It always feels like an odd thing to review a record which saw the light of day fifteen years ago; on the one hand every one familiar with Ashes of the Wake would have already made their minds up about the album and any one unfamiliar with Lamb of God is unlikely to have electricity in the cave in which they have been living since the start of the millennium. That said, I see this reissue as being a good reason to look back at Lamb of God when they were defining their sound, before it was sanitised on the excellent-but-polished Sacrament and beyond, and before the weight of expectation was placed on their collective shoulders.
Emerging at a time when Nu-Metal was going through its final and painful death-throws, Lamb of God - along with their contemporaries Hatebreed, Killswitch Engage, Chimera, Trivium, et al. - spearheaded the New Wave of American Heavy Metal which ditched the turntables and brought vitriol back the music.
Ashes of the Wake was Lamb of God’s fourth album and their first major label release. Coming little over a year after 2003’s As the Palaces Burn which moved the band away from their Burn the Priest past wherein the groove became more prevalent and the death metal influences were put by. It’s been a long time since I last listened to Ashes of the Wake and hearing it again reminds of how accomplished the band were even back in 2004. There is a raw, visceral energy to tracks like ‘Laid to Rest‘, ‘Now You Got Something to Die For’ and ‘Omerta’ all of which still regularly appear in Lamb of God’s set-lists to this day.
The chemistry of the five members of Lamb of God bleeds through every note on this album with messers Adler and Campbell laying down the foundation upon which Willie Adler and Mark Morton can build their riffs. Such is the sound of Lamb of God that the guest soloists on the title track of the album, seasoned veterans of the scene that Alex Skolnick and Chris Poland are, their work seems somewhat disjointed from the rest of the record. And, of course, Randy Blythe’s punk-influenced raps spit bile with every syllable.
So the question needs to be asked: Why should you check out a fifteen year old record? Other than the fact that it’s an important album in the pantheon of millennial American metal it marks an important moment in the development of a band just before they got the recognition they deserved. Imagine it as Lamb of God’s 'Killers', their 'Ride the Lightning' or their 'Hell Awaits'.
But, if you’re still not convinced and want something a little more palpable, then how about the pre- production demos of ‘Laid to Rest’, ‘Ashes of the Wake’ and ’Remorse is for the Dead’ which offers an insight into the development of those songs and, wider, a view of Lamb of God’s creative process.