LAMB OF GOD

"Wrath" (Epic; 2009)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Lamb of God’s striking upward trajectory in the music world has been nothing short of stunning. For whatever reason, the band’s major label debut (and fourth disc overall) “Sacrament” did not last long in my rotation after I added it to my collection. I’d be hard pressed today to even come close to humming a riff or vocal line to prove I’d ever listened to it. With “Sacrament” perhaps I was a little turned off by the more comfortable position the band took in allowing the Southern-styled groove metal to influence the songwriting and performances. However, I still appreciated “Sacrament” as a sincere effort by one of my favorite bands, but when picking Lamb of God albums for listening I would more often go back to the band’s first three discs.

Lamb of God has returned with their fifth album and second major label release, “Wrath.” “Wrath” is an aggressive, sharp, and focused effort.  “Wrath” does not stray from the band’s tried and true approach – yet it seems much more cohesive than “Sacrament” or even “Ashes of the Wake” that preceded it. The fact that the band’s line-up has remained intact since their debut (not counting the Burn the Priest version of the band, obviously) has no doubt helped as Lamb of God carry on as they can easily refer to each other and the band’s storied history as instance reference points in balancing the best of the band’s past while forging forward into the metallic future.

The technical expertise of drummer Chris Adler remains the unshakeable bedrock foundation of the Lamb of God sound. Bassist John Campbell excels in the thankless task of providing a steady low end so his bandmates can wreak sonic havoc. Mark Morton and Willie Adler, the twin guitar wrecking crew, continue to mine the perfect balance of precision and abandon – their riffs have continued to evolve without losing the sound the band is so famous for. Randall Blythe, as intense a vocalist as you’ll find, has raised his game with greater enunciation without sacrificing his passionate delivery.

“Broken Hands” leaps out of the speakers with angry force, the epic “Reclamation” burns with simmering heat that truly showcases Blythe’s performance maturity, and the blistering “Choke Sermon” leaves nothing to the imagination.

Early editions of “Wrath” included a bonus disc featuring the band’s performances separated into distinct tracks (vocals, guitar, bass, and drums) for use by fans to create new versions of the band’s songs.

“Wrath” was produced, mixed, and engineered by Josh Wilbur.

Lamb of God is Randy Blythe on vocals, Willie Adler and Mark Morton on guitars, John Campbell on bass, and Chris Adler on drums.

For more information visit http://www.lamb-of-god.com.

 

"Sacrament" (Epic; 2006)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Boldly flying the flag passed on from Pantera, Virginia's Lamb of God makes a triumphant return to the metal world with "Sacrament." And, while naysayers and backbiters may cry "sellout" due to the quintet signing to a major label, fear not all you paranoid metalheads: there's no sign of letup across these eleven tracks, as the kick your head in opener "Walk With Me in Hell" aptly suggests from the get-go. 

Displaying technical metal wares draped in the Confederate flag while armed with the most bile-laced apocalyptic lyrics currently heard, Lamb of God has truly hit its stride on their fourth installment of skull crushing metal, as tracks like the infectious yet smoldering "Redneck," the rapid-fire thrash stomp on "Beating on Death's Door," and the prototypical bleak metal anthem, "Blacken the Cursed Sun," demonstrate the band's ability to fuse Megadeth, Pantera, and Testament while implementing its own modern chops, depraved southern charm, and metallic firepower within the chaos. 

"Sacrament" is a killer metal album from head to toe, and should wind up on many a top ten list at the year's end. 

For more information visit http://www.lamb-of-god.com

"Ashes of the Wake" (Epic; 2004)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

My love and respect for Lamb Of God are well documented on the pages of Rough Edge. Undoubtedly, I'm looking through rose-tinted glasses as I approach Lamb Of God's latest document of pure American metal; but so is most of the heavy metal community. Virtual unknowns when "New American Gospel" was released in 2000, Lamb Of God have the benefit and burden of having nearly all eyes upon them with one of the most anticipated releases of 2004.

Much like the second-half of "As The Palaces Burn," the entirety of "Ashes Of The Wake" has slightly difficult patterns and rhythms to get into upon the first few listens. But make no mistake, if you know anything about Lamb Of God you'll like what you hear – it's not that different that their past two efforts. Once you're into the patterns and riffs however, everything is golden. From track to track Lamb Of God does a stunning job keeping things varied and interesting. But, most importantly, the band has found more ways to further refine their sound for maximum impact – increasing songwriting savvy and adding a great producer will do that for a band. Additionally, Lamb Of God find ways to exercise restraint at times and moderate the tempos ever so slightly without losing the fierce intensity that they're known for.

As always, the guitar duo of Will Adler and Mark Morton provides the gist of the Lamb Of God sound. Their riffs and near- perfect complementary yin-yang styles create a whole that is far greater than the sum of them individually. The composite riffs and song-structures literally explode within each song. Bassist John Campbell is more readily sonically present on this disc and his muscular approach sustains the musical beast at all turns. Drummer Chris Adler, already widely recognized as one of the better drummers of this new musical era, will benefit (suffer?) even greater exposure as his efforts continue to shine.

Ten of the eleven tracks contain vocals; I'm not going to bother picking out highlights as they're all pretty much highlights to me. The remaining track, specifically the title track, is an instrumental that features four solos. Of course, you get one solo each from Adler (last) and Morton (first), but what makes this special is the two guest soloists. Former Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick solos for nearly a full minute with a sound and fury that hasn't been heard from him in a long time. Former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland makes his second guest appearance on a Lamb Of God album, contributes a very Slayer-esque sounding solo.

Vocalist Randy Blythe continues to improve his vocal delivery. Blythe's rough and hoarse bark contains his trademarked fury but additional emphasis has been placed on clarity in the delivery. Blythe writes the lyrics with fellow bandmate Mark Morton and this time the lyrics are sharply socio-political with added emphasis on the issues surrounding the 2004 Presidential election. A couple of spoken word bits that appear in a few of the songs actually add serious weight to the already heavy topics that are covered on "Ashes Of The Wake" rather than detract from them.

Indeed, Lamb Of God are the reigning kings of American metal.

"Ashes Of The Wake" was produced by Machine and Lamb Of God. The bass and drums get superior treatment in the production room on "Ashes Of The Wake." This doesn't mean the blistering twin-guitar attack is lessened compared to previous releases it just means that the overall production is better balanced compared to "New American Gospel" and "As The Palaces Burn."

Lamb Of God: Randy Blythe on vocals, Mark Morton and Will Adler on guitars, John Campbell on bass, and Chris Adler on drums.

For more information visit http://www.lamb-of-god.com

"Ashes of the Wake" (Epic; 2004)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

In my effort to explore all types of music, I find that some styles might take me only a few steps from where I started; others will send me miles from the core. I picked up Lamb Of God because I’d heard something about them from a friend and wanted to do my own research so that when I had to weigh in on a conversation I wouldn’t sound like a complete dope.

After listening to this CD at home and then listening again via my MP3 player, I discovered I was able to catch the music much better when it was pressed right up against my ears. I grew up on heavy metal music and I’m slowly learning about bands that are stepping into the squared circle of "American Heavy Metal." I can’t rally behind emo or even screamo, primarily because I despise the vocals. Lamb Of God, however, really busted the mold.

From the start of this CD I knew I needed some time alone to really soak up the intensity these guys deliver. The guitar smashed all previous records held by my heavy metal contenders, the rhythmic timing was tighter than expected and the stability between the drums and guitar powers each track. The vocals are perfect in their delivery -- I don’t need some screaming dolt who might blow his voice out, I need someone with guts and the ability to silence a barking dog. Randy Blythe does just that, and more.

Despite the political tracks listed and the obvious distaste for the Iraq war (which I usually roll my eyes at), I did focus on the hit-and-run lyrics to see what these guys had to say and, although I don’t always agree with them, I’ll say that freedom of speech is a powerful thing. 

Visceralness aside, these guys do what nu-metal can’t and that’s deliver a powerful message with even more power.

All the pistons are firing on this top fuel metal engine. The guitars jack-hammer their way through your ears and the drums leave plenty of aftershocks. The vocals are the mainstay and this band will only be knocked down if King Kong decides he wants a re-match!

For more information, check out http://www.lamb-of-god.com or http://www.myspace.com/lambofgod

"As the Palaces Burn" (Prosthetic Records; 2003)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Usually I try to write my CD reviews while I listen to a disc over the course of the first four or five spins. Hopefully (and in most cases) this allows me to write a review with a fresh perspective while maintaining enough familiarity for comparison's sake. However, sometimes I run into a problem where all I can do is listen to a disc over and over all the while loving it so much that I easily overlook my reviewing responsibilities (not to mention the feeling that writing about it seems futile). Such is the case with Lamb Of God's "As The Palaces Burn." But finally, I put my nose to the grindstone and fulfilled my duty.

In the case of Lamb Of God one thing is for certain: Most folks were caught by surprise by Lamb Of God's "New American Gospel" when it was released in 2000. Well, the acclaim that Lamb Of God received for that disc has them on the hot seat for their sophomore effort and the band doesn't disappoint with "As The Palaces Burn."

Lamb Of God's overwhelming technical superiority remains intact on the new disc. With an even greater emphasis on crisp songwriting, Lamb Of God have taken their pummeling style to new a new level of creativity. The songs on "As The Palaces Burn" are shorter and have greater impact. Each riff and each song carry equal weight in how the album leaves an impression with the listener. The songs on "As The Palaces Burn" are even more immediately memorable than "New American Gospel" - that's quite an accomplishment.

The musical battery of Mark Morton and Willie Adler on guitars, John Campbell on bass, and Chris Adler on drums in one of the more impressive outings in recent metal history. I know that the band took painstaking efforts to make each riff, each musical passage, and each song merge to create the best possible impact - and they succeeded. Each track, from the wicked venom of "As The Palaces Burn" to the crushing vitriol of "Blood Junkie," is a testament to the unified vision and precise execution of the band's approach.

Vocalist Randy Blythe continues his coarse and emotionally charged vocal delivery, but on the ten-track assault of "As The Palaces Burn" his vocals are more contained without losing their aggression and ferocity. Basically his vocals are much more focused this time around than on the debut - I'll chalk that up to Devin Townsend's expert production and perhaps a desire by the band to get rid of the shrieks which were so pervasive on "New American Gospel." Just as he did on "New American Gospel" Blythe's lyrics on "As the Palaces Burn" utilize a variety of topics including corporate greed, the damaging effects of excesses, and politics, for a caustic overview of pretty much everything that's wrong with society these days.

"As The Palaces Burn" is a heavy rotation worthy disc. I was pleased when "New American Gospel" blew me away in 2000 and I'm even more impressed in 2003 now that "As The Palaces Burn" has taken the band's sound to new heights. Not to mention a closer step to conquering the task of becoming the new kings of American metal.

"As The Palaces Burn" was produced by Devin Townsend.

Lamb Of God: D. Randall Blythe on vocals, Mark "Duane" Morton on guitar, Willie Adler on guitar, John Campbell on bass, and Chris Adler on drums. Guest contributors include Steve Austin, Chris Poland, and Devin Townsend.

For more information visit http://www.lamb-of-god.com

"New American Gospel" (Metal Blade/Prosthetic; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Lamb Of God, formerly going by the more violent and equally intriguing name Burn The Priest, have styled a new form of brutality that isn't quite grind yet surely isn't death metal either. While primarily focused on bursts of aggressive metal Lamb Of God incorporate dirges, sludge, and even hints of metalcore to formulate their "New American Gospel." "New American Gospel" is set to unleash its fury on an unsuspecting world.

The hyper-aggressive Lamb Of God reminds me of Skinlab with a brutality problem or even an American albeit more technical version of Entombed.  One particular highlight is "In The Absence Of The Sacred" which has odd-meter riffing that delights in skewering the modern aggression that is shamelessly copied these days. Lamb Of God court both greatness and embarrassment by employing modern groove-like material, but without being overtly degenerative.

Lamb Of God's rhythm section is positively crushing. The technicality of the rhythms (especially the drumming) is like a hardened criminal returning to the streets after a failed rehabilitation stint in jail.  With nary a loss of power or potent impact, Lamb Of God make new inroads to being part of a growing vibrant American metal scene. "New American Gospel" has the kind of sting that is felt when a swarm of killer bees descends on its victim only the poison isn't toxic and it's more like a hallucinatory drug. 

The lyrics tackle a wide variety of subject matter. One particularly memorable line deals with recent capitalistic commerce that is furthering the gap between the haves and the have-nots: 'I am the corpse of decency crucified on a post of greed and moral decay' in the track "The Black Dahlia." That one is going to be hard to forget, eh? 

Like flares shot into the night sky each song is a memorable strike at the heart of darkness of the human condition. The overwhelming power of Lamb Of God is hard to forget even after one listen. "New American Gospel" is an authoritative statement of American metal. 

"New American Gospel" was produced and mixed by Steve Austin (Today Is The Day), Chris Adler, and Lamb Of God; the production is top-notch.  Steve Austin and Lamb Of God probably made for a fairly volatile mix in the studio and it shows in the peerless performances. 

Lamb Of God is D. Randall Blythe on vocals, Duane on guitar, Will Adler on guitar, John Campbell on bass, and Chris Adler on drums. Steve Austin contributed background vocals on a few tracks. 

For more information visit http://www.lamb-of-god.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2009 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12 Feb 2017 13:05:51 -0500.