Their first release in five years (barring 2018’s “Legion: XX,” which was released under their original name, Burn the Priest), the grizzled veterans of groove metal return with a boisterous set of bouncy riffs, heart-stopping rhythms and the always-brash vocals characteristic of the Virginia-based quintet. As per most bands that have been around the bend for decades plus, time often has a way with catching up as it slowly chips away at quality and former glory — but Lamb of God’s eighth studio endeavor proves otherwise.
Standing at the helm of the record is Josh Wilbur, whose production credits include Korn, Megadeth, Dillinger Escape Plan and Motionless in White. Wilbur’s fierce production is showcased throughout the album in tracks such as “Checkmate” and “New Colossal Hate,” where the combination of Willie Adler’s tight rhythms and Mark Morton’s ever-precise alternate-picked riffs punch you in the jaw while John Campbell plays the perfect supporting role with accentuating bass lines — not to anyone’s surprise.
As a guitarist, I always take joy in hearing the tandem offense of Adler and Morton. I also can only beg the question of what noise gate pedals Adler and Morton use. Take “Gears” for example, where the verse sections are teeming with brutally accurate staccato riffs — and let’s not forget their characteristic dynamic changes from palm mutes to open riffage, often underlined by a catastrophic cascade of crash cymbals.
If you’ve made it this far, stop what you’re doing right now and listen to the bass intro of track number four, “Reality Bath.” With such a tasteful introduction, John Campbell wants to remind the listener that his presence is always to be felt, no matter how subtle it may be.
One of the biggest points of concern leading up to Lamb of God’s latest effort was the departure of founding member and (now former) drummer Chris Adler and how his successor, Art Cruz (of Winds of Plague and Prong fame), would perform on the new record.
As the record goes on, it becomes apparent that Cruz was, simply put, the right choice to replace Chris Adler. Cruz successfully subverts any and all expectations as he brings the energy with blistering endurance, pivotal tempo changes and perfectly timed execution in crucial moments, like the final section of “Resurrection Man”—where his downbeat strikes hit like Floyd Mayweather amidst the staggered cacophony of the rhythm guitar. Not to mention, that iconic snappy Lamb of God snare still remains!
My usual complaint with Lamb of God has always been the lyricism on Blythe’s end. While it’s no doubt that Blythe is one of the most talented vocalists in all of metal with his easily identifiable barks and rambunctious delivery, time and time again has shown that lyrics prove to be the band’s weakest point — even the “See who gives a f—“ line in “Laid to Rest” I find to be kind of cringeworthy, but regardless that wouldn’t stop me from throwing down in the pit at a show when they inevitably play that song.
That same principle applies to this record — kind of cringeworthy at times, but I’ll still take it.
Take “On the Hook” for example where the chorus goes, “Prescription for a homicide / A generation on the hook / Addicted and commodified / Prescription for a homicide.” Blythe’s “woke” lyrics never seemed to impress me, but people seem to like it so it’s alright.
There are some brighter lyrical moments on the album, however. Far more than usual actually, like the poignant opener “Memento Mori” — which goes, “By the darkest river, beneath the leafless trees / I think I’m drowning, this dream is killing me / In the coldest winter, between the fading lights / I feel I’m falling into a frozen sky.”
While “VII” showcased a more battle-hardened Blythe following his prison stint, the self-titled release stays true to their approach with anthems loaded with political commentary and self-reflection on the next chapter of Lamb of God’s career.
With nearly three decades in the game, eight albums under the belt and a rather dramatic lineup change in recent memory, Lamb of God has fully transitioned into veteran territory and they have the battle scars to prove it. Unapologetic and unafraid, Lamb of God dives head in into this next chapter of their career with their latest self-titled release.
While it’s no “Ashes of the Wake” or “Sacrament,” fans of Lamb of God can all find something on this album to enjoy, as it represents all the best elements that truly made Lamb of God into the band that they are today.