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Social-Politico Discussions with Mr. Blythe - 47%

JamesIII, January 22nd, 2010

I originally had the desire to ignore this album and simply not write a review on it but its seems to be haunting me to get my take on this nonsense. From the already posted reviews, there is a heavy mixture of feelings towards "Ashes of the Wake" and Lamb of God in general. The majority of the posts here are all saying things that are legitimate, whether it be positive or negative. The end verdict, at least on my part, is that Lamb of God can be compared to ice cream. Listening to them a little can be enjoyable, but extended listens can induce painful headaches and an urge to stay away from them for a while.

In my younger years, I loved bands like Pantera and Machine Head, and still do to some extent, so my opinion on Lamb of God closely follows those two bands. All three of these bands (and many others in the groove realm) can write interesting songs so long as they keep the song lengths adequate with the idea pool and stay away from five, six or even seven minute sonic boredom. Pantera got better at this as time went on, though Machine Head never did figure it out before they sank into mediocrity of the lowest degree on "The Burning Red," and Lamb of God seems determined to follow suit. While I did not think "As the Palaces Burn" was mind blowing awesome, it was enjoyable for its compact length of just under 40 minutes. The album presented some interesting things going on, and the raw sound quality kept Randy Blythe's interference to a minimum. "Ashes of the Wake" is not so fortunate, attempting something memorable but falling down a staircase in the process.

The music here is not entirely different from before, but with a few missing features. For one, I loved the way "As the Palaces Burn" sounded with its sub-standard but not unbearable sound quality. It possessed a sense of raw charm that kept me from selling it a week after I had it. "Ashes of the Wake" is cleaner in sound, and simply funnels off the ideas from before. Sure, those ideas worked on the previous album, but on this album, they become stale and simply boring as time moves on. Instead of manifesting any real creative stride here, as any major band should aspire to do at some point, we simply run off a well of mid-tempo energy. The riffs aren't particularly noteworthy, though there are a few exceptions, and Chris Adler does push himself to catch the listener's attention every once in a while. Chris Adler remains my favorite musician in this band, and remains the strongest link in the chain.

A few noteworthy songs to toss out there would be "Hourglass," "The Faded Line," and "Omerta." None of these three are particularly amazing, as they end up becoming above average groove metal. I can tolerate groove metal so long as it presents interesting concepts relative to its song durations, which these three songs do. The spoken word introduction to "Omerta" is a nice touch considering its lyrical content but begins to grow unnecessary on repeat listens. "Reclamation" also presents a few interesting things going on, including contrasting sections that hold together well enough. This band has always put their best material in the last song, just too bad "Reclamation" doesn't have alot of competition in terms of quality.

Aside from the instrumental mishaps and stagnation that occurs, the weakest link on this album and in this band is Randy Blythe. Plenty of others have said it but it bears repeating that he is not only monotous in his delivery but also very grating. I have heard a number of annoying vocalists defile my sense of hearing including the singer in Mastodon, but Randy Blythe takes the cake. To dissect what he sounds like, it honestly sounds like the quasi-death growls Phil Anselmo did on "Far Beyond Driven" mated with the bark of a coyote who suffers from a bad case of constipation. The wretched spawn of this mating then became Blythe's voice, which he decided to share with the world in his quaint little band. However, even this is not the worst part of this album, which I dive into in the next paragraph.

"Ashes of the Wake" was spawned in the year 2004, the year that every musician and his mother decided to voice their political opinions. Naturally, the heated opposition to George W. Bush and his brand of unquestioning Nationalism spawned alot of angst directed in the political realm, but very few bands approached the subject with any iota of intelligence. The best example of this, of course, was Green Day who refined the art of making a jack ass of yourself by approaching politics in a comical and unintelligible way. Lamb of God does this slightly better, but keep in mind the comparison. The band violated Songwriting 101 in that you are not supposed to write songs that are very current, which this album is. Its very anti-Bush and anti-war in its message. Its not so much whether I agree or disagree with their opinions, its that these opinions are shoved down the listener's throat. I absolutely detest bands trying to force their views on the audience, which is practically what 90% of those who voiced their opinions in 2004-2005 ended up doing. Considering most of the lyrical content on this album is obsolete as I'm writing this, it only proves my point. MegaDeth and early Sepultura knew how to write political songs that would be relevant years after its composition, not becoming a relic of a bygone era less than five years after its release. Apparently, Lamb of God did not get that memo.

In the end, I do not look kindly on "Ashes of the Wake." This band has gotten better as time has marched forward, although their evolution is a painfully slow one. Part of this album's pit falls is the lack of interesting concepts thrown into an album that is trying to be something ambitious. This occurs with most groove metal bands out there at some point, just look to how "The Blackening" played out. The other part is the lyrical writings, which seem like they were written out of angst over something very real yet had no real direction and instead tried to make something simple out of something that is very complex. If politics must be included in a recorded music form, they should never be current and/or specific, the two areas this band based their writings on heavily. To potential buyers, I'd simply say leave this album for the vultures as it offers very little that this band has not done better either before or since. If you absolutely must hear this, then seek it out at the bargain bin for $3 and don't even think of going any higher.