June 17, 2010

Music Review: Lamb of God - Hourglass

I must say that Lamb of God's Hourglass release is an interesting one that comes in many forms. I think one of the most interesting things is that it is getting released at all, not that I am complaining. I look at this set and all that it comprises and it strikes me as the sort of thing that a band releases at the end of their career or as part of a deal to close out a contract. I doubt the prior is true and I would not be surprised by the latter. Frankly, it probably does not really matter if either of these are true or even what the real story is. The proof is in the pudding as they say and the content of the collection is all that really matters right? Now, if you are a metal who does not know Lamb of God or are someone interested in them, even fans will likely find something to like here, Hourglass is a great set of punch to the gut, kick to the face metal that gives you the full tour of the band's output to this point in their career.

Now, before going further you should probably familiarize yourself with the plethora of different forms this release takes (details obtained from the press release):
  • Hourglass: The Super Deluxe Set. The limited edition definitive collectors set including The 3 CD Anthology, The Vinyl Box Set, The USB set, the Book, a Mark Morton Signature Series Jackson Dominion D2, A 4’x6’ Pure American metal Flag, an Hourglass sticker, and a signed 8x10 in a personalized Lamb of God Coffin Case.
  • Hourglass: The Deluxe Set. The collectors set including The 3 CD Anthology, The Vinyl Box set, The USB Box Set, and a Linen bound 144 page book of the art of Lamb of God as created by K3n Adams including  designs for tour passes, albums, t-shirts, and his commentary on them.
  • Hourglass: The USB Box Set. All 6 Lamb of God studio albums on individual USB drives in a cigarette box shaped collectors package.  Includes Burn The Priest, New American Gospel, As The Palaces Burn, Ashes of the Wake, Sacrament, and Wrath.
  • Hourglass: The Vinyl Box Set. All 6 Lamb of God Studio albums for the first time on 180 Gram vinyl in a Linen-wrapped collectors box.  Includes Burn The Priest, New American Gospel, As The Palaces Burn, Ashes of the Wake, Sacrament, and Wrath.
And then there is the version I have made up three Hourglass volumes, which will undoubtedly be the most common of the releases, not to mention the only one you will likely see in stores. I cannot say I have ever seen a USB drive release on store shelves (SD card releases are a different story and seem even sillier to me), the vinyl may be a possibility but those section are quite small in the local stores. In any case, there is enough metal in the three disk set to last you a good road trip with enough substance to keep you coming back for more.

Volume one is subtitled: The Underground Years. The thirteen tracks cover the bands debut release under their original name Burn the Priest and their first two albums as Lamb of God, New American Gospel and their breakthrough release As the Palaces Burn.

It was with As the Palaces Burn that I had made my initial introductions with the band, quite by accident. I bought the album at a concert thinking it was for one of the acts I was seeing (no, I don't recall who I was there to see). It took a long time before I actually gave it a listen, but when I did I loved it. The album is represented by "Ruin," "11th Hour," "As the Palaces Burn," and "Vigil."

This initial disk also gave me my fist exposure to their two earlier releases. Nine more tracks of aggressive, brutal metal. These taken together with the four As the Palaces Burn songs profile a band that has the desire, the drive, the passion, and the talent to go far. You can hear the progression in their songwriting ability across the disk as they find their legs and grow together as a band/

Volume two is called The Epic Years and covers their biggest (so far) years and their biggest albums Ashes of the Wake, Sacrament, and Wrath This is easily the meat of the set in terms of familiar songs. It covers a many of their singles and their most popular material with songs like "Walk with Me in Hell," "Now You've Got Something to Die For," and "Redneck." This will, and should, be the focus for you newcomers.

There is tremendous growth from the first three albums to this second trio. This shows the band harnessing their aggression into some incredibly heavy and catchy songs. Vocalist Randy Blythe finds his growl and takes his throat to the edge of bloody excess while drummer Chris Adler stepped up his game as one of the top drummers in the business. There is definitely some great stuff here.

Now, the third disk is going to be the one of interest for long time fans. This volume is called The Vault. This disk has songs that originally appeared on special edition releases or the Japanese versions. There are also a few rehearsal demo tracks and the eight of oldest known recordings of Burn the Priest.

The bonus cuts are pretty solid. In particular I liked "We Die Alone" from the Wrath special edition and "Another Nail for Your Coffin" which was a bonus on the Japanese release of Ashes of the Wake.

Rehearsal demos are always pretty interesting as they give an insight into the development of the song prior to the final album versions. The five included here are good and vary in quality. They are presented warts and all, not perfect performances but a good idea of where they are going.

Closing out The Vault are the original Burn the Priest recordings. The recording is reflective of their origins, which is not bad. They show the band at their youngest, hungriest and with a still developing talent. Must have been a blast to see these guys on stage at this early moment in their career.

Bottomline. This is a really good collection. If you already have all of their albums you may only be interested in the third disk, but think of just having a condensed snapshot of their career on the first two. If you are among the curious, this should be a no brainer. Lamb of God may not be my favorite band, but they are are highly talented and have written some great tunes, I am definitely among their fans. Do yourself a favor, check this out.

Highly Recommended.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Article first published as Music Review: Lamb of God - Hourglass on Blogcritics.


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