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 #2 album, coming in with a total of 247 points…
Lamb of God, As the Palaces Burn (Prosthetic, 2003)
Randy Blythe – Vocals/Guitars
Mark Morton – Guitars
Willie Adler – Guitars
John Campbell – Bass
Chris Adler – Drums
Produced by Devin Townsend and Lamb of God
I want to talk about what is arguably Lamb of God’s finest hour as a piece of this entire list. Because I could tell you “Oh it’s so brutal and it rocks so hard and it raped my sister and killed my dog,” but whatever. The bottom line is, if you don’t own this album, you really should.
No, I’m much more interested in what As the Palaces Burn represents.
The list is really the result of a poll, and the poll results were relatively populist (I say “relatively” because it’s metal. There is a ceiling to how populist it can ever really be.). I don’t know why this should surprise anyone. So let’s try to understand for a moment why bands like Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Mastodon became so popular in the first place.
Ten years ago, there were not a lot of bands that were a) heavy, b) actually knew how to play their instruments, c) had any sense of song craft, and d) connected with more than about fifteen people. And roughly around the time that Metallica released Load, I just kind of stopped buying new metal releases. Sure, every few years you were lucky and Slayer or Pantera or Tool (who are definitely fucking metal) would put something out, but otherwise, those were good times to familiarize yourself with anything old that you’d missed. And because nu-metal fans were less inclined to become new metal fans, any chance of actually making a living in extreme music kind of dried up, and the undergound became buried so far underground that you had to be Indiana fucking Jones to find it.
Around 2002-2003ish, though, there was just something in the air. At that point, Lamb of God and their peers were not headlining rooms of thousands of people. Gold records and Rolling Stone articles and spots on Return of the Rock or whatever the fuck MTV was playing and sets at Donnington were not really in the cards for these dudes. Not a lot of people were anticipating As the Palaces Burn.
As the Palaces Burn was a perfect amalgamations of metal’s history up to that point. Lamb of God had the evil riffs of Slayer, the precision attack of Metallica, the groove of Pantera. Chris Adler’s drums might have owed a lot to Dave Lombardo, but they probably owed a lot to death metal, too – as did Randy Blythe’s vocals. Maybe Lamb of God weren’t the tr00est band that ever lived, but they were the truest melting pot of American metal at its finest. Speaking personally, I never gave up on metal, never lost my love of metal or taste for metal – but I had stopped caring about the scene and given up hope that it might ever give birth to something new that I might actually give a shit about.
The top five albums on this list, and the eventual popularity of those albums, were all instrumental (no pun intended) in restoring my faith that there were other people that cared about good metal in the world. It’s interesting to note how at least three of those albums all came out around the same time, and were all the second or third release by the bands in question – because those albums were when the buzz turned into the explosion. It’s when As the Palaces Burn suddenly became populist – and I guarantee you it bolstered the record sales of Cannibal Corpse, Pig Destroyer, and a hundred other bands that deserve the attention, too. Because a portion of those scenester fucks we all find so annoying will become actual, honest to Satan metalheads, and metal will continue to thrive as a result.
I fucking love this record. It is, to my ears, the definitive release from one of the very best American metal bands of the past decade. Devin Townsend’s production is much rawer than anything the band has produced since, but it still sounds massive and somehow inviting. The riffs to “Ruin” and “11th Hour” and especially “Vigil” get my dick hard every time. As the Palaces Burn is brutal, and it rocks so hard, and it raped my sister and killed my dog.
THE LIST SO FAR:
#8 – In Flames, Clayman
#9 – Gojira, From Mars to Sirius
#10 – Opeth, Ghost Reveries
#11 – Deftones, White Pony
#12 – Tool, Lateralus
#13 – Mastodon, Blood Mountain
#14 – System of a Down, Toxicity
#15 – Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle, Part 1
#16 – Machine Head, The Blackening
#17 – Hatebreed, Perseverance
#18 – Lamb of God, New American Gospel
#19 – Mastodon, Remission
#20 – Shadows Fall, The War Within
#21 – Slipknot, Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses
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