Introducing the grand eponymous non-debut.
There’s a peculiar practice that has been becoming popular of late where veteran metal acts opt to release an eponymous album after well after a decade of output. To be fair, Lamb Of God’s recent decision to slap their band’s name on an LP is likely related to this being their first studio excursion without original drumming extraordinaire Chris Adler. But whatever the case may be, it’s a foregone conclusion that these New Wave of American Heavy Metal mainstays have something to prove on this album, and recently recruited kit man Arturo Cruz, of Winds Of Plague fame, proves to be an apt replacement. All the usual groove metal trappings that were in this band’s arsenal since their rebranding following a brief stint under the Burn The Priest moniker are on full display, offering a full course of mid-90s Pantera trappings to go along with their more recently adopted metalcore template.
With the passage of time has come a greater arsenal of ideas for this band, and what was once a fairly contrived formula has become more and more engaging. Greater degrees of modern thrash additives and a greater penchant for cutting loose from the mid-paced chugging serves this album quite well at multiple points, though this band’s greatest strength has continued to be the massive production that they’ve acquired due to the long time services of Josh Wilbur. Though he originally cut his teeth as an assistant engineer working with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, his handiwork has graced this band’s albums since their 2006 offering “Sacrament”, and newcomers to this outfit’s music might recognize his handiwork on such consequential albums as Megadeth’s “Dystopia” and Soulfly’s latest offering “Ritual”. Suffice it to say, modern groove and thrash metal are this producer’s bread and butter, and he delivers up a truly colossal production job here.
If there is a looming Persian flaw in what is otherwise a solid presentation here, it is that the songs tend to run together a bit, though this outfit carries it well by keeping things compact and to the point. The longest song of the bunch is actually the opening number “Memento Mori”, largely due to an extended atmospheric intro with a dreary backdrop of droning guitars backing up what can be best described as a gloomy baritone croon out of Randy Blythe, serving as a sort of prelude to the coming auditory violence that dominates the album. The rest of the song cycles through an impressive assortment of chugging grooves and modernized thrash riffs, while Blythe proceeds to be the missing link between Phil Anselmo’s semi-tonal shouts and Chris Barnes’ danker barks during the early days of Six Feet Under. It’s not the pinnacle of what this album has to offer, but it does set the tone for what is to come quite pleasantly.
As things progress, this album gets more refined and effective at laying down a sonic ass-whooping, showcasing some of the better work that Lamb Of God has put forward in the past decade. The mid-paced chugging machine “Checkmate” stands out a fair bit by throwing in a sort of bluesy novelty intro before laying down the hammer, while pulsing speeders like “Gears” and “Poison Dream” work even better by laying in some killer Bay Area inspired thrashing moments and a pair of solid, shred happy guitar solos to cut into the repetition a bit. But the absolute zenith of what this album has to offer is the blazing speed machine “Routes”, which also sees some lethal guest vocals enter the equation courtesy of Testament’s own Chuck Billy. This song could basically be a banger off of one of said band’s recent LPs, and also features some of the most impressive guitar gymnastics ever heard out of this band.
Collectively speaking, this is one of the better groove-oriented metal albums to land in my desk since Soulfly’s “Ritual”, and my only criticism would be that it gets maybe a tad formulaic from one song to the next and loses some steam when listened to all the way through from beginning to end. Barring the two songs that feature prominent guest vocal slots and maybe some of the material at the tail end of the album that features some occasional clean sung moments, the cumulative sound accomplished here is a fairly unrelenting and monolithic one. If nothing else, it’s a safe yet effective pivot for a band that has some minds to set at ease given the recent shift in their otherwise 100% stable lineup. All that said, this is definitely a rock-solid listen that is certain to play extremely well with old school Pantera fans and modern As I Lay Dying fans alike, one that will undoubtedly please the band’s fan-base and ultimately a notable cut above what a of the older groove/thrash outfits have been up to lately.
Released by: Epic Records
Released Date: June 19th, 2020
Genre: New Wave of American Heavy Metal
- D. Randall Blythe / Vocals
- Mark Morton / Guitar
- Willie Adler / Guitar
- John Campbell / Bass
- Art Cruz / Drums
“Lamb Of God” Track-list:
1. Memento Mori
4. Reality Bath
5. New Colossal Hate
6. Resurrection Man
7. Poison Dream (feat. Jamey Jasta)
8. Routes (feat. Chuck Billy)
9. Bloodshot Eyes
10. On The Hook
Undaunted by the line-up change and fueled by the energy of their new drummer, Lamb Of God has unloaded an arsenal of heaviness onto the masses, with a more straightforward dose of grooving grit and a colossal studio production