Release Date: 18th May 2018
Label: Nuclear Blast Entertainment
Last month, Randy Blythe came out and told Metal Hammer that he hates writing new songs. With a career spanning well over 20 years and some of the greatest metal albums ever under his belt, who can blame him for saying that? Instead of coming off hiatus with a half-arsed record that they didn’t want to make, Lamb Of God are back under their old name, Burn The Priest, celebrating the songs and bands that influence them to this day. A 10 track cover album called Legion XX.
It’s tricky to write about a covers album, but it’s even harder to make one, especially when trying to pay homage to bands whose music changed the world for you. Listeners will often know the songs already, you can’t sound too similar, if you sound too different you run the risk of losing sight of why you’re covering the songs in the first place. What Burn The Priest do is nail the art by making it fun. Legion XX sounds like a bunch of mates coming together and jamming the songs that they love, incredibly talented mates who have brought a widespread career of experience with them.
Burn The Priest are put in an interesting position, covering bands that shaped their own sound and the music of Lamb Of God. Using this to their advantage, they craft the covers keeping their own essence and style while capturing exactly what it is that made the originals so brilliant. Songs like ‘Inherit The Earth’ benefit from the members’ excellent musicianship and production at their disposal, adding an extra layer of meat and power. The drumming is so unmistakingly Chris Adler as he adds expert double bass, only enhancing the low-fi Splatterock original.
Tackling classics such as ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’ by Ministry and ‘I, Against, I’ by Bad Brains, Burn The Priest manage to tread the line between mimicking these songs known so well and and adding on their own flair. Sometimes they fail to take risks and go all the way, leaving the cover just a bit too close to the original but songs like ‘I, Against, I’ go all out in reinventing the sound, culminating in a track that actually sounds better than the original (sorry hardcore purists!).
Making the songs fresher is where Burn The Priest really nail exactly what I wanted from them. They’re not covering produced to fuck glam rock anthems but low-fi dirty punk songs, they manage to respect the past while living in the present, creating music that sounds as vibrant as when the songs were originally released. The growls of Randy Blythe serve to further revamp the tracks, sounding ever distinct throughout and bringing noticeable changes from the originals, it’s clear exactly what the band are aiming to achieve here, and they do it.
Of course it’s not all classics and hits covered on this record, ‘Axis Rot’ by Sliang Laos makes an appearance on the tracklist, and although I’m sure hundreds will claim they were ‘in b4 Burn The Priest’, this is a band with less than 1000 plays on Spotify. A math-rock band who Randy Blythe claims to be the ‘greatest band to ever come from Richmore’ and one that many will not be exposed to is a great choice to be thrown in amongst the likes of the Melvins and Quicksand. Their cover creates an itch to dive right into Sliang Laos’ back catalogue and decipher the oddities in their sound but also gives the Lamb of God fan insight into what got the band to where they are today.
When Lamb Of God stand on arena stages or overlook thousands at festivals, it can be hard to imagine that they were ever young punks just itching to get out of their hometown, but covering songs like Big Black’s ‘Kerosene’ bring it all back just where these behemoths come from. Not only do they nail one of the greatest songs ever made, they remind the listener why being in a band is so fun. Freedom. Enjoying music and getting to play it with your friends.
Whether I ever listen to Legion XX in full again, I don’t know, but the songs on this album will remain in my playlists well into the foreseeable future. When I come to write about my favourite cover songs ever, ‘Kerosene’ and ‘Axis Rot’ by Burn The Priest will certainly be in the mix. There’s no need for Lamb Of God to want to write new music at the moment when they push out covers just as exciting as the first time I first listened to Sacrament, they’re 20 years into their career and I’m just happy to see that they’ve still got it.
Recommended Tracks: Kerosene, Axis Rot