Lamb of God is way better than it’s lackluster lead singles would lead you to believe. Although it doesn’t at all break the mold of the band’s past releases, this is the most invigorated Lamb of God have sounded in some time and, although marred by some sub-optimal sequencing choices, is a welcome reminder of just why they became so revered in the first place.
Returning with a self-titled, after a (comparatively) long hiatus and after having lost a key, founding member is certainly making a statement. Yet, while Chris Adler certainly left on less than ideal terms, it’s also a suitable one. For better or worse, Lamb of God sounds like Lamb of God. Full stop. Period. End of Story. The cynical take is that the world simply doesn’t need another sub-standard rehash of Sacrament (2006) . On the other hand, if you’ve ever enjoyed Lamb of God’s albums in the past, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a kick out of this one as well. Also, its unfortunate to say, but Adler isn’t really all that missed. New drummer Art Cruz (Winds of Plague, ex-Prong) does a perfectly serviceable imitation of him that, although it reinforces Lamb of God’s unwillingness to really shake things up, also goes to show that, while technically proficient, Adler’s style never really boasted that much personality either. Maybe it’s simply that most metal drummers have been tailoring themselves to his style for about twenty years now, but Adler hardly constituted much presence during his stints with Protest the Hero or Megadeth either.
Annoyingly, the album’s greatest detriment lies in its sequencing. Although the album’s first half is solid enough, it’s strongest material, by far, occupies its second half. The contrast between the record’s ploddier first half and its rabid second is so stark that it doesn’t feel like it’s ever truly begun until the hardcore-style “bleh!” that kicks of “Ressurection Man,” which is buried all the way at track six for some reason. The track would have made for a forceful and definitive opener, and from there the album refuses to let up. “Poison Dream” is perhaps the weakest of the set. Yet even then, Jamey Jasta‘s guest spot enlivens it with a welcome sense of nostalgia, while continuing the hardcore spirit. Testament‘s Chuck Billy, shows up on the next track, “Routes” which is a strong contender (alongside “Resurrection man”) for the album’s strongest offering, and continues his habit of effortlessly elevating thrash-infused NWOAHM records by his mere presence. “Bloodshot Eyes” is another thrash metal rager that arguably comes closest to capturing the spirit of the band’s earlier glories, while also making effective use of Randy Blythe’s until-now ill-fitting clean vocals, before “On the Hook” closes out the record with their most distinctive beatdown section since maybe Ashes of the Wake (2004). It all makes the album’s earlier section, which can come across at times like a collection of “Ghost Walkings”, feel even more plody in retrospect. Conversely, the album is easily improved by simply flipping the two halves, so that its later material actually invigorates its earlier offerings.
Lamb of God might be less adventurous than the band’s previous two releases, but it’s also far more consistent, suggesting that the band are best when they stay in their lane. It’s hard not to sympathise with Chris Adler’s frustrations with the band’s seemingly stifled creativity. From an outside perspective, however, it’s more forgivable. Although Lamb of God doesn’t even come within touching distance of the band’s best work, few artists of their ilk have. Lamb of God have set the standard for punishing, groove laden heavy metal the better part of two decades now for good reason, and its refreshing to hear them back playing within their comfort zone, especially after such a long absence.
Lamb of God comes out June 19 through Nuclear Blast.