Burn the Priest

Burn the Priest

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Lamb of God's fan cult only grew with 2004's Ashes of the Wake, the Virginia metal band's first for Epic, and their hit status prompted this great reissue of their debut full-length. Burn the Priest is as unsubtle as its name implies, a nervy and volatile prototype of the thrash/death/hardcore hybrid that Lamb of God would eventually preach. If Pantera had recorded Vulgar Display of Power for Relapse, it might've sounded something like Burn the Priest. Recorded in 1998 with Today Is the Day mastermind and go-to metal producer Steve Austin, it's a ragged statement of heavy music creativity that pits grunting and screaming death metal vocals against tracks that cut past the brashness, straight to the gristle of metal. Randy Blythe's varies between a guttural rasp and berserk howl, and the music is always hungry, never satisfied, always trying to add the unexpected twist or taser to the nerve ending that'll really make things sting. The thrash workout "Bloodletting" uses only what's required, no filler; "Resurrection #9" slides downhill into a half-time sludge worthy of Earth; and "Suffering Bastard," "Buckeye," and "Dimera" reward with powerful melodic hooks even as they're getting furious on jury-rigged drum pedals. Meanwhile, "Departure Hymn" and "Duane" are oriented more toward songcraft than triggering a visceral response. They find the loudest corner of hardcore, or incorporate staggering classicist metal breaks, or stop and start so suddenly into a new song (in the case of "Duane" into closer "Ruiner") that you lose the thread of what Burn the Priest is supposed to or trying to sound like, and focus on breaking your neck instead. With Wake, Lamb of God proved their "Pure American Metal" tag. Burn the Priest is just showing us where they got the gumption.

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