Personnel: Randy Blythe (vocals); Mark Morton, Willie Adler (guitar); Chris Adler (drums).
The first volume in Lamb of God's massive Hourglass: Anthology box set is entitled The Underground Years (though it can be purchased as a separate volume). Its 13 cuts range from 1998's self-titled Burn the Priest debut on Legion Records (which was re-released by Epic in 2005 while the quintet was forging its trademark hybrid of bare-bones thrash and death metal) through 2000's New American Gospel and 2003's As the Palaces Burn, on the Prosthetic label. It's compelling to listen to the hard-hitting primitivism of Burn the Priest, which walks the hardcore thrash side of the fence more than it does death metal side, though its feet are planted (if shallowly) in that soil as well -- take a listen to "Bloodletting" as a prime example. That said, "Suffering Bastard," on the same album, brings in the first of its insane tempo and dynamic changes and double-tracks Randy Blythe's vocals in both guttural and screaming modes. The jump to New American Gospel is substantial. The songs gets longer, the band has been playing as a unit longer, and they've been tested on the road doing everything from basement shows to opening for mid-level and even prominent death metal acts. They also learned how to use a recording studio more effectively though Steve Austin and Chris Adler produced both sets. Check the changes in tension, texture, and sonic effects on "Pariah." Devin Townshend produced As the Palaces Burn, and one can hear the sound of a band on the verge of breaking out, fully confident in what it has chosen to affect as its musical identity, as tracks such as "11th Hour" and the title cut evidence. Hardcore fans could argue as to material selection here all day, but this volume does present a representative document of Lamb of God's formal development and their transition from the underground to the Billboard-charting major-label act they would become in 2004. ~ Thom Jurek