Lamb of God
Ashes of the Wake
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
Remember the days when metal was about something? You know, you'd pop in a CD... er... a tape, and you'd listen to some heavy groovin' music that'd get you all worked up and angry, but angry with some kind of conscience. It's an era I'd considered long past, but Lamb of God hasn't forgotten the metal days of yore. Ashes of the Wake is all about kicking your ass and telling you how it is. The lyrics are full of one-liners that aren't particularly insightful or deep (the primary point is to kick your ass, after all. Did I mention this was in regards to ass-kicking?), but they're nevertheless made with a keen eye, for instance: "Just enough to keep it together, never enough to make it work." That's as good a way to sum up American culture as I've seen, and it's safely tucked away in a song without any particular emphasis or pretension - the lyrics are full of observations in this vein.
The music at first seems to be your standard modern hybrid metal. There are bits of thrash and hardcore and grindcore and several other styles that use words like death, black, speed, <your genre name here>core and so on. However, Lamb of God successfully takes these different elements and makes them coherent, which is more than I can say for many recent bands. More to the point, they do so in a way that makes for diverse songs with some genuinely melodious moments, intense riffs and time changes, and they even throw in bonus guest solos by Alex Skolnick and Chris Poland. The drumming mostly takes a supportive role, but every so often you'll get some crazy passage or high-speed double bass roll that keeps the rhythm alive and energetic.
The only potential downside to the CD is Randy Blythe's vocal approach. He's quite good at what he does, but for the most part he rants and yells in the same manner. Occasionally he'll throw in a crazed scream or two, so I know he's capable of more, but for the time being he seems content belting things out in a way that's sometimes repetitive, but ultimately works. Nevertheless, Ashes of the Wake is a rather remarkable album that has the added benefit of being about something. It's metal with substance, and it doesn't mess around or hold back. I had a chance to see the band perform a few years ago, and while their songwriting was somewhat weaker (at least relative to this CD), they had a real stage presence and intensity. Lamb of God is poised to take one of the top spots in current metal, and fans of other current hybrid bands like God Forbid, Candiria, or Shadows Fall definitely need to give them a listen.