A prophecy of impending heaviness is proclaimed.
Since the early 90s the American metal scene has been on a perennial quest for the ultimate expression of heaviness, spearheaded by the commercial success of Metallica’s eponymous 5th studio album and especially the subsequent breakthrough opus that was Pantera’s “Vulgar Display Of Power.” Indeed, one could argue that every expression of the NWOAHM has been an attempt to further distill the early strides of the aforementioned albums to its most primal form, with varying outside influences coming into the equation to take this unifying endeavor in a few different directions, with that of the Gothenburg-styled melodic death metal sound providing the most auspicious results during the 2000s. Within this context, Virginia-based metal juggernaut Lamb Of God, which had already existed for much of the 90s under the moniker Burn The Priest, forged a forceful blend of Pantera-styled groovy aggression, lightning fast modern thrash trappings and occasional melodeath trappings into a highly distinctive niche, one which continues to bear fruit after taking root over two decades ago.
Though always a highly consistent processing plant of pummeling riffs, deep-thudding rhythms and over-the-top vocal gymnastics of the harsher variety, there is a consensus that the signature sound that Lamb Of God is best known for was codified on their 2004 smash opus “Ashes Of The Wake,” and it is that same template that has guided their latest studio effort in 2022’s “Omens.” Helmsman and vocalist Randy Blythe continues to embody the raucous, shrieking quality that typified the raging bull approach pioneered by Phil Anselmo during the mid-1990s, though presenting it in a more methodical manner with clear points of climax and denouement, occasionally resorting to a cleaner cut baritone for added contrast. The riff assault of Mark Morton and Willie Adler present a highly dynamic mixture of punchy grooves and frenzied thrashing bursts that prove to be as kinetic as they are tasteful, with occasional guitar solos providing some added sweetness. But behind the aforementioned impresarios is a highly efficient bombardment of rhythmic precision via bassist John Campbell and recently acquired/former Winds Of Plague drummer Arturo Cruz, providing the dense foundation to this veritable palace of aggression.
No punches are pulled throughout this album’s 41 minute duration, and even from its very inception, it proves an uncompromising, iron-clad fist to the gut. Meaty crusher and opening foray “Nevermore” sets the tone on a decidedly bombastic note, sticking more towards mid-paced territory and relying on a combination of rhythmically nuanced groove work and occasional interludes into the signature metalcore trappings that typified mid-2000s American metal, right down to the pummeling breakdown moments. Other anthems that tread a similar path of Dimebag Darrel inspired riffs blended with occasional flirtations with the hardcore and melodic trappings of Chimaira and Trivium include the beast of a title song “Omens” and the modern thrash-tinged banger with a heavy dose of Exhorder influences “Grayscale”, each presented in a compact format fit for rock radio and chock full of enough attitude to turn lethal in a mosh pit setting, ultimately leaving little mystery as to why they, along with the previously noted “Nevermore” were featured as promotional singles, attaining heavy praise via the online metal community.
While this outfit continues to be one that errs on the side of not messing with a winning formula, there is a healthy degree of variety in how this album presents its consistent expression of rage once the deeper tracks are considered. More kinetic, thrash-based offerings such as the Testament-like riff machine “Vanishing” and the militarized modern monster of a crusher with a side order of 2000s Exodus vibe “Ditch” still retain some of the metalcore ways and Pantera-infused anger of this outfit’s mid-paced fair, but are far more chaotic and dangerous in their demeanor. The picture gets a bit more controlled on the up tempo pile-driver “Ill Designs” and the stop-start thrashing of “To The Grave”, but the sense of frantic motion continues to guide things, while the shorter and more stripped down mayhem of “Denial Mechanism” hearkens back pretty heavily to the compact chaos of Sepultura’s punk-infused modern speed anthems. But the song that showcases the richest level of contrast is the longer closing number “September Song”, which delves the furthest into the band’s stylistic connection to the 2000s and explores the corresponding melodic Gothenburg scene, and atmospheric elements the most while still maintaining the album’s overarching focus on unrelenting heaviness.
Naturally the question for the newcomer and the hardened faithful that have followed Lamb Of God since the beginning alike becomes, where does “Omens” fit in the expansive catalog associated with the band in question? The answer is basically somewhere in the middle, as it lacks the distinction of being the first album to really flesh out this formula that “Ashes Of The Wake” can claim, nor does it go beyond the expansive variation on said format that was accomplished on 2009’s “Wrath”, but it is by no means a slouch. There are no weak links to speak of here, nor anything that would sound like a puzzling deviation that would meet with the disapproval of this style’s established audience, and the ante has definitely been upped in how massive things sound given further strides in production quality. It does play things a tad safe, but ultimately accomplishes the same satisfying restatement of what works that many newer albums by established adherents of the NWOAHM movement have been putting out of late, and should not be passed up by anyone who likes their metal as heavy as can be.
Order the “Omens” album HERE,
Released By: Epic Records
Release Date: October 7th, 2022
Genre: Groove Metal / New American Metal
- Randy Blythe / Vocals
- Mark Morton / Guitars
- Willie Adler / Guitars
- Josh Campbell / Bass
- Art Cruz / Drums
“Omens” track listing:
3. To The Grave
7. Ill Designs
9. Denial Mechanism
10. September Song
Like a runaway freight train of high grade, NWOAHM-brand heaviness, Virginian groove metal masters Lamb Of God deliver ten seismic events on their 9th studio album, continuing the ongoing tradition that codified their status in the mid-2000s as the arguable standard-bearers for the legacy of Pantera within the American metal movement