Lamb of God
posted on 3/2009 By:
It is at the risk of repeating myself that I state the following: if you had told me nine years ago that I would be here about to write a new Lamb of God album released on a major label, I would have laughed you out of town. Seriously. New American Gospel did nothing for me, and I heard it at a time when so many bands of the ilk – Killswitch Engage and God Forbid among them, as well as many long since forgotten others – were emerging that I felt this just had to be a trend. Well, look who’s the idiot now: those three bands are often credited with starting that whole “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” thing. Lamb of God ended up on Epic Records and served as main support for much of Metallica’s most recent US run, and I am quite the fan. Now they continue to prove their mettle with Wrath.
The question on all the fans’ minds seems to be “Will it be better than Sacrament?” At first it sounded like an odd sentiment. I gave a fairly positive review to that album back in 2006, but as I thought back on it, I realized that I had barely touched it since writing the review (then again, when you’re able to see a band live every three months, who needs to listen to an album?) Continuing on, I could only recall a handful of the tracks in detail, so maybe it wasn’t as good as I initially thought; it certainly didn’t have much longevity. When the new single “Set to Fail” was released, I was hopeful that Wrath would pack a more powerful punch, and when I finally heard the album in its entirety, there was no question that it does.
“A sacred cash cow / with sickly tits” – that opening line to “In Your Words” jumped right out at me, and the song as a whole reads like a scathing diatribe against the record industry, with the music to match. They probably could have shaved off the last minute or so at no great loss, although the funeral dirge feel does provide a nice bit of closure. “Set to Fail” itself has a bit of a classic thrash vibe to it, which either makes it a surprising choice for a first single or means that my interpretation of the word is becoming looser. At any rate, this is far from Active Rock material, and I just don’t see Randy Blythe’s lower-end growls appealing to a mainstream audience. Next up, “Contractor” cranks up the speed and heaviness to an almost surprising level. Unfortunately they also toss in a goofy chorus line with “Guaran-fucking-teed!” which quickly flashed me back to “This is a motherfucking invitation!” from Sacrament’s “Redneck.” Remember when Guns N’ Roses has the “Guns N’ Fuckin’ Roses” shirts, and Metallica followed with the “Metalli-fuckin-ca” design? Yeah, silly like that. Back to the song, though, it's killer.
You’d think a track titled “Fake Messiah” would fall right into Lamb of God’s power zone, but it’s actually pretty flat. Ironically, “Grace” fares a bit better with some nice tempo changes and sweet riff work from the duo of Mark Morton and Willie Adler. “Broken Hands” follows suit and gives drummer Chris Adler a chance to show off, too. I think he even tossed in a blast beat on “Dead Seeds,” which has the type of power groove that is bound to make it a live favorite, a la “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For,” but without the sing-along. I have nothing special to say about “Everything to Nothing” and “Choke Sermon,” but that doesn’t mean they aren’t solid. They’re just on par with the quality of the rest of the album. I would have closed with one of those tracks rather than the 7+ minute “Reclamation.” Its an ambitious undertaking that flirts with epicness, but the quiet intro and outro leave something to be desired. I would have preferred to have been left with a fist in the face rather than a whisper in the wind (or to be more accurate, the soothing sounds of the sea.)
I guess I can sum up Wrath simply as Lamb of God doing their thing, and doing it well in an improvement over Sacrament. There has been no change in sound, no going soft from the spoils of major label support and ever increasing exposure and success. My mind keeps flashing with comparisons to Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill, but I haven’t been able to nail down anything specific. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to hearing such heavy music released on a major label, and in 1996, that was the heaviest thing I had heard on a major (yes, I’m aware I missed many thrash releases prior.) In 2002, it was big news when Lamb of God scored a slot supporting Mushroomhead on their US tour. Had I known then what I know now, I may have paid more attention at that show. They have earned everything they have now through perseverance and determination, whereas the other bands involved with that tour (Eighteen Visions, Five Pointe-O, and Mushroomhead themselves) have either disbanded or faded into relative obscurity. Now I think it's time to give Wrath another spin and raise a glass of cheap beer to Lamb of God for continuing to kick ass.
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