Photo Credit: Travis Shinn
For more than twenty years Richmond, Virginia heavy metal band Lamb of God have been pleasing the subgenre’s multitude of fans, and now, even after a five-year absence (the longest between studio releases in the band’s history), their new self-titled album should be quite effective in making up for lost time. A comparatively calm musical introduction greets the listener as the record opens on “Memento Mori”, which finds longtime frontman Randy Blyth singing comparatively softly at first. We can probably imagine that we’re being led into a trap of sorts, and that turns out to be exactly the case about a minute-and-two-thirds in when Blyth then screams, “Wake up!” This phrase might be a bit “on the nose,” as they say, but as usual it’s the ears that Lamb of God is looking to conquer.
A “memento mori,” in case anyone was wondering, refers to a religion symbol which illustrates the inevitability of death. These have been around for thousands of years, but on much of the new album Lamb of God focus on ideals that are a bit more recent. “Checkmate” refers to the “American scream,” and includes the lyrics: “Divide and conquer and close them in // And bury secrets deep // Make America hate again // And bleed the sheep to sleep.” One of these lines, of course, paraphrases the campaign slogan of a certain public figure.
In “Reality Bath”, the band uses the phrase “the new abnormal,” also an ironic nod to a current dilemma (that the Strokes already used this as the title of their most recent album, doesn’t make it any less relevant). The cut also includes Blyth altering his vocals closer to a rap, which makes them just a bit easier to understand. This has probably also been pointed out before, but it’s just a bit ironic when bands that are clearly looking to make very profound statements with their lyrics do so with almost completely incomprehensible vocals. Still, when we do figure the lyrics out, there’s no denying the flair that Lamb of God has for combining occult imagery with modern-day culture, as evidenced by the track “Resurrection Man” with Blyth singing: “Horror stories, talking heads // Segregate the living dead… I’m the resurrection man // A jackal in a three-piece suit.”
With Lamb of God, longtime drummer Chris Adler has departed from the band, replaced by Art Cruz, whose impressive resume includes stints in Winds of Plague, Prong and Klogr and the Rasmus. Here in his new outfit Cruz wastes no time in showing off his prowess on the skins, particularly with the machine-gun beat that defines the song “Gears.” Lead guitarist Mark Morton, rhyme guitarist Willie Adler and bassist John Campbell – all founding members – continue to contribute their invaluable musicianship. The aforementioned “Checkmate” opens with a snippet of the band in the studio, which may be Lamb of God’s way of reminding everyone that at the end of the day they’re still human. But one way or another, fans of the band and even this genre in general no doubt will devour this record.