Sound — 6
As far as memory serves I was bought this album for a birthday present by my sister (under STRICT instruction of course) and having lost a fair bit of my youth/sanity to the absolute majesty of "As The Palaces Burn" and "Ashes Of The Wake", I was, admittedly, in danger of salivating all over the CD once it was in my filthy little mitts. However as this would have postponed the moment of truth, I refrained from such madness and jammed it into my CD player with a righteously metal roar. And oh... OH! The demonically catchy opening riff to "Walk With Me In Hell" plucked my heartstrings (drop tuned heartstrings of course) in a way I hadn't felt since the likes of "11th Hour" and "Break You". If you can imagine the perfect noise to watch the apocalypse seethe towards you, you're about halfway there. Randy Blythe's heavily reverberated vocals over the opening 36 seconds, combined with Chris Adler's unsettlingly tight drumming complete an opening that really sets a scene. This airy, gigantic intro moves into a mid paced, hyper aggressive assault of good ole' fashioned all American chug, the musical equivalent of prize fighter psyching himself up for a belt title fight. The opening line "Pray For Blood", does seem a tad simple in comparison to Blythe's usually mildly cryptic but very satisfying lyrical content (for example, ATPB's opening track "Ruin" preaches "The knowledge that seeking the favour of another, means the murder of self") however, it's well placed and complemented by the music behind it, so it can be overlooked. The rest of the song continues in equally epic fashion with the intro riff reintroduced during a very short chorus, with Blythe letting fully loose with the gratingly high pitched scream we know him so well for. Other parts worthy of note are at 2.03 where the band come together as one for an earth shattering mini break down which would have Mr Richter in urine soaked trousers desperately extending his beloved scale. After another chorus it's time for a reassuringly classic Lamb Of God breakdown, with some absolutely sublime automated panning on the overlaying harmonised riffs. Round that off with nice and invigorating Southern States sounding blues solo and you have, frankly one of the most satisfying album openers you are likely to find in metal. Moving onwards to track number two. Lamb Of God have always been a band respected for their ability to make every album an absolute roller-coaster. Varying in speed, but keeping the momentum of an oncoming bulldozer, fuelled on the blood of rabid Dobermans, firing lyrical napalm and musical frag grenades. Unfortunately, with the frankly mildly annoying opening guitar mixed with Blythe giving more of a shout than a scream, the song gets off to a bit of an uninspiring start. Granted, in its defence it shoots into a nice heavy alternate picking section which lulls the listener into hoping for another absolute genital sweller of a track. Oh how wrong we were, as the vocals come in there is a massive drop out in the overall intensity. An anti climax on par to awakening a Genie, requesting an audience with Holly Valance, and receiving Susanne Boyle. Toward the chorus however, things do begin to redeem themselves with the riff played in a more staccato, clear form. The chorus itself is definitely one of the higher points of the song with an absolutely ear cleaning wail complimented by that continuous wall of sound given by the alternate picking. The second verse is slightly more fulfilling with a more pronounced riff behind it. But oh, here we are, the song's STOPPED to be replaced with that whiny, liquid sounding guitar from the introduction! Only this time we have Blythe whispering in your ear like a newly released sex offender to add to the horror. Now some would argue that this album has a far more atmospheric feel to it, but it cannot help but be felt that it all seems a bit forced. Also it's stated that this album was the point at which Willie Adler and Mark Morton came out as true shredders. I apologise but the solo's in the instrumental title track "Ashes Of The Wake" clearly prove that they weren't wallowing around in treacle before 2009! And so it is we saunter (now quite aimlessly) towards the albums single release "Redneck". Now I think it might be time for some comparison between this and "Laid To Rest" which was "Ashes Of The Wakes" single release. Now I'm not saying that "Laid To Rest" is Lamb Of God's greatest achievement. But it does seem to have a little more to it than "Redneck". While it can be said that yes, Redneck has got a catchy main riff, but it seems to be far too focused on the repetition of the chorus. As it is the single track it is understandable that it should be a bit of a sing along (or as close to you get with this form of metal) but to someone who has listened to Lamb Of God from even their "Burn The Priest" days (good luck getting far in the southern states with a name like that!) it almost sounds, dare I say, like a pseudo pop track. That is only in relativity however I am categorically not saying that Lamb Of God have gone the way of so many other promising metal bands. One example of this being the horrific downfall of tech metal band "Architects" who now seem more interested in reducing further breeding chances by wearing tight trousers. But it does seem to begin to sound slightly manufactured. Another factor which should be mentioned (probably more in this medium of music than anywhere else) is the physical effect it has upon the listener. While listening to "Redneck" there is definitely some involuntary head movement going on, but it stays at that. While myself and most of the people I know, cannot, within their power get through the breakdown of laid to rest without a) punching each other, b) head banging so hard that the only inevitable outcome is the floor, or c) bellowing along so loud that the next day is spent with a throat so bad, one is regularly mistaken for someone practicing the Dutch language. This album being a called a roller-coaster between the frankly mundane and the brutally exquisite is shown again track 4. Aptly named "Foot To The Throat" it explodes from the very start with some excellent pounding triplet work mixed in with a drum fill/ guitar that compliment themselves in a very "As The Palaces Burn" style. Now this if far more like it. At 0.19 there is even a blast beat, something not heard from these guys since the "Burn The Priest" days. It is short, but short is sweet with a blast beat for the most part. The pounding riff from the intro continues without the triplets, in a more flowing style. Blythe's vocals really come into their own in this track. His voice gives so much presence and added vehemence to the message of track. At 0.42 an almost middle eastern sound riff comes in with Blythe using his newly acquired roar that has not been used in albums before this. Coming together to make a chorus that draws the listener in and flatly refuses to let go. Other points to this song which make it one of the best on the album is the almighty build up that begins at 1.56. The repetition of the short piece of guitar with the heavily reverberated vocals and the use of effects upon the open string chugs remind the listener of the previously mentioned build up in "Walk With Me In Hell". The song has one more trick up it's sleeve in the dying seconds, with an incredibly amusing/enjoyable piece of thrash drumming which as a build up to the next track, comes to second to none. Upon reaching the middle of the album there is always the fear that boredom could set in. Being that usually the most prominent tracks on an album (and the ones people usually remember) are found at the start or towards the end. And unfortunately this is exactly what has happened with "Sacrament". There is so little to say about both "Descending" and "Blacken The Cursed Sun". Descending beginnings with a nice piece of electronic effect which gives a warm swell to what, otherwise, would be an incredibly boring piece of guitar. And then... Well... Nothing really. The simple and inane riff carries on in slightly different forms until 2.24! The only break the listener gets is a chorus with such muddy, mediocre guitar and drums behind it that it is the equivalent to being taking out of a dissociative coma, only to be given a breakfast of Valium and Space cakes. Moving from 2.24 onwards things become a lot more promising. With more of the middle eastern sounding guitar riffs augmented by some quite inspiring harmony to beef up the sound. But at the same time the production on this track makes Lamb Of God sound as if they've been recorded in an incredibly muffled acoustic environment and actually takes away, instead of adding to the original sound. "Blacken The Cursed Sun" starts in a very similar way to "Descending" but with an even simpler opening riff. This song has more good points to it than "Descending". The atmospheric qualities that were mentioned in the review which was hyperlinked earlier, actually seems to work. From 0.26 the track creates a beautiful majestic sound which envelopes the listener into a cacophony of pounding drums and creates a huge feeling of space. This reminds the listener of just what an incredible sound this band can make. But as the verse comes in it all becomes a bit... Adequate. One thing that should be mentioned about this album is the difference in perception between someone who has heard this album alone. And someone who has listened to Lamb Of God through all the albums. By my own admittance this is a good album. It is just that it pales in comparison to earlier works in the overall feel and message. The verse sounds very similar to other verses in the album. In times past, it used to be that it was difficult to choose a favourite song from a Lamb Of God release, because, they were all your favourite songs. However in this album there seem to be only a few songs that actually leave a lasting impact. I remember listening through this album and it took about 5 or 6 times through for me to be familiar with most of the tracks. Whereas with "Ashes Of The Wake" after the first listen I could identify and name every track, such was the musical impact on me. Anyway, back to the track in question. The only other points worthy of mentioning are from 2.55 onwards where another nice classic Lamb Of God breakdown comes in. But again Mr Blythe has intending on giving you nightmares by whispering in your year, only this time with lots of panning which makes it even more creepy and unsettling. And then for some absurd reason, they seem to have decided it is a good idea to use some rather embarrassing gang shouts. With Blythe preaching to the crowd like some sort of pessimistic faux messiah. I always find that gang shouts wreak of arrogance. As if Blythe really could lead the people, lead them to what you ask? Well with the way he goes on probably to the nearest garage to have a tasty carbon monoxide experience. "Forgotten (Lost Angels)" starts again with another gorgeously tight Chris Adler drum fill, and goes instantly into a high intensity picking riff. Again this albums surprises by having two songs verging on the mundane, and then BANG, they smack you round you're judgemental face with this absolute soul muncher. The best word to describe this song is relentless. The amount of pure, undiluted hatred Blythe manages to push into the lyrics is rivalled by no other on the album. The driving force behind this song is the variety between technical picking and heavy palm mute to open chord verse riffs. This is a perfect example of what the rest of the album should sound like. Tight triplets on the drums mean that the intensity is never lost, not even for a single. The chorus has utilised Blythe's new vocal stylings in perfect conjunction with high pitched wails from the "New American Gospel" era of his career. The solo in this is one of the most intense and interesting of the album, complimenting the rest of the song and the general feel of the album perfectly. After the solo the pace picks up for one final auditory assault with the chorus coming back in and then Blythe seeming to completely lose any sanity he had towards the end. This now moves exquisitely into "Requiem". Oh why oh why oh why could the rest of the album not be like these final tracks. The opening scream from Blythe sounds incredibly familiar and gives a nostalgic feel. It is very very similar to the opening scream from "Boot Scraper" ("Ashes Of The Wake"). This song seems to be the band completely letting loose, and comes at you with the force of a child born from Chuck Norris and Margaret Thatcher. From 1.46 the discordant chug gives the feeling the album is beginning to come full circle, the solo towards the end is absolutely mouth watering. The intensity of Lamb Of God has come back with a vengeance. The last 40 seconds verges on the apocalyptic. The adrenaline is flowing people. Pupils are dilated. Mouth is dry. Heart is racing. This is waaaaay more like it! "More Time To Kill" starts off with a riff that for some reason reminds me of "Hourglass" ("Ashes Of The Wake"). The entire track seems to be breaking down. As if the band are winding down and preparing for a tectonic plate shifting outro. Perhaps the slightly different vocals from Blythe in this album take a while to get used to, but by the end they are absolutely crotch warming. The discordant styles of Adler and Morton really make this a truly truly hair raising listen. At 2.40 creeping clean guitar comes in, slightly "Vigil"-esque ("As The Palaces Burn") to be replaced with Blythe, Adler and Morton seeming to battle for who will be crowned to Sword and Shield of Unrivalled metal kingship (or a slightly less battle/power metal reference if you prefer). The final song "Beating On Deaths Door" has quite a thrash feel to it, and is definitely a good way to finish the album. Again the pace picks up, but that's what this album does, it reels you in to a false sense of security and then shatters it like so much single paned glass, you're catapulted back into an all out white knuckle ride of well seasoned, excellently marinated malicious intent. The outro to this, and therefore the outro to the album, consists of a continuous double bass pedal, with howling guitar layered over the top in a sort of "Lasagne Of Imperious Deconstruction" (as the reader can probably tell, it could well be dinner time soon).
Lyrics — 3
Perhaps the slightly different vocals from Blythe in this album take a while to get used to, but by the end they are absolutely crotch warming.
Overall Impression — 5
Overall this album has it's peaks and throughs. And as previously mentioned, it may be more appealing to listeners who have not listened to much L.O.G., rather than the die hard fans. However it still has it's brilliant points, but in this critics opinion, it also has some absolutely dire tracks with very little to them. However always remember, upon reading this, do not let me warbling on in anyway take away from your enjoyment of this album. You are metal. You have your own opinions, and they are backed with a steely spine (and a suitable beard). If you haven't listened to L.O.G. before, listen to this first, and work backwards. I shall be immersing myself in "Wrath" (2009) for quite a while and waiting like a 3 week old puppy who's owner has left him under a bridge for "Resolution" forthcoming in 2012. Which promises a serious visit back to the old school. Keep it metal, eat only meat, drink only Ale and Jager... Then eat some more meat. Peace.