Lamb of God - Hourglass
Record Label: Epic Records
Release date: June 1, 2010
Originally formed as Burn the Priest in Richmond, Virginia, Lamb of God is celebrating their 15th anniversary as a band. Over that course of time, they've released a total of six full-lengths, in addition to a number of other releases (EPs, DVDs, etc.). Impressively, the band has maintained a consistent line-up for over a decade, and they are still going stronger than ever.
With a recent string of luck including a support slot on Metallica's North American tour, a song exclusively featured in the Iron Man 2 video game, and their first trip to the Philippines, the band's popularity is at an all-time high. Their success is sure to continue with a main stage spot on the Mayhem Festival this summer followed by another trek with Metallica. It seems like the perfect time to release a retrospective chronicling the group's rise to the top. Epic Records is treating fans to just that with Hourglass, a three-disc anthology of the band's best cuts and rare material.
The first CD, subtitled The Underground Years, features song from the Burn the Priest's 1999 self-titled full length; their debut as Lamb of God, 2000's New American Gospel; and their breakthrough album, 2003's As the Palaces Burn. The tracks are curiously not in chronological order, which takes away from the flow. The band changed their sound considerably between these three albums, beginning with sludgy, groove-oriented songs (see "Lies of Autumn") before progressing into thrashier territory. Meanwhile, vocalist Randy Blythe matured from growls and shrills to decipherable screams. The disc opens perfectly with "Black Label", which remains a live staple to this day. "Ruin", my personal favorite of the band's catalog, follows. Other choice tracks among the thirteen are the hard-hitting "11th Hour" and "Terror and Hubris in the House of Frank Pollard".
Disc two is The Epic Years and contains cuts from their releases on their current label, Epic Records: 2004's Ashes of the Wake, 2006's Sacrament, and 2009's Wrath. Once again out of order, this disc features a fairly predictable set of the band's most well-known tracks. Half of the disc's twelve songs are singles (including the Guitar Hero 2 hit "Laid to Rest" and the Grammy-nominated "Redneck"). The other half are songs with which people may not be familiar with but are still good tunes. While the band still has some metalcore moments these days, most songs focus around the guitar work of Mark Morton and Willie Adler. Signing to a major label is often viewed as a kiss of death for bands, but Lamb of God have not only achieved great success but also shown improvement in their musicianship.
The Vault, the collection's final volume, is what I was really looking forward to. It features an array of rare material, much of which has never seen the light of day in a wide release. Kicking things off is a handful of B-sides/bonus tracks. There is nothing inherently wrong with these five songs by any means, but nothing particularly stands out about them either. For example, "Shoulder of Your God" drags on at six minutes, while "Condemn The Hive" has the most uninspired breakdown the band has ever written. Still, as a fan, it's nice to have this material.
Following the B-sides is a set of rehearsal demos from their years on Epic. Most remain largely unchanged from how they appear on the album, but there are some altered arrangements and vocals. The production values are, naturally, lower than that of a typical CD, but the songs offer surprisingly strong production for a demo. Rounding out the collection is rare Burn the Priest material from their old tour tape and 7". This material will be cherished by old school fans, as it has never been widely released.
Being a completest and a fan of the the band's entire catalog, I would recommend grabbing Lamb of God's individual albums rather than this anthology. As to be expected with any "best of" collection, the set is missing some great tracks. If you're new to Lamb of God and on a tighter budget, however, Hourglass serves as a perfect introduction to the leaders of the new wave of American heavy metal.
I really enjoy this band. They're not really a metalcore group compared to the vast majority of metalcore bands out there, but they come the closest I've ever heard to actually combining metal (death or otherwise) and hardcore punk, alongside maybe Shai Hulud (although LoG is closer to metal and Shai Hulud is closer to hardcore punk).
Good call with Ruin as your favorite song. Love it.