'Lamb Of God' Review: Lamb Of God's hard-hitting album bristles with technical finesse and fiery frustration
Vocalist Randy Blythe stated that the album examines the current state of the world and looks at the root causes of our problems and how we can overcome them with the right mindset
We've been waiting for this one for a while. The heavy metal titans Lamb of God have returned with their self-titled tenth studio album, ‘Lamb of God’. This time around, the prime architects of the explosive New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement have released 10 sociopolitically-charged tracks, which include interesting collaborations with Chuck Billy of Testament and Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. The album releases on June 19 and like much of Lamb of God’s celebrated discography, it's packed with punishing heavy metal bangers and chuggers that throw you back against the wall with their ferocity. This hard-hitting album serves as a phenomenal follow up to the band’s 2015 outing ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’.
The phenomenal Lamb of God vocalist Blythe is as angry and insightful as ever, contextualizing and harnessing a furious angst that empathizes with the plight of the everyman. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler are back plying their electric guitar wizardry, injecting the album with a mountain of thrash, groove, shred and stripped-down aggression in equal measure. The rock-solid yet fluid bass of John Campbell looms large as a rhythmic shadow, while Art Cruz, one of metal's top touring drummers, makes his recorded debut with his favorite band. While stepping into the shoes of former drummer Chris Adler is a daunting task for anyone, Cruz brings his own inimitable flavor and does justice to the exalted heavy metal band with his repertoire of chops.
Blythe stated that the album examines the current state of the world and looks to the root causes of our problems: “I start by pointing out several glaring problems, the most important ones in my mind, and the root of them." He continued, "Then it moves into a feeling that you can resist this stuff, to a feeling of hope. I could sit here and be a negative Nancy, and just write a completely 100% nihilist record, which I might have done if I were still 27 years old and drinking. It was important for me to have positivity in here, to keep the PMA [positive mental attitude], as the Bad Brains have taught us, which starts on an individual level.”
The fiery album opener ‘Memento Mori’ first debuted with a video release in May and it's everything you'd expect from a Lamb of God song with its pummeling intensity and screams of "Wake up!". With a lyrical and visual message that’s extremely topical, the song offers hope at a time of uncertainty and upheaval. As Blythe explains, “Currently, at the forefront of everyone’s mind is the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is indeed a scary time, but in this hyper-connected age with its 24/7 never-ending news cycle of atrocity, outrage and lurid click-bait headlines (not to mention ill-informed lunatics running amok and spreading misinformation and panic on social media), it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that life is still carrying on, and good things do in fact still happen.”
The next scorching track ‘Checkmate’ was also accompanied by a music video in February. A scathing commentary on the fallacies of the political system, it also refers to the hypocritical doublespeak of ‘opposing policies’ and the money game at the heart of the power struggle. With lines like "Make America hate again," Blythe goes straight for the jugular and doesn’t hold back. Musically, Lamb of God are in top form, with Adler and Morton churning out big, tasty riffs set to the super-tight rhythm section outlined by Campbell and newcomer Cruz.
‘Gears’ is the third track of the album and kicks in with high-octane riffing from Morton and Adler, with Art Cruz also shines brightly. Taking shots at the industrial way of life and commercial gods, Blythe talks about the greedy pursuit of always needing "more," often to the detriment of one’s soul. Blythe stresses his anti-establishment views with lines such as "Your endless hunger automated, industry-defined" and "Subjugation and degradation the blueprint to your annihilation." The singer's words seem all the more important as they are reflective of what we’re seeing unfold across the world right now.
The next song ‘Reality Bath’ is a gut-punching slammer. Blythe’s lyrics speak of the jarring nature of reality, which we have accepted as the "new abnormal." Speaking of children who live under the constant fear of gun violence and older generations who are losing their traditional life owing to modernization, Blythe talks about how we’re becoming increasingly desensitized and indifferent to the horrors around us. The band is in top form with Morton and Adler churning out heavy riffage that marches on top of the exemplary rhythm section of John Campbell and Cruz.
‘New Colossal Hate’ comes in like a steamroller. Blythe speaks of the inequality between the haves and have-nots and the consequent schism that arises because of this imbalance. The vocalist addresses the oppressive nature of those born into privilege and the inevitable collision of the "savage ways and old horizons." Campbell and Cruz hold up the monstrous rhythm section as a platform for Mark Morton and Willie Adler’s sizzling guitar work. The riffs are tasty and are a throwback to earlier releases like ‘Redneck’ and ‘Ruin’, destined to be memorized by thousands of eager guitar players.
‘Resurrection Man’ is a cynical take on the career man who does whatever it takes for the sake of personal gain. Opening with what sounds like a tinder box, the track explodes with artillery-like drumming and red-hot riffs. The vocals paint a grim picture with lines like "Horror stories, talking heads / Shilling for the thoroughbreds." Musically, we hear syncopated, dissonant arpeggios, a thundering breakdown and Blythe's distinct growl that raises the hairs on our neck.
The rumbling ‘Poison Dream’ comes in next, featuring Jamey Jasta of ‘Hatebreed’ on guest vocals. Continuing on the theme of greed and profit at the cost of others, the track speaks about the toxic state that most people live in. Blythe refers to a “bull that they lulled to sleep”, referring to the dissociated worldview that modern society expects of its trance-induced members. The singer also urges the bull to “awake from sleep” and “gouge the heart of their greed.” Jamey Jasta does a phenomenal job matching Blythe’s intensity with his own emphatic delivery. Fans of ‘Hatebreed’ and ‘Lamb of God’ will especially enjoy this song.
The mighty ‘Routes’ features another guest vocalist, Chuck Billy of the thrash metal band ‘Testament’. The resulting collaboration is a wild track that also features a fantastic guitar solo. Lyrically, the song speaks of the relentless inhuman march of mankind, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Using stark imagery in his words, Blythe speaks of voices that never stop singing and drums that won’t stop beating. Billy is a great fit on the song and it’s worth noting that the track has plenty of thrash metal staples thrown in, albeit with a Lamb of God twist.
‘Bloodshot Eyes’ is an explosive song about walking away from what doesn’t work. With pointed lyrics, Blythe screams, "Bloodshot eyes and wasted time / You’re everything I left behind / I won’t reconcile, you’ve lost your mind / I’m leaving you behind." The song is a standout on this album in terms of musicianship. Morton and Adler are on point with slamming riffs and quick, tasty licks, while Cruz and Campbell keep it locked with hypnotic grooves. The result is quite spectacular and the song's devil-may-care attitude is thrilling.
‘On The Hook’ is the final track of the album, barging in as a fast-paced slugfest of heavy metal finesse. Blythe speaks of the troubling rot of addiction and how it has seeped into the life of the present generation, whether it be prescription pills, narcotics or drugs from overseas (Afghanistan is referenced in the lyrics). Besides lamenting the woes of addiction, Blythe also tackles how it enriches someone and destroys the other, ultimately making it a business of death - they're "breaking oaths and cashing checks." The message in the lyrics is amplified by the band’s intense music, as Cruz and Campbell really showcase their formidable skills on their instruments. Both Adler and Morton churn out chunky slabs of delicious riffs, while Blythe sits atop it all and delivers in spectacular style.
With this self-titled release, Lamb of God have announced that they're still one of the finest heavy metal gods out there and their fans will have a lot to look forward to once the band hits the tour circuit. The Virginia-based quintet were scheduled to tour Europe alongside thrash giants Kreator before the Covid-19 situation arose, but this album is sure to keep fans satiated and wiser until things pick up again.