LAMB OF GOD - The Duke
November 18, 2016, a year ago
Since the much needed remix and remaster of As The Palaces Burn in 2013, it's become clear that it's one of the best and most ambitious - in a nose-to-the-grindstone sense - metal albums to have been released during the '00s. Though commercially successfully, the record's initial impact on its release in 2003 was unfortunately muted - literally - by its almost unlistenable production which, as it turns out, was more bad luck than incompetence: as Palaces producer Devin Townsend explains on the DVD documentary included with the re-release, a damaged laptop was the reason for its unintended sound. The production turned many off the album at the time, but the 2013 version and its vivid and fiery re-telling of the record highlights what an intense and acerbic achievement it really is. If you haven’t heard Palaces since ’03, track down the re-release and be ready to be impressed, loudly.
As The Palaces Burn is important in the context of latest Lamb Of God EP, The Duke, because The Duke’s two new tracks display much of the inspiration that the Palaces songs did, even if that inspiration manifests itself in different ways. The most important thing to know here is that The Duke’s title track was recorded during the Sturm Und Drang sessions and is a tribute to late Lamb Of God fan and friend Wayne Ford, who died of leukemia in 2015 at the way-too-young age of 33. The track’s lyrics are poignant and very real, and the way they intersect over the main riff is both inspirational and tragic at the same time (like material on the new Gojira album, which deals with the death of members Joe and Mario Duplantier’s mother, “The Duke” is overwhelmingly sad to listen to). The song is also a rallying cry for people to become informed about leukemia and the importance of bone marrow donors (by becoming a donor, “you may save someone’s life,” vocalist Randy Blythe has written on Lamb Of God’s website). On a musical level, the track is strong, the main riff accompanied by cymbal crashes that accentuate the seriousness of its message. Blythe’s clean singing during the verse is jarring at first, but it’s important that we hear these particular lyrics clearly and clean vocals are the way that gets done most effectively.
The other new track, “Culling”, was recorded during the Wrath sessions. It’s a fast, ripping song that’s full of fuel, incorporating the rage and groove that Lamb Of God is uniquely strong at. The Duke is completed by three live tracks, all originally from Sturm Und Drang, and the three are performed with the consummate professionalism of the group’s live show (which no doubt includes the perfection-on-perfection that is drummer Chris Adler’s performances).
The Duke is an important EP and a strong, and distinguished, gesture of support by Lamb Of God for Wayne Ford and for leukemia/bone marrow donation awareness. RIP Wayne -- hopefully you’re on the other side cranking Lamb Of God real loud.