Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 19.06.2020
For Fans Of: Machine Head, Trivium, Hatebreed
When Lamb of God last released new music five years ago, the world was in an entirely different place. Since then it seems like every week we are given new reasons to be angry and dismayed about the direction the planet seems to be heading in, so it’s no surprise that the Richmond quintet sound even more pissed off and focused than usual.
After the much more personal Sturm Und Drang in 2015, Randy Blythe has once more turned his attention outward and proves himself to be just as informed and insightful as ever; not only taking aim at contemporary single issues, but also the systemic roots of those problems. Most notably ‘Gears’ casts its net all the way back to the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of mass production where consumer society was born, while ‘Reality Bath’ takes aim at the insanity that school-children in the US regularly need to have mass shooter drills. As this commentary isn’t simply reduced to the trite sloganeering and buzzwords that you might find on a metal record, it does mean that it is rewarding to try and pay closer attention to what is being said. Whether it’s the opiate abuse culture within the US in ‘On The Hook’, or his experiences at Native American protests for their rights on ’Routes’, it is a little reassuring that large metal bands are still bringing these kind of things to wider attention at a time where it’s so important for these kinds of artists to make use of that platform and at least start the conversation amongst listeners.
Of course, this kind of commentary is only one part of what makes Lamb of God such a treasure in the metal scene. For most the main attraction will be those riffs and that groove; things they do better than anyone else today. The longer writing and recording process for this record seems to have allowed the band to really trim the fat and focus on refining these songs into their best possible versions. This quality really shines through on the haunting ‘Reality Bath’ which is as memorable for its scathing lyrical content as it is the intricate work by Mark Morton and Willie Adler. This continues on in ‘New Colossal Hate’ which has possibly the most memorable Lamb Of God chorus to date thanks to a soaring lead line and vocal pairing that will sound just beautiful once gigs return. In the lead up to this record the band have been very vocal about this being a much more collaborative effort than previous albums and you really can hear that, each element is working in perfect tandem with each other and pulling in the same direction.
As expected the main direction the band pull in is somewhere inbetween their hardcore roots from the Burn The Priest days, thrash, and groove metal. Tracks such as ‘Checkmate’ and ‘Poison Dream’ serve as a reminder of just how effective of a combo this is, with technical and complex riffs played in such an intense and driving manner. However there does seem to be a slightly wider scope with tracks like ‘Resurrection Man’ and ‘Memento Mori’ seeming to be a little more progressively minded than you might usually expect from Lamb of God. It’s no massive leap or change to their sound, just that more ideas seem to be used in single tracks which twist and turn a little more often, showing that the band are at the very least pushing their songwriting a little further.
Other highlights on the record come through the use of special guests once more in the form of Chuck Billy, (Testament) and Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed). Similarly to Chino Moreno and Greg Puciato on the last record, these guests seem to have been given full freedom to bring their own personality to these tracks which seem to have been written at least partially with them in mind. ‘Poison Dream’ leans much more heavily into a hardcore stomp and beatdown approach whereas ‘Routes’ is an all out thrash song complete with pick slides, a galloping rhythm section and scorching guitar solo. Yet even so they remain Lamb of God songs, feeling completely in sync with the rest of the record and it’s not hard to imagine the kind of moments that could be created at festivals and tours with them in the band’s back pocket. When people lament metal not embracing the kind of collaboration and ‘features’ that are now commonplace in pop and hip-hop, this is further proof of how well it can work and it is baffling that more bands aren’t trying it.
As you would imagine most self-titled albums aim to be, this feels like a pure distillation of who Lamb of God are, encompassing elements of almost everything that has gotten them to where they are today. As other bands who were lumped into the ‘New-Wave of American Heavy Metal’ movement in the 00s seem to be fading into the past, Lamb of God are making damn sure they remain at the forefront of 21st century metal. The current political climate and the addition of Art Cruz behind the drumkit seems to have given them a little extra edge and energy. On this kind of form, there are few contemporary metal bands who can come close.
Recommended Tracks: New Colossal Hate, Reality Bath, Routes