his powerful throat here, going straight froman infantile impish shriek to his usual guttural growl without much of an in-between rest. A wonderful song.

All in all, this is Lamb of God's best record yet, in my opinion. A powerhouse of lyrical maturity and just enough musical progression to avoid the risk off stagnation that many other metalcore bands now face. Excellent work, guys.

Final Note: The Lamb of God tour of America looks to be a must-see, with Fear Factory, Children of Bodom, and Throwdown complementing LoG. I'm seeing it for sure.

Killing Songs :
Laid to Rest, Omerta, Hourglass, Remorse is for the Dead, Ashes of the Wake, Break You
Aaron quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Lamb of God that we have reviewed:
Lamb of God - VII: Sturm und Drang reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Lamb of God - Resolution reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Lamb of God - Wrath reviewed by Khelek and quoted 75 / 100
Lamb of God - New American Gospel reviewed by Dylan and quoted 93 / 100
Lamb of God - Sacrament reviewed by Adam and quoted 83 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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