The rising stars of the metal underworld are back with a spine-crushing second album, As the Palaces Burn. While many bands have softened their sound in a quickly evolving trend in the hard music scene today, LAMB OF GOD seems to have thickened theirs into something more ferocious than a starving pit bull in a room full of wounded squirrels. The CD begins on a punishing note with “Ruin,” melding intense, thrashing guitars with more vocal fury than this side of TESTAMENT. The intensity only builds from that point on, with no stops or quiet moments whatsoever until the first two minutes of closing track “Vigil“, a METALLICA-like anthem that surges past an acoustic intro into a thunderous flurry of double-bass and chugging guitars — definitely one of the highlights of the disc. What’s most enjoyable about As the Palaces Burn is the band’s refusal to conform to mainstream standards, in any sense of the word. This album soars beyond the fury of their first and also manages to ressurect the likes of such old-school beasts as KREATOR, VENOM, and TESTAMENT. While the non-stop barrage of pure audial cacophony might grow tiring for some listeners, LAMB OF GOD certainly weren’t meant to be easy on the ears. Still, the title track is a little rushed and mildly misplaced as the second track on the album, as it offers no solid opening and relies heavily on a contrived riff. That aside, As the Palaces Burn is a fine sophomore release that fans of true heavy music will undoubtedly drool over. For a prime sampling of just what this monster of an album has to offer, check out “For Your Malice“, “11th Hour“, and “Vigil“.