Lamb of God – Lamb of God Review

Me and Lamb of God go way back. When New American Gospel dropped in 2000, I snapped it up in my ravenous exploration of fresh and exciting metal of the time, increasingly educating myself in extreme metal’s rich history while scouring underground depths for fresh new acts. Despite the odd production, the album hit the spot and became a favorite of mine during the era. The roll continued on subsequent releases, and modern groove metal classics, As the Palaces Burn and Ashes of the Wake. Interest began diminishing post-Sacrament as chinks began to appear in the band’s armory. Through impressive early career highs to the middling mehs of some of their later material, Lamb of God have remained committed to their craft amidst tides of turmoil, persevering through some sizable obstacles. Now following a five-year gap between albums, Lamb of God return with their anticipated eighth LP, a self-titled effort.

Later career self-titled albums often take a couple of different pathways; either signalling a reinvention or change in tact creatively, or an act of solidarity rooted in tried and true values of a signature formula. Lamb of God definitely leans towards the latter, dispensing with the mixed bag experimentation of 2015’s patchy VII: Sturm und Drang. This is a Lamb of God album through and through, one likely to satisfy diehard fans, while keeping detractors at bay. Lead-off track “Memento Mori” takes a laborious route to its aggressive core, building through atmospheric chords and sound effects, while Randy Blythe’s gloomy vocal melody skirts dangerously close to unintentional plagiarism of the Sisters of Mercy classic, “Marian.” I’m a big fan of Blythe’s aggressive vocal styles but find his attempts at cleaner singing and unnecessary spoken word to be generally grating. However, once the song kicks into gear, Lamb of God‘s tightly synced musicianship and signature mix of bruising riffage and knuckle dragging groove comes to the fore with decent results.

A couple of stock standard LoG tunes follow, delivering trademark swagger and anthemic hooks, without truly igniting the album. Nevertheless early signs are encouraging, and though Lamb of God suffers from the nagging inconsistencies and less inspired writing of their later era, the intent and focus is sharpened, resulting in a reasonably taut, overall more engaging collection of tunes, compared to recent efforts. A strong mid-album stretch enlivens proceedings, beginning with the neck-snapping ball of rage of “Reality Bath,” its killer moments diminished by Blythe’s insistence on crippling momentum with his spoken word segments. Stocks rise again on back-to-back brawlers, “New Colossal Hate” and “Resurrection Man.” Despite mostly staying in mid-paced mode, they are dynamically arranged and bolstered by strong riffs and genuinely heavy moments. Blythe’s on point, battle hardened vocals add extra starch.

The loss of drummer Chris Adler is not as adversely felt as expected, replacement Art Cruz filling the void with a tidy performance on the skins. As already touched on, Blythe’s vocals sound vital and enraged, while Mark Morton and Willie Adler deliver few surprises yet hammer out a steely, hookier batch of riffs. While a more consistent effort than the past couple of albums, Lamb of God again struggle to cut the fat and find the consistent sweet spot, prevalent on their early albums. A couple of weaker numbers should have been ruthlessly left to fester on the cutting room floor. Meanwhile, guest spots are mixed. “Poison Dream” has promise, only to unravel due to an ill-fitting and clunky vocal from Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed). I tolerated his out-of-the-box appearance on the recent Benighted platter, but here his style and delivery fit awkwardly into the song’s arrangement. Testament‘s Chuck Billy fares better on the solid, turbo-charged thrash and bluster of “Routes.” Wisely, Lamb of God finishes with a bang courtesy of explosive, thrash addled closer, “On the Hook,” raising the intensity and emotion.

Overall, there’s nothing on Lamb of God to bust a nut over, or challenge the band’s best material. Nevertheless, Lamb of God is a warts and all album signalling a minor return to form for the Virginian stalwarts. Deficiencies and lack of surprises aside, Lamb of God sound hungrier, angrier, and more inspired than they have on the past couple of albums. Breaking a lengthy recording drought and rebounding healthily from the loss of drummer Adler, Lamb of God deliver a solid, punchy, if occasionally patchy, addition to their extensive body of work.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
6 | Format Reviewed:  275 kbps mp3
Nuclear Blast Records
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Releases Worldwide:
June 19th, 2020

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