Often when a band signs their proverbial soul to a major label, the music scene that once revered them cries foul (see Nirvana, Green Day, etc.), and such is the case with Richmond, Virginia’s Lamb Of God. The quintet — drummer Chris Adler, vocalist Randy Blythe, guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton, and bassist John Campbell — built a loyal speed-metal following, originally as Burn The Priest, releasing their first self-titled album on Legion Records in 1998. After changing their name to Lamb Of God they released the critically acclaimed New American Gospel (2000) and As The Palaces Burn (2003).
Enter Epic records, which insisted that the band have a new album together by the end of May of this year. This would have been fine if the band wasn’t still touring in support of Burn. Despite the deadline and major-label presence, there is no wasted testosterone on Ashes Of The Wake, particularly the blistering fourth cut “The Faded Line.”
“On the first two records that we did,” the 31-year-old Adler explains, “right before we went into the studio — both times — we had a week and a half left and we’re, ’We’ve got to write a song.’ If we didn’t we were going to have to make up something in the studio, and nobody wants to do that. And on both of those albums, that song turned out to be the one that everybody knows. So when we’re under pressure, it seems to work well, and I think it worked out well on this record.
“’The Faded Line’ was the last one we wrote before we went into the studio. I think we realized we needed another song, and we had about a week left. I think it came together in about four days. We were practicing anywhere from six to ten hours a day, every day. Just throwing out everything we could, keeping all the good stuff, and piecing it together.”
And oh, those pieces! Starting out with a metronomic snare on 1 and 3, Adler flies through some deft sixteenth-based foot figures. He follows the guitar, but you can feel the pressure building through the first 32 bars. Things are about to get quirky.
“My younger brother Willie is the guitar player,” the self-taught drummer continues, “and he brought in a riff and shared it with our other guitar player, Mark Morton, who then pieced it up with another thing he had. When I hear these things, it’s super easy for me to just go in there and do the straight 4/4 beat or whatever, but I try to get them to loop whatever it is, or record it for me, so I can take a minute and think about it, ’What else can I do with this? What’s interesting? What’s going to be fun for me to play for the next 18 months?’ The quirky parts in there came out of me wanting to not be straightforward with what was happening, and add something a little more dynamic.”
And it’s after the first 32 bars that Adler shifts things into high gear with machine-gun sixteenths between toms, cymbal bells, and bass drum. “What’s happening in it, the guitars are definitely playing a standard 4/4 part, and I am too, really. Just tom-tom-kick-kick, tom-tom-kick-kick, but one time, in place of where one of those double toms would be, I just go up and hit the cymbal bells. For every two kicks there’s two toms, and then the cymbal break in the middle every other time.”
The bells cut through beautifully, adding a dramatic effect to the passage. “I’ve got a Meinl Power Edge Bell on my left-hand side, right above my hi-hat, and the other cymbal is a 1972 Zildjian A 24" ride. They don’t make it anymore, I found it a long time ago, and I swear when it breaks I’m going to have to quit. [laughs] I have two rack toms right above my snare, and two floors. And as those doubles progress I’m going around the kit; it starts with the 10" and 12", the next one is the 12" and the 16", the next one is the 16" and the 18".” Also notable: Adler is naturally left-handed, playing a right-handed setup (and normally leads with his right hand), but leads with his left through this clip. Rather than torturing yourself this way, we’d suggest leading with your strong hand instead.
Even with all the precision in the speed, and Adler may come off sounding like a “Terminator” drum machine gone mad, he cautions against using chops for chops’ sake. “I’ve always come at drum playing from kind of a different angle. All my friends in the bands that we play with now, they’re always walking around with their Drumometer, ’Who’s the fastest?’ That stuff just drives me crazy. I’m not interested in it. I don’t care who’s fastest. It’s all about style. Style doesn’t come from a Drumometer.
“Of course practice is going to help you be the best you can be, but to sit around with a Drumometer or try to be the fastest or do whatever, it’s not going to get anywhere. And I think myself, and us as a band, we’ve never chased the idea of being the fastest or the best, we’ve kind of played what we’ve felt. For better or worse, that’s all I’ve got.”
What have you got? Lay it all out on the table and have a go at “The Faded Line.”