#7: LAMB OF GOD – ASHES OF THE WAKE
We recently polled a wide array of musicians, managers, publicists, label reps, and writers from within the world of metal to find out what they thought the 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century So Far have been. Eligible albums were released between January 1, 2000 and April 1, 2009. Each panelist turned in a ballot, with their #1 album worth 21 points, their #2 album worth 20 points, and so on and so forth. The ballots are now in and we’ll be counting down one album a day until we reach #1. Today we present the #7 album, coming in with a total of 172 points…
Lamb of God, Ashes of the Wake (Epic, 2004)
Randy Blythe – Vocals
Mark Morton – Guitars
Willie Adler – Guitars
John Campbell – Bass
Chris Adler – Drums
Produced by Machine and Lamb of God
Hooray, it’s number seven — listen to all those nearly-unanimous cheers for Lamb of God!
To me, Ashes of the Wake is about as centrist as heavy metal can be in the 2000s, and it’s really the sound of a brand new well-oiled machine. On this album Lamb of God sheared away what little was left of their unkempt basement band roots, and they tightened all the joints until they resembled a non-evil Slayer* with much fresher riffs. This is a triumph of slick professionalism that should cut across generational tastes, exactly what the struggling-to-resurge metal world needed in 2004. The ultra-consistent pace, almost metronome or click track steady, releases fury on a time release basis better than anything since At the Gates’ Slaughter of the Soul. That shouldn’t be a surprising comparison to anyone with ears.
I credit Ashes of the Wake with commercially killing off nu-metal, using a better groove derived from intricate latter-day thrash bands like Testament or even Coroner. Lamb of God even corralled lost cowboys Chris Poland and Alex Skolnick back to the metal camp to play sweet guest solos here. I’d argue further that the success of this record clamped a giant garbage can lid down on the prolific scream-sing-scream-sing radio-friendly melodic metal bands of the early 2000s – all wretched panderers that were considered Lamb of God’s peers until this album. Yet to succeed these guys didn’t bite the head off a bat, knife anybody in the back, or start a feud with Kerry King. As far as I know they never resorted to wearing funny contact lenses, either. They just played a lot of shows, practiced relentlessly for ten years or so, and after 500 or so appearances at godawful energy drink festivals, they emerged a kick ass band with a bumper crop of interchangeable great riffs. (They also drank with their fans, which always helps.)
Supposedly this is an anti-war album, a tight-lipped protest against Bush’s Iraq invasion that said they disapproved but were too tough to complain too much. That was the professionalism again — you didn’t take the stage in red state territory in 2004 preaching peace and love if you wanted to sell some T-shirts. Funny then that Lamb of God never struck me as a model of democracy. Especially back then they seemed like Randy-locks and the four bears – an immaculate dust-free instrumental quartet overshadowed by the fifth member, a charismatic and sweaty Southern screamer whose antics and monster voice gave the band its wide popular appeal.
Ashes of the Wake has definitely been influential on Lamb of God – they seized this formula and have clung to it for dear life ever since. And that’s why they’re thriving and available to fly the flag for intense metal and all of its technical traditions. Are there really six more durable albums from this decade? Ask me again in ten years, but I doubt there are more than two bands that have been as fiercely loved.
In addition to being the mastermind being Bazillion Points Books and the Bazillion Points blog, Ian Christe hosts Bloody Roots on Sirius XM radio and is the author of Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal and Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga.
THE LIST SO FAR:
THE PANEL OF VOTERS
Chris Adler, Lamb of God
Dan And, Bison B.C.
Ben Apatoff, Apatoff for Destruction/Metal Injection
Jason Bittner, Shadows Fall
Tim Brennan, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Freddy Cai, Painkiller Magazine
Ian Christe, Bazillion Points
Reverend David J. Ciancio, Yeah! Management
Betsey Cichoracki, Relapse Records
Paul Conroy, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
J. Costa, Thy Will Be Done
Dallas Coyle, ex-God Forbid/Coyle Media
Doc Coyle, God Forbid
Anso DF, MetalSucks/Hipsters Out of Metal!
Vince Edwards, Metal Blade Records
Charles Elliott, Abysmal Dawn/Nuclear Blast Records
Brian Fair, Shadows Fall
Leo Ferrante, Warner Music Group
D.X. Ferris, author 33 1/3: Reign in Blood/Freelance Journalist
Mike Gitter, Roadrunner Records
Nick Green, Decibel
Matt Grenier, August Burns Red
Anthony Guzzardo, Earache Records
Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia
Mark Hunter, Chimaira
Steve Joh, Century Media
EJ Johantgen, Prosthetic Records
Kim Kelly, Metal Injection/Hails & Horns/Freelance Journalist
Josh “The J” Key, Psychostick
Jason Lekberg, Epic Records
Eyal Levi, Daath
Bob Lugowe, Relapse Records
Matt McChesney, The Autumn Offering
Jake McReynolds, Psychostick
Marc Meltzer, The Syndicate
Josh Middleton, Sylosis
Matt Moore, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
Vince Neilstein, MetalSucks
Sammy O’Hagar, MetalSucks
Anton OyVey, MetalSucks/Bacon Jew
Rob Pasbani, Metal Injection
Alex Preiss, Psychostick
Carlos Ramirez, NoiseCreep/Universal Music Group
Brian Rocha, Fresno Media USA
Jeremy Rosen, Roadrunner Records
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks
Satan Rosenbloom, MetalSucks/Cerebral Metalhead
David Bee Roth, MetalSucks
Jason Rudolph, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Amy Sciarretto, Roadrunner Records/NoiseCreep
Carl Severson, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Gary Suarez, MetalSucks/No Yoko No/Brainwashed
Geoff Summers, The End Records/Crustcake
Bram Teitelman, The Syndicate/Metal Insider
Alisha Turull, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Christopher R. Weingarten, 1000TimesYes/Freelance Journalist