It’s almost getting easy to forget just how massive Lamb of God’s 2004 album Ashes of the Wake was when it dropped, here all these extreme years later. But, seriously, this thing packed so much of a punch and it’s still incredible. I can verify this, because I’ve been re-examining it closely for today’s analysis and, yeah, fuck yeah, this thing is still a monster.
That’s why we recently inducted it into our Hall of Fame—in our 200th issue, to boot. The album deserves that sort of attention, and today we’re taking a closer look at it, ranking the songs from worst to best, with the end result being the finest moment on this most finest of modern metal albums, one that deservedly got the band into the big leagues, leading the new wave of American heavy metal straight into the charts, but with absolutely no compromises along the way.
11. Remorse Is for the Dead
There’s not really any bad songs on this album, there are just songs that are really good and songs that are extremely fucking good. Closer “Remorse Is for the Dead,” well, I always felt this album went on a song or two too long, so this one kinda suffers being placed where it is. Listen to it alone, man, it’s a winner, they’re all winners. But it’s definitely in the second tier of these amazing songs, and kinda banished to last place here almost because of album placement and one kinda annoying vocal line at 3:09 that lasts for like six seconds, if we’re really splitting hairs. The Pantera mosh at the end rules, though, and the drumming is suitably bonkers and the vibe ominous as the album comes to a close. The fact that this is as “bad” as it gets shows how amazing this album is.
10. Break You
Definitely one of the album’s forgotten tracks, at least to me, “Break You” does have that great fast part that kicks in shortly after a minute or so has passed, but the core of the song is a sludge trawl that works quite well, and the intense groove part that makes up the song’s climax is an example of how to make groove metal not suck. Not amazing but nowhere near bad, just a solid deep cut on an album that is basically excellent through and through.
9. What I’ve Become
I love this song’s buildup, and when the band lock in around the two minute mark, this song is undeniable. That huge riff at 2:26 is to die for, as brain dead as it may be. The screaming that takes it all home near the end is powerful, making this another great but kinda-forgotten deep cut.
8. Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
Ah, yes, been waiting a number of years to say this: I don’t really like this song that much, the way the band sort of drop an early chorus right off the bat then go into a somewhat ineffective double-time sprint… I dunno, it just never added up to me as much as many of the other songs on the album did, and I find placing it as track 3 to be a bit of a downer (I realize the world disagrees with me on this, and you should buy the June issue to get some insight into the writing of this very song). At this point in their career, Lamb of God weren’t exactly capable of duds, but this song just always felt like it threw up a wall (the chorus) right when I was starting to groove to it, or something. The two riffs at the end that just get slower and slower totally kill it, though, as does the hail-Testament riffing at the song’s midpoint.
7. Blood of the Scribe
As great as this album is, it’s pretty front-loaded, and it’s at this point in the disc—track six—that I often start to tune out a bit, not because songs like this one aren’t good, but because the band really blew our minds in the first half. This song has great riffs but less to remember, until that riff kicks in at 1:35, and then, man, I’m listening, we’re all listening, this is important, this is metal going in new directions, good god damn this is amazing. Another winner. And that weirdo tempo change at 3:28 just solidifies the deal.
6. One Gun
I live in Canada so the title “One Gun” always, unfortunately, makes me think of a far lesser song than this one, Lamb of God laying down a sturdy and dependable mid-paced anthem of sorts here, double-bass work sounding more machine than man, in a good way, the song’s solo part tipping the hat to thrash titans of decades past while the verses firmly bring metal into a new age. Love the closing riff, the interplay between the members so tight, the vibe ominous, the song just awesome.
5. Ashes of the Wake
A rare late-album title track here, “Ashes of the Wake” placed at track 10 of 11, the song taking Testament riffing and Pantera attitude to new places, Lamb of God absolutely becoming new kings of thrash by this point on the album. Well played, really; when the band throw it down for the speed part, it’s as energizing as hearing Metallica for the first time. This instrumental has tons of twists and turns and samples and solos, and atmosphere for miles.
So, yes, the spoken intro was awkward from day one, but the huge Pantera pull of an opening riff is skull-bashing, so we’re even, Lamb of God here fully establishing themselves as the Pantera of the new millennium, this song’s sludge pace a welcome break after the first four songs’ speed. I love the halfway point, when things drop and lock and get serious, the band’s machine-gun double-bass attack just absurdly on point, octopus drum work leading the way into the hypnotic, controlled, focused end part. A bit of restrained victory here.
The labyrinth of riffs, the songwriting prowess, the mix of classic thrash riffing (hello, riff attack at 1:03), the vocal lines to remember and then to die for… it’s “Hourglass,” and it just gets better and better as the song goes on, the moshing getting heavier and heavier, the masterful build that is… well, basically the entire song, yeah, man, it’s “Hourglass” and holy crap is it ever good. When vocalist Randy Blythe drops the name of the album in a passionate scream then whispers that “It’s only getting worse,” it’s goosebumps every time, all these years later.
2. The Faded Line
“The Faded Line,” like damn near every song on this album, shows a band so locked in together and at the height of their powers (where they would stay for a long time) it’s ridiculous. The drum part that starts at 0:41 is outrageously solid, and the melody that kicks in at 1:31, argh, forget it, this is unbelievable, and the ending fucking-hopeless-siren part is icing on the cake. The more I dive into it and tear it apart the better it gets. Could slide into #1 if #1 wasn’t so damn amazing.
1. Laid to Rest
Man, what an opener, Lamb of God absolutely laying everything to waste here, the band knowing exactly how an album should get started. And even though I’m no longer a 14-year-old boy (although, to be honest, I was no longer a 14-year-old boy even when this album came out), every time Blythe says “fuck” here I still lose my marbles. This is an absolutely essential song when looking back at ’00s metal, and, really, an essential song when looking back on our magazine’s history as well, all timing considered. Thanks for the soundtrack, Lamb of God.