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Album review: Lamb of God – Lamb of God

Lamb of God’s self titled is a defining album in the band’s discography and one that will drop jaws as much as shut them up

Lamb of God are the poster boys for modern metal – beyond the high quality of the music, they have, in their 21 years, a genuine story to the band. With their meteoric rise to fame at just the right time, inter-band frictions, substance abuse, loss of a key band member, and, of course, all the craziness around the incarceration and court case of vocalist Randy Blythe a few years back, they are the complete package. With their new album, simply titled ‘Lamb of God’, they are making a statement to say that they are still the top of the heap, and they ain’t going anywhere too soon.

With the loss of founding member and drummer Chris Adler last year, fans were floored and were expecting the band to either flounder or close shop altogether, and with good reason – along with being one of the key songwriters and arrangers of the band, he is also an incredible player and one of the modern drummer gods. His work on all previous releases was insanely intricate, precise, and downright brutal, and the loss seemed akin to Dream Theater losing Mike Portnoy who had a very similar position in that band. The past two Lamb of God albums were both slow burners that needed a lot more listening time to take in what they were trying to achieve, as opposed to their ‘heyday albums’, where the impact was immediate and mind-blowing. The remaining members, deciding that the band was too important to themselves and the rabid fans, absolutely had to make their first post-Chris album something special and explosive. And they damn well did. Bloody hell.

Opener Memento Mori has a melancholic intro that builds painfully into a classic Lamb of God riff-fest that takes no prisoners and rips faces off left and right, and Checkmate follows suit with all the necessary bells and whistles ringing hard and fast. The following three tracks (Gears, Reality Bath, and the fierce New Colossal Hate) are a trilogy of brutality and lyrical venom; easily the finest on display here. They are dripping with classic Adler/Morton guitar interplay that gives a real back-to-basics feel for the pair – the riffs flying high and finally meeting in a barrage of molten metal fury -and the rhythm section of long-time bassist John Campbell (a monster of the four-string attack) and new drummer Arturo “Art” Cruz take things to a completely different and wondrous place. Added to the palette are guest vocals by Testament legend Chuck Billy on the ripping Routes and Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta throwing down hard on Poison Dream, but the album plays hard and fast throughout, with nary a misstep or stitch of filler in sight.

Of course, the beloved elephant in the room is Blythe, a man and artist that has been through the wars and proven himself time and time again. His vocals have never sounded as defined or intensely pissed off as they do right here, and his lyrics (as always) are both introspective and politically aggressive. He’s a wonder to behold, as is every single other member, especially Cruz who, in his first and daunting outing with the band (and filling shoes about 300 miles wide), absolutely kills it – he has all the skills of his predecessor and brings some finery of his own, and it’s truly impressive.

Of all the previous Lamb of God albums, this one brings to mind the gutsy, ‘we’ve got something to prove’, stripped-down and taking no prisoners ‘Ashes Of The Wake’ from 2004, a game-changer for the band at a critical time that won over even their staunchest detractors. Self-titled records usually denote a change in direction or mission statement for a long-time band, and ‘Lamb Of God’ falls firmly in the latter department. It is a brave, confident, beautiful slap to the face of their critics and also fans that gave up when the chips were down, and it will no doubt become one of their most classic albums overall. In an all-too brief 45 minutes of face-melting music, they have thrown that rusty old gauntlet down and proclaimed that they are still the kings of the modern American metal heap, and no amount of adversity or bullshit will stop their mission to remain as such.      

★★★★

FFO: Machine Head, Shadows Fall, Trivium

Lamb of God is out June 19 via Nuclear Blast

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