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Deciding that Cradle of Filth was a bit too much for them, Sony have gone and snapped up Virginia’s Lamb of God for their major label debut ‘Ashes of the Wake’. For most of us, the dreaded ‘metal band meets major label’ vibes were instantly apparent once we digested the stunning move that LOG have now made. Metal fans are mighty distrusting of the majors, and any move towards the corporate sector usually means ‘sellout commercialism’ and ‘wannabe rock-stardom’.
Fortunately, the powers that be at Sony have been wise enough to leave LOG to their own devices. Nope, there’s not a whiff of radio friendly ‘hits’ on this disc. Aside from a slightly more polished production (which is an improvement), the rest of AOTW sounds like your regular LOG album. In fact, I’d even say the band has become a tad heavier. The only other thing Sony represents for LOG is mass distribution and worldwide media promotion that is guaranteed to have LOG become a household name…well, in the metal world at least.
AOTW is a rather quick follow up to the excellent ‘As the Palace Burns’ of 2003. No doubt the major label backing and Ozzfest dates have motivated the band to capitalise on the astonishing momentum that they are currently enjoying. As such, it sounds a little rushed in parts with a tad over-repetitiveness creeping into their song writing. However, it is hard to ignore the absolutely stunning musicianship that is laid down here – those intricate riff passages wield a slightly Meshuggah meets Megadeth technicality, whilst the breakdowns and mammoth grooves employed on ‘Palace..’ have become even more pronounced.
Stylistically, most of what LOG does borrows from some long time metal favorites – namely Pantera and Slayer. Knowing this, the modern metal meets thrash vibe isn’t that original. And considering the impression that their debut ‘American Gospel’ and ‘Palace’ made on the entire American metal scene (including the Metalcore fraternity) – in that everyone else made a transitional shift in that direction – we could say that ‘Ashes’ doesn’t sound as fresh either. Where they had a certain individuality with their first two discs, LOG now tend to blend in with the crowd. Still, ‘Ashes’ is a powerful, unrelenting statement and filled with lots of intense and menacing rhythms that they are so synonymous with. Only the fickle (such as me) would complain about LOG supposed lack of variation in ideas.
There are some who think Randy Blythe’s one-dimensional vocals are a major ‘negative’ for LOG. I tend to disagree, and while I wouldn’t mind a little variation – there is no way a move toward a ‘clean-vocal’ sing-a-long chorus is going to happen with this band. That WOULD be their death knell. I’m pleased that Randy continues to bellow and rage with forceful passion and conviction. If you’re an angry man, you should sound like it. And Randy’s angry!!
‘AOTW’ is going to cause much discussion in the months to come. Hell, it’s already been hailed as a classic by some and derided by others for it’s apparent ‘safeness’. I tend to sit somewhere in the middle (weak bastard I know) – there is no doubt that this is a highly enjoyable ride and it slays 90% of the competition outright - It packs a mighty wallop. However, as leaders of a sound and style, LOG are going to have to branch out on the next album if they wish to stay ahead of the rapidly closing pack.