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Lamb Of God: a band which I - along with many other metal fans that I am acquainted with - have had real difficulty getting into. I mean, I previously owned two of the band's albums: live compilation 'Killadelphia' and 2006's well recieved 'Sacrament.' I listened to both of these albums countless times yet I just couldn't get it. Now this isn't to say Lamb of God (LOG) are bad; 'Ashes of the Wake' (AOTW) is a solid, modern-day metal album featuring some very cool riffs! But maybe because LOG don't fit into a specific sub-genre of heavy metal: They are simply referred to as 'American Heavy Metal' yet 'Ashes' isn't just a metal album, it's also groove metal, with a hint of thrash and sometimes technical death. It isn't bound to the parameters of the metal genre, and maybe this is what makes it so difficult to put your finger on.
The main thing to enjoy about AOTW is the onslaught of just super awesome riffs! Literally every track consists of at least one riff which makes you stop and think 'dayum that's cool!' (listen to opening track 'Laid To Rest!') which is much the same effect Dimebag Darrell's ground-breaking guitar work with groove metal legends 'Pantera' had on me. What separates Dimebag from LOG's Mark Morton though, is his superior ability to extend his musical contribution via some kick ass solo's! There is little in the way of solo's on AOTW aside from on the instrumental track (with the same title), and even here credit is mainly due to guest guitarists of greater experience: Alex Skolnick of Testament and Megadeth's Chris Poland. Although the lack of lead solo's doesn't dampen the album too much, it does limit it to being just 'very good.' With a little extra effort however, it could have been brilliant! But hopefully this will give us something to look forward to in their future work.
One thing that really did effect my listening experience - negatively - though, was the practically inaudible bass tone throughout most of the album. Now I'm not sure if this was deliberate, if it's down to production matters or if it was just my stereo, but at very rare points on the album when I could hear some bass, it simply just sounded like a vibration? Yet towards the end of the album, John Campells presence bizarrely, becomes more apparent which may be because he begins to showcase some nice creative licks in the tracks. For me, it really felt as if something was missing throughout most of the album which is a great shame! It's another simple problem which could easily have been fixed to push this piece of work to it's full potential.
Ok, so these slight flaws may divide potential LOG fans, but more importantly, they somewhat contribute to the bands unique sound. Rather than showing off with flashy guitar solo's, Mark Morton and Willie Adler absolutely destroy with some devastating, and often complex breakdowns. Despite the clean production sound sacrificing some bass tone, it also allows for the cohesiveness between the guitarists and drummer Chris Adler's tight double bass patterns, coordinated hand-feet fills and bright ride cymbal accents to really be heard and felt which is one of the albums biggest assets. And all of this is layered magnificently by Randy Blythe's very distinct vocal style; it isn't as deep as one would expect for a metal frontman, but it's very versatile as can be heard through the inhale screams on track such as 'Blood of the Scribe' and 'Break You.' All of these factors make this album stand out that little more from other modern day metal bands.
All in all, 'Ashes' is not a bad metal record at all, but the point is that it could have been better. However, this album was released only a year after their previous titled 'As The Palaces Burn,' so it may be that LOG are still learning, and still experimenting with their style, which isn't particularly a bad thing as it shows that the band are still growing, leading to exciting developments in the their future work for us to anticipate. Put simply, AOTW isn't Lamb of God at their peak, not yet, but they certainly are on the right path to reaching it. Certainly give this album a chance but please remember to be patient with it; it may take some time to grow on you but hopefully you will be able take at least something from it, be this on the first listen or even the hundredth. Hey, what's there to lose?
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Laid To Rest
3 Now You've Got Something To Die For
4 The Faded Line
6 Blood Of The Scribe
7 One Gun
8 Break You
9 What I've Become
10 Ashes Of The Wake
11 Remorse Is For The Dead
12 Laid To Rest