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Remastered and Reviewed: Lamb of God’s “As the Palaces Burn”

When As the Palaces Burn came out, I remember thinking, “this band really has a thing for murky, evil sounding records.” Lamb of God‘s debut, New American Gospel, was produced, engineered, and mastered by Steve Austin, Today is the Day‘s central band member, and it showed. Thus Palaces‘ sound was no great surprise; the surprise was when the follow-up, Ashes of the Wake, was much cleaner, digital, and processed sounding.

And now Lamb of God has gone and had Palaces remixed and remastered. When the project was announced, I was skeptical. Palaces‘ original incarnation sounds pretty good. It’s the band’s most organic sounding record, highlighted by a corpulent, bass-heavy guitar tone. On a good set of headphones, it’s possible to pick out details that are smothered by the bass frequencies and thick guitars, but it’s work doing so. Ultimately, that didn’t matter. Frankly, Palaces has character and individuality, something missing from so many of the new millenium’s metal recordings.

The remixed version scrapes off most of the scuzz, pares the guitars down and tightens their sound, pushes the drums further forward in the mix, and makes the bass guitar and cymbals more audible. The drum fill at 0:05 on “Purified” is a good example. In the original version, the fill generates a massive thrum; it’s still there in the remix, but it’s quieter and more natural, clearly the echo of the drums in the studio, not an audio artifact from the mixing. The fill that opens “In Defense of Our Good Name” gets a similar treatment – less pollution, more accuracy.

Remember the guitar riff on “Ruin,” the one that is panned to the right, at 0:44? It now pans to the left. And the clipping at the end of the drum solo at 2:44 is gone, too. Not necessary changes, those, but interesting ones.

The new mix makes “11th Hour” sound faster and livelier, freeing up Chris Adler’s drumming, especially the double bass, to shine during the song’s penultimate moments. The double bass is easier to pick up on during “For Your Malice”, too. I always found the song a dirge and a bit of a drag in the record’s middle, but now it’s propulsive and just…better. The droning guitar line that opens “Boot Scraper” is louder and clearer and far more eerie and discomfiting.

As the Palaces Burn, in this remixed and remastered form, is the best version. It’s not the best just because it sounds clearer, but because it serves the songs better, and because it’s more honest to the band’s sound live. It does have a downside. The original mix’s murk made the band sound malicious and sinister; they were going to murder you, but slowly and torturously. That’s now gone, and we’re left with a surgical strike of a record that’s still the most organic-sounding Lamb of God album.

I do hope though that the original version remains commercially available, perhaps as a bonus disc, or as part of a compilation. Or better yet, as a free download. Whichever the band wants, because it’s the more interesting version of the record, even if it’s not the better version. It should remain available as a curiosity, a record of what a Pantera inspired groove-thrash band sounds like through a recording more fitting for a sludge band.

Give the new version a few listens. Fans will notice the differences, both large and small. They might like it better. I certainly do. It’s now the definitive As the Palaces Burn.

— Richard Street-Jammer

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