Holy blood junkies, one of the first masterworks of the American metal revival turns ten years old already! LAMB OF GOD's "As the Palaces Burn" may not have settled all that agreeably to the band's ears upon its release a decade ago, yet there's no denying this album triggered a frenzy in the metal underground alongside MASTODON's "Remission", re-released the same year.
However silly the colloquial tag of the "New Wave of American Heavy Metal" that chased LAMB OF GOD may be, the arrival of "As the Palaces Burn" introduced to U.S. audiences a Dixie-fried interpretation of the dizzying Swedish extreme metal of AT THE GATES and MESHUGGAH, plus Canadian tech hounds STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. Decimating air spaces like the metallic soundtrack to Sherman's pillaging of the South and his torching of its Confederate bastions, "As the Palaces Burn" remains one of the most furious albums conjured in any era of heavy metal music.
Now celebrating the pivotal album's tenth anniversary, "As the Palaces Burn" returns with a sparkling remix courtesy of Josh Wilbur, producer of future LAMB OF GOD records, "Wrath" and "Resolution". Included in this package are three demo tracks for "Ruin", the title track and "Blood Junkie", plus a 70-minute accompanying documentary, "The Making of As the Palaces Burn".
As the band themselves convey in the DVD film, the original cut of "As the Palaces Burn" hardly came out to their vision, almost unfathomable to conceive with Devin Townsend helming the original recording sessions. Yet, this spit-shined redux brings forth a richer tone all-around, the biggest beneficiary being drummer Chris Adler, whose floor tom licks and clattering cymbal rides come raging to the front of the new mix. Adler all but dominates "Blood Junkie" now, those spots not occupied by Randy Blythe's scat-woofs. His throbbing double hammers shoved here to the fore of "A Devil in God's Country" changes the dynamic of the song dramatically, serving as the primary march in front of the huffing riffs that set up the dizzying solo section and outro. If there's ever been any doubt Chris Adler is one of the masters of his trade, then listen to all of his kit stations ring at once on "In Defense of Our Good Name".
The titanic riffs summoned by Mark Morton, Willie Adler and John Campbell sound crisper, while the guest guitar solo from Chris Poland on "Purified" and Devin Townsend's luminous shreds on "A Devil in God's Country" carry much more vivacity. The haunting guitar chimes opening the classic "Vigil" ring even more ominously, while the broiling, guitar-slashed breakdowns on the tempo-mad "11th Hour" prove a second time around to be the absolute finest wielded by any contemporary metal band. Every single breakdown segment in today's metal scene pales shamefully in comparison to "11th Hour"'s and "A Devil in God's Country"'s, for that matter.
The terrorizing agitation of "Purified"'s intro is even more gruesome now, while Randy Blythe's concentrated ralphs come scorching with perfect pentameter as the song rumbles along. More than ever, the static whirlwinds summoned on "For Your Malice" ring like the tumultuous inferno implied by the album's title. Also more enhanced are the spectacular guitar solos and writhing outro to "Ruin", plus the bee-buzzing guitar squelches on the title track.
Assuming you've already heard "As the Palaces Burn" (and woe be to your sorry carcass if you haven't), there's no more elaboration needed to gush over the album's thrash-hungry tenacity and jaw-busting brutality. The main story to this package is the lush do-over to the original masters and the fascinating behind-the-scenes DVD that reveals a song-by-song breakdown with varying opinions from each band member. Randy Blythe's insight ranges from modest to peculiarly standoffish on a few tracks, while the consensus of his band mates believe this album to be their finest effort, save for an internally-perceived lackluster finish. With Devin Townsend himself chiming in on the documentary, the conclusion he leaves is that "As the Palaces Burn" was, at the time, considered a mere job, a side dish to quell the ravenous appetite stoked by his own prolific endeavors.
It seems even Townsend himself was surprised by the runaway success of "As the Palaces Burn" after the video for "Ruin" put LAMB OF GOD on the map. In the end, it's the fans who helped make this album a modern-day legend. LAMB OF GOD set out to raise the bar on themselves following their lone BURN THE PRIEST album and "New American Gospel" thereafter. "As the Palaces Burn" subsequently found LAMB OF GOD playing at their highest level. Still a reliable metal act today, "As the Palaces Burn" is nonetheless a precedent LAMB OF GOD will always be held accountable to, now even more so with this gleaming anniversary edition.