Lamb Of God – ‘Lamb Of God’

By Liam Knowles

Since their formation in the mid-late 90s, Lamb Of God have become one of the biggest, most successful and most enduring bands in heavy music. They seem to be one of those rare bands that are liked, or at least respected, by hardened underground metalheads and casual, surface-level metal fans alike and while their back catalogue couldn’t exactly be called faultless in terms of quality, albums such as ‘As The Palaces Burn’, ‘Ashes Of The Wake’ and ‘Sacrament’ are all rightly considered to be classics within the genre.

This new self-titled effort is their first in five years and also the first to feature Winds Of Plague / Prong drummer Art Cruz in place of founding member Chris Adler, who departed the band last year. The decision to make this record self-titled is clearly a statement to the fans that this is the new and improved Lamb Of God; invigorated with a new energy and sense of purpose and ready to plant their flag firmly and visibly in the modern metal landscape.

There is no simpler way to describe this record than this: this is a heavy fucking metal record. There’s no attempt to break the mould of what heavy metal is or what it is capable of being, and in some cases that would be considered a bad thing, but when you’re as good at making straight-up heavy metal as Lamb Of God are then it can definitely be forgiven.

Sublime tracks like ‘Checkmate’ and ‘New Colossal Hate’ combine that punishing 90s groove metal sound with more modern melodic sensibilities, while ‘Reality Bath’ and ‘Routes’ explore the band’s thrashier side. The musicianship is stellar throughout, with guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler throwing riff after riff at the listener alongside Art Cruz’s precision drumming and the looming rhythmic shadow of bassist John Campbell. Lamb Of God sound like the most well-oiled of machines, even with a very new member among its founders, and are as capable of making your head involuntarily bang as any of their peers. Just listen to that opening riff on ‘Gears’ and try and keep still. That’s right, you can’t.

Randy Blythe is one of the most influential metal vocalists still active, and from his performance on this record it’s clear as to why. He may not have many tricks up his sleeve but his voice is so distinctive and his performance is consistently powerful, particularly on the aforementioned ‘New Colossal Hate’ where he showcases his full range from a guttural growl to high-pitched screams, sometimes in the same breath. His clean singing and spoken-word sections are a little lacklustre and verging on naff, but they’re used too sparingly to really be considered a negative. He also has a tendency to lean on cliched word-play and slogans in his lyrics, using phrases like ‘make America hate again’ and ‘the American scream’ which, whilst well-intentioned, do come off a bit contrived. Again, this is a mild gripe and doesn’t really take away from how good the album is overall, and he should be commended for putting the band’s left-wing political stance out there so brazenly when there’s evidence that a lot of ‘standard’ metal fans are at worst right wing, or at best ‘musicians should stick to music and stay away from politics’ types, particularly in America.

Throw a couple of guest appearances from Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta on ‘Poison Dreams’ and Testament’s Chuck Billy on album highlight ‘Routes’ into the above mix and you’ve got another rock-solid entry in the band’s legacy. It’s not ground-breaking or revolutionary but then it’s not trying to be; ‘Lamb Of God’ is an album born of a love of classic, no-frills heavy metal and it manages to pay respectful homage to its influences without sounding nostalgic or dated. Innovation is important of course, it’s essential for a genre to evolve, but sometimes it’s okay to want to just throw your horns up and bang your head – and Lamb Of God are the perfect band for that.

LIAM KNOWLES

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