Lamb of God
posted on 8/2006 By:
Dismember. Nile. Arch Enemy. Bolt Thrower (lord, do they ever). Dying Fetus. Fear Factory. Exodus. Hatebreed. Phobia. Deicide. Vader. And hell, even Slayer. What do all of these bands have in common? Besides being well-respected and well-known metal bands, each act I named has redundancy in their discography. That is to say, these bands are or were at some point content to put out essentially the same album again and again, year in and year out, and the torpedos be damned. Sure, there might be minor variations from one to another—we all know that South of Heaven doesn’t exactly sound like God Hates Us All—but the basic formula never changes, the fans never stop eating it up, and everyone involved aside from critics and nerds who demand ‘progress’ are happy.
It’s about time to add Lamb of God to the list. The chief complaint I’ve heard directed against Sacrament has to do with its similarity to LoG’s previous two albums. This strikes me as kind of laughable. I don’t see people excoriating Bolt Thrower for re-releasing Realm of Chaos under a new title every two years since 1989, and why? Lamb of God’s big and Bolt Thrower ain’t. That’s it. If they hadn’t blown up, they’d be treated for what they are: a tight, dextrous modern thrash band who write excellent riffs and memorable songs. These guys aren’t supermen because their logo is on more high school dudes’ t-shirts than your favorite grindcore band’s, and musical progression is no more incumbent upon them than it is upon any aforementioned act. Nile gurgle about Egypt and blast really fast, Slayer sing about Satan and have hilarious solos between the awesome riffs, and Lamb of God perform crowd-pleasing but tasteful and gimmickless thrash. Thus it is and so shall it be.
As for this round’s minor stylistic shifts, they’re noticeable but few. Randy Blythe’s harsh vocals are as strong and distinctive as ever, but he’s thrown in a few shout/sung Anselmo moments that work better in some places (“Again We Rise,” “Requiem”) than others (“Redneck”)…much like Phil Anselmo’s own use of the vocal style. Simultaneously, Machine’s production job is again slightly cleaner and drier, which this time around incrementally dulls the band’s aggressive edge while emphasizing their technical proficiency.
And that’s about it. Sacrament is a collection of well-conceived and stirringly performed metal songs that rely on their mastery of convention to counterbalance their lack of ambition. Whether the listener chooses to enjoy them for what they are or reject them on the grounds of recidivism is up to him or her, but those who choose the latter would do well to remember how much of metal history can be dismissed on the same terms.
posted on 8/2006 By:
Lamb of God is a band that I’ve kept a close eye on ever since their New American Gospel album was released in 2000, and those of you familiar with that record saw them bring forth an almost heavier than Pantera thrash sound only without the amazing guitar solos yet with more balls and brawn. Effortless yet profound riffs with killer breakdowns topped off with a talented front man possessing a very diverse voice as far as heavy, growling vocalists go. 2003’s As the Palaces Burn saw them move in a more melodic direction which was probably a result of all the extensive touring they were doing with bands such as The Haunted, Shadows Fall, God Forbid and the like. One year later saw them meld the best aspects from both of those releases to produce what was probably their most varied and complete album in their major label debut, Ashes of the Wake. You have to give the band credit in that they’ve continuously tried to evolve their sound yet at the same time they’ve stayed true to their roots and have continued to play heavy and uncompromising American thrash metal. So what can you expect from 2006’s Sacrament? Well, in essence it’s kind of like a sequel to its predecessor in that it follows the same recipe of aggression with remarkable sound, top notch musicianship and some of the best songwriting ever heard from the group. It pleases me to no end to report that this band has come back with a sophomore major label release that is stronger than ever and sees the band ready to topple anything and anyone in its path.
This group of musicians has shown over the years that they can write some great songs, and that holds true as the first three songs on this album are arguably some of their finest to date. "Walk With Me In Hell" and "Again We Rise" follow a similar pattern in that they both start off with slightly melodic licks that lead into intricately aggressive riffs that are immediate attention getters. Randy Blythe has never sounded better and that is evident right from the start to the very end. He is unquestionably the most favoring asset of this band’s overall sound and just keeps growing vocally with each album. His addition of almost but “not quite clean” vocals is amazing as are the times he chooses to use them. "Redneck" comes next and as concerned as I was when I first heard this track in the weeks leading up to the release date, in part due to the aforementioned “not quite clean” vocals, it has grown on me and has some of the catchiest and purest thrash whaling heard throughout the entire album. The best representation of this is right at about the 2:00 mark with a riff comprised of some firmly executed hammer on licks. This section becomes even more effective with Chris Adler’s awe inspiring creativity behind the kit where he in due course plays a simple yet efficient straightforward beat, then cuts the snare hits in half bringing out the magnificent groove within. "Pathetic" and "Foot to the Throat" continue this pummeling onslaught of furious rage with both songs showing that Mark Morton and Willie Adler have both improved as guitar players and possess the desire to continue doing so. They not only get tighter with each album as rhythm players by continuing to bring forth brand new sounding riffs to a 25-plus year old genre, but they've also enhanced their lead playing some as well. "Descending" is probably their most radio friendly song to date spewing forth a more passionate side to the band not heard much on previous endeavors, but it works to perfection and shines through with high octane enthusiasm without sounding cushy and soft. The offensive continues with "Blacken the Cursed Sun" and "Forgotten (Lost Angels)" blasting along with a ferocious set of riffs that are fresh and inspirational without sounding artificial or showy. If the album has a weak spot it comes in the form of the next two tracks, "Requiem" and "More Time To Kill". I wish I could pinpoint exactly what it is that separates them from the rest, but after several listens to the album as a whole they both seem a bit rushed, and as powerfully as the album starts off it really seems to lag a tad at this point. Not to worry because all is forgiven as "Beating On Death’s Door" does just that. I mean c’mon…this is the final track on the album and it is far and way the most brutal song Lamb of God has ever put together in terms of speed and texture, and to have it bring things to a close is very fitting to say the least.
At the end of the day this album has moments that have Lamb of God sounding better than they ever have. The production is crisp and couldn’t be any better considering the budget they undoubtedly had to work with, and the musicianship has never been in question as these guys have been playing together for years and that certainly shows. Longtime fans will definitely buy this album and for good reason. It’s a fantastic album with some incredible songs with a couple toward the end that may pass the test for the not so critical ear. Even though they are signed to a major label and doing well in that respect, they refuse to alter their sound to cater to that fact, and like I noted above they’ve stayed true to their roots and haven’t compromised a damn thing. Sacrament is a worthy purchase and clearly shows this band’s drive for metal stardom is still on the rise with seemingly no end in sight.
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