To some, a ‘Re-Release’ is up there with a ‘Best Of …’ album -- something the record company puts out to rake in more cash from fanboy/girl, or, is released by the band as a stop-gap, until they can think up some new material. Most of the time, you’d be right. This time however, Burn The Priest is being re-released because there are probably a lot of Lamb Of God fans out there who don’t know that Lamb Of God were formerly known as Burn The Priest and released Burn The Priest on Legion Records in 1998. Therefore, to let all the fanboys/girls know that they are missing an album from their Lamb Of God collection, Sony/Epic are using their powerful distribution machine to give them all the chance to complete their collection. It will also give anyone who has recently got into the band, after hearing their latest album Ashes Of The Wake, the chance to see where Lamb Of God came from and how they have progressed musically.
Burn The Priest/Lamb Of God crashed onto the scene like a jet-propelled bulldozer on afterburner, rolling over, smashing through and casting aside all challengers to be the top band in the newest of Metal sub-genres – ‘New Wave Of American Heavy Metal’ (NWOAHM) (source – Roadrunner Records Poll where 36% of over 3000 pollsters voted them #1 NWOAHM band). This is not to be confused with Nu-Metal! Nu-Metal is dead, and reading the obituary, NWOAHM was probably what killed it. Other bands that have been tagged as NWOAHM are: Killswitch Engaged, Atreyu, Chimaira, Machine Head, God Forbid, American Head Charge, and Slipknot, who through well thought out re-invention, are one of the few bands that have managed to survive the death of Nu-Metal, only to be re-labelled as NWOAHM, though as yet, on probation.
In 1998 when Burn The Priest was released, Lamb Of God's line up was: Vocals – Randy Blythe, Guitars – Mark Morton and Abe Spear, Bass – John Campbell, and Drums – Chris Adler. The only change from then is Chris Adler’s brother Willie replaced Abe Spear on Guitar. From day one, the band must have made the decision to play in Drop C, which, for non-musicians out there, is damn low. To let you know how low Lamb Of God keep it, John Campbell plays a 3 string bass, probably because the key never goes up high enough to need a first string, but there is method in their madness. As anyone who has stood next to a bass speaker at a gig will tell you, when your lungs are vibrating off your spine, you don’t get a better feel for the music than that!
Kicking off with “Bloodletting,” you might think ‘Nothing new there,’ but remember, this came out in 1998, when you would have thought ‘Wonder if I’ve got any skin left on my ears?’ In fact, the first two tracks, “Bloodletting” and “Dimera,” are probably the only tracks on the album that sound slightly dated. They also don’t sound as tight as they could be, with the kick drums being kinda ragged, the vocals sounding forced, and nothing really spectacular comes from the guitars. Again, you have to remember that not only is it a 1998 release, but their debut album, and it is difficult to not compare these songs with their newer material. Hindsight isn’t always a good thing.
Track 3, “Resurrection #9,” and it’s right into overdrive. It’s like they’ve suddenly figured it all out and everything tightens up. The vocals are more brutal and powerful. The drumming, which, because of its aggressiveness, is the driving force of the music, takes on a life of its own with machine gun triplet and stop-start kicks, rattling toms and snare, and well-placed cymbal chiming. What's more, you realize why the guitars are drop-tuned; there is no way they could play what the do, or as fast, on standard tuned guitars. The sonic assault continues through “Goatfish” and “Salivation,” until “Lies Of Autumn” slows the pace down to some sludgy, chugging guitar riffage, just to let you get your breath back and do a quick check for any bodily damage. Be quick, though, because at 2 minutes 30 seconds in, the carnage and mayhem return, assaulting your senses through the aptly titled “Chronic Auditory Hallucination,” and “Suffering Bastard” to “Buckeye,” which starts off at a bajillion beats a minute, but slows down to some more chugging guitaring, though there is still enough aggression there for you to snap your neck as you headbang through to the next track. “Lame” gives us something else from the Lamb Of God arsenal, aggressive stop-start riffing. Again, you get the slower grungy rhythm from near half-way through the track, only this time you have a short guitar thrash and screaming vocals to finish.
“Preaching To The Converted,” “Departure Hymn,” and “Duane” are the storm after the relative calm. You’ve got everything in there; low growling to screaming vocals; grungy rhythm to thrashing guitar riffs; drumming that is just a tinkling of cymbals one second, an explosion of blastbeats and thundering kicks the next; and you actually make out the bass guitar on these tracks so it would be advisable to step away from your super woofer! “Ruiner,” the final track, has something different to get your head around; the closest thing to a guitar solo on the entire album.
At the time of writing, Burn The Priest is a 7-year old album; it was NWOAHM before the name was even thought up. This album could arguably be the first salvo of the assault of NWOAHM on the Metal scene. Yet, on the whole, it has so much of the ingredients from the NWOAHM that is around today, that Burn The Priest could easily pass itself off as a brand new release. It should also appeal to a wide range of Metalheads being an amalgam of Death, Thrash, Power, Old School, and various other Metal sub-genres. Of course, you are always going to get your stuck in the groove Metaller whose music collection consists of the entire official, unofficial, and bootleg releases of a handful of bands from a single music genre, who thinks anything else just isn’t Metal. These are the people who should open their minds and grab hold of Burn The Priest, as there is no doubt a little bit of what floats their boat in there somewhere. These are also the people who will say that NWOAHM is just another fad replacing the gap left by Death or Nu-Metal. Not so, NWOAHM is here, it’s picking up momentum, Lamb Of God are leading the pack, and Burn The Priest is one of the reasons why they are!
To find out more about Lamb Of God and Burn The Priest, check out these Web sites:
Label’s own Band Site (Epic Records):