For people starting to dip their toes into the world of metal, there’s usually a line that needs crossing, between clean vocals and screaming/growling/what have you. It’s not always an easy boundary; I’d argue that it’s probably what turns most people off of metal. When I came to this line near the beginning of my love for metal, I found solace in none other than Lamb of God. “Laid to Rest” was one of the earliest songs with screaming that I listened to, and I was hooked from the first moment Randy Blythe began using his incredibly powerful vocals on that track. And while I feel like I’ve sort of taken off in my own direction musically, and haven’t always been the most diehard fan of what they’ve released recently, I always keep a special eye out for Lamb of God.
Some people don’t count this album, but considering that the main LOG lineup was mostly present on Burn the Priest and that New American Gospel was only a year away, I think that it’s still very valid. Burn the Priest sounds exactly like you think it would if you’ve heard Lamb of God before—it’s grooving beyond belief, and in a way feels like a soundtrack to someone getting curb stomped, but unlike future releases by the band (with New American Gospel being the exception), the production is a little lacking. Randy Blythe’s vocals sound cool, but the delivery is a bit too wild, and as a result, you can’t really understand everything that he’s saying. Still, though, this album is brutal. It’s a great beginning for one of the most important modern metal bands.
This album—technically the first under the Lamb of God moniker—is really the first case of the band putting their best songwriting foot forward. From the starter track “Black Label,” you can definitely tell that the band is exceptionally tight. Although it’s still a bit difficult to decipher Blythe’s vocals, he nonetheless adds some interesting bells and whistles on top of his usual death-inspired growls, including some pretty high-pitched shrieks.
Production-wise, however, New American Gospel isn’t particularly great—something that the band has blamed on time constraints among other things. It’s sometimes hard to hear everything that’s going on compositionally on the record, which is a bit of a shame, as it’s very well put together when it comes to songwriting.
A little bonus tidbit: for those that don’t know, the track “O.D.H.G.A.B.F.E.”—with lyrics based on a real life incident by Randy Blythe—stands for “Officer Dick-Head Gets a Black Fucking Eye,” which is just a great name for a metal song.
Probably the biggest attractor to people for this album was the fact that Devin Townsend was a producer, and even contributed some guitar in “A Devil In God’s Country.” With Townsend’s production, the band sounded a lot less messy and a whole lot heavier and crunchier. It doesn’t hurt that you can understand Randy Blythe this time, too.
However, I felt that the songwriting for As the Palaces Burn was a little stale. It seemed like there wasn’t enough variance in the riffs the band used, so many of the tracks sounded a little too alike (with the exception of the final track, “Vigil”). However, my opinion is not everyone else’s; As the Palaces Burn gained enough acclaim for the band to release a 10th Anniversary Remaster back in 2013.
Lamb of God hit an all-time high with this album in almost every conceivable facet. The album artwork is just epic, the production is pristine, and with the release of “Laid to Rest,” Lamb of God had found their signature song.
But when all’s said and done, it’s the songwriting that we look at, and Ashes of the Wake has that in spades. First off, there’s a lot more variance—“Omertà,” “Ashes of the Wake,” and “Remorse For the Dead” bring a lot of new elements to the band’s sound. The guitar riffs sound a lot more progressive and interesting yet still grooving. Randy Blythe’s vocals kick some audible ass. Chris Adler’s drums have never been tighter. Even the songs that use the band’s traditional groove metal style more than others—“Break You” and “Hourglass” come to mind—have a lot of interesting licks and riffs in strange places. This is definitely the place to start if you’ve never listened to Lamb of God before.
The band managed to follow up Ashes of the Wake with yet another great record. The songwriting is all over the place in terms of style on Sacrament, with the band giving into even more groovier riffs in “Redneck” and “Beating On Deaths Door” and exploring more epic-sounding songwriting with “Walk with Me In Hell,” “Descending” and “Blacken the Cursed Sun.” (Seriously, Randy Blythe sounds maniacally evil at the end of “Blacken the Cursed Sun”.)
However, there are some little parts of Sacrament that still stick in my craw after all these years. As much as I like “Redneck,” I always found the lyrics a little stupid (albeit catchy), and, for some reason, the band decided to end “Beating on Deaths Door” with a little stretch of silence that was ultimately unnecessary.
Wrath is another great record by the band, at least in terms of variance. There’s a lot more experimentation in songwriting here than there has been in previous LOG releases. “Broken Hands” starts off with its incredibly catchy chorus, and “Grace” and “Reclamation” both utilize melodic, acoustic guitar work at their beginning.
The production is a little clearer on Wrath compared to previous releases, also; that acoustic intro on “Grace” is perhaps the smoothest the band ever got production-wise.
While Resolution isn’t a horrible album, it did mark Lamb of God’s winning streak as being over. After a while, the tracks get a little boring. By now, one should know what to expect from the band: groovy thrash metal that is, admittedly, decently written. The album does have a couple unique moments, though not enough in my mind to really make up for the general blandness of the album.
Props are absolutely deserved for the incredibly doom-laden intro song “Straight For the Sun,” and the acoustic guitar used in “Ghost Walking” is a nice change, but overall it mostly falls flat.
What probably bothered me most , though, is the final track, “King Me,” where the band was backed by a full orchestra. I’m not against symphonic music at all, but when you have the opportunity to use symphonic elements, at least use them, and make the best use out of them you can. “King Me” just seemed pretty stapled together, if you ask me.
Again, Lamb of God’s latest release really isn’t bad, but it’s simply not up to what the band had done with previous releases. Groove metal can get a little banal after a while—just look at Max Cavalera if you want a good example.
However, credit deserves to be given in the new paths the band explores in Sturm Und Drang; “Embers” and “Torches”—featuring Chino Moreno of Deftones and Greg Puciato of Dillinger, respectively—brought some cool, oddly melodic moments to the album. And, most impressively, Randy Blythe actually sings on “Overlord,” and does a fantastic job.
While I’m not as actively excited for future Lamb of God releases as I once was, I do know that they bring their A-game to every album. While their sound has gotten a little stale over the years, they are nonetheless solid songwriters and very talented musicians who have greatly contributed to metal’s popularity for over a decade now.
Note: I’m more than aware that Sturm Und Drang marks the first album since Randy Blythe’s incarceration in the Czech Republic, but I didn’t feel it relevant to that album, personally. (That entire ordeal was blown way out of proportion by the media to begin with, anyway.)