My love of Lamb of God comes with one gripe – the production jobs on their first two records. I spent a lot of time adjusting equalizer settings trying to round out the tinny guitar tones from Mark Morton and Willie Adler, find John Campbell‘s bass while not upping the ante with Chris Adler‘s thumping kick drums, and accepting the fact that Randy Blythe‘s vocals were tucked a little too far back into the mix. I was excited in 2003 when As the Palaces Burn (Razor & Tie/Prosthetic) came out as the production was handled by Devin Townsend, who I greatly admire as a writer, musician and producer. Unfortunately, yet again, the production was a disappointment. It sounded as though it was recorded under a blanket, with the drums too far upfront, the guitars sounding more colicky baby than crunching, vocals struggling to get on top, and the bass – yet again – getting the Jason Newsted circa …And Justice for All treatment. Bummer.
Thankfully, LoG has released a reissue of As the Palaces Burn (Prosthetic/Razor & Tie) in November, 2013, and it is definitely an improvement. The tracks were remixed and remastered, resulting in a big, crisp overall sound. The blanket has come off, so it sounds punchier and louder with a more balanced mix. It does not appear that the band members’ individual sounds have been tampered with very much. However, the shrillness on the top end has been dialed back with a tad more mids, and volume-wise they appear to have been kicked up in the mix. Blythe’s vocal placement in the mix is more forward as well. It is still a bit tucked, but definitely more upfront. The biggest change is in the rhythm section. Bassist Campbell is easier to pick out than in the original recording, but he is still blotted out by the suns that are Chris Adler’s kick drums. I have always felt that the key to a great LoG production job was to find a tone and a frequency Campbell could exist in that would not clash with Adler’s bass drums, and they have seemed to have worked that out on later recordings. For this reissue, though, it is as good as its going to get for Campbell sonically. Helping him be more of a presence is the scaling back of the drums in general, which are placed much better in the mix and sound tighter overall. I would say my only gripe with the remix is Adler’s snare sound, as it seems to be the one thing that was not improved with everything else. To this listener, it begs to be louder and with more snap, but at least the record sounds more like a band than a drum clinic with sidemen. I have to note that I was fortunate enough to go to a Chris Adler drum clinic a few years back, and he admitted that during the band’s early recording days a combination of insecurity and ego got in the way and perhaps the production may have suffered. As a fan who sees Chris as the leader of LoG, hearing him say that made sense of some of the mixing decisions made, and may well have impacted Devin Townsend’s production job on the original ATPB recording.
Besides the remixing and the remastering there are three unreleased demo versions of ‘Ruin’, ‘As the Palaces Burn’ and ‘Blood Junkie’. Other than sounding like, well, demos, they really aren’t bringing much to the party, and none of them vary from the originals as far as arrangement. Maybe the band felt they had to put other things on the release to make it special, but I would have been fine without them.
If you are a LoG fan that loves seeing their older releases get the remix and remaster treatment then you will enjoy this very much. It was great to listen to that album from front to back with a more sonically powerful mix and master, but with just enough polish to present the songs – and the band – as the top notch metal machine they are.