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Best Album of its kind to this day - 95%

Annable Courts, December 6th, 2017

This album is near perfect. Where at the time bands were often going for a ripoff melodic death metal sound or metalcore or a core-something sound of sorts, Lamb of God was anchored in traditional American metal while incorporating elements of the contemporary scene with just as much measure. This album is absolute balance, first and foremost. It's clearly strongly Slayer-influenced, it's indeed got breakdowns... but it utilizes those influences rather than abuses them, and how much a riff on this album may bring to mind Slayer it'll still be distinct and original all the while. Every song is fresh, totally distinct. Within the songs, there are no fillers, every section is just as exciting as the previous, as the next. Each song has identity, drive, and life. It's authentic stuff with true spirit. Each song is filled with just enough material that it's well beyond the ordinary verse/chorus/verse/chorus format but never ventures into untidy experimental territory at any point, the music is made to bear a certain complexity while feeling purely catchy, never a headache. The songs and entire album are totally under control and it's obvious the song-writers were on top of their craft here when it comes to management and pacing. Just excellently "directed". They give you a glimpse of all the different facets and ideas of the Ashes of the Wakes sound, but never rehash or repeat or heavily emphasize any of it. This is no self-indulgent album, it's a real treat.

Musically this album contains the obvious backbone traditional thrash metal foundation, but beyond the other 'core-ish' elements there's some really unique work going on as far as surprisingly smooth alternative guitar parts ('Break You' verse) or even a taste for industrial: the brilliant ending to 'One Gun' depicts a dark bleak spiraling descent and they went through the trouble of using processed drums, or the occasional bass boom added for effect. 'Break You' also contains a section that is closer to a kind of thrashy black metal, while 'Omerta' is strongly doom-metal tainted. There's thought put into each section, every inch of the album is looked at closely and the arrangements are a key-part of this masterpiece.

The riffs vary from potent power-chord rides to the sinister Slayeresque iconic riffs, to the much sludgier southern tones, from fast to slow, to some of the weirdest riffs (the infamous "vomit riff" on 'Hourglass' or that insane verse riff on 'The Faded Line', or a couple of riffs off the incredible Ashes of the Wakes instrumental), to exotic sounding leads (Faded Line breakdown), to easier/catchier riffage as on the bouncy and fun opener Laid to Rest. The vocals are absolutely superb and somehow fit the music despite their rare quality, the drums are absolutely legendary in sound, precision and writing - the guitar tone is crunchy and the production just fits the sonic spirit of the album just right: abrasive, polished but not overproduced. Raw but nice simultaneously.

One of the best metal albums ever, all subgenres together.