The New Guitar Gods: Lamb of God
With Sacrament, the leaders of the underground make their bid for the heavy metal crown.
“We weren’t supposed to be a big band,” says Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton. “You were never supposed to be interviewing us. You were never supposed to have heard of us.”
Coming from a man whose band just completed an arena tour as the main support act for metal legends Slayer, and whose new album, Sacrament (Epic), is among the most anticipated heavy music releases of the year, this statement rings with more than a hint of false modesty. But perhaps there’s also a bit of truth to Morton’s words: any band that forms under the moniker Burn the Priest, as Lamb of God were called during their first few years, probably isn’t gunning for multi-Platinum glory. As Morton explains, their aspirations in those days were hardly grand. “We were the guys who would show up at your house and play your basement party for 50 bucks and some beer,” he says. “We’d play for spaghetti.”
But if the members of Lamb of God did not have particularly lofty career goals when they first came together in Richmond, Virginia, in the early Nineties, they have always been plenty ambitious when it comes to the music they create. Over the course of three full-length albums (in addition to one when they were still known as Burn the Priest) the band—Morton, coguitarist Willie Adler, drummer (and Willie’s brother) Chris Adler, bassist John Campbell and singer Randy Blythe—have forged a sound that is equal parts heavy metal thunder and hardcore aggression, colored with bits of atonal noise, dissonance and other abrasive elements, and performed with jawdropping instrumental proficiency. The resulting music is among the most visceral, dynamic and technically stunning in current metal. Morton may insist that the band members have always been more than happy to perform for a warm meal and a cold beer. Yet, Lamb of God’s dedication to creating consistently challenging music—as well as their tireless touring schedule and an intense practice regimen that, to this day, finds them rehearsing often five days a week—makes clear that their success is not only well deserved but was on some level perhaps inevitable.
“This band is pretty much all we do,” says Willie Adler. “We’ll get off the road and take a couple of weeks to ourselves, and then it’s either getting together for songwriting, rehearsing for an album or tour, or hitting the studio to begin recording. The music is everything. It doesn’t stop. We never stop.”
Since Lamb of God released their Prosthetic Records debut, New American Gospel, in 2000, things have indeed been moving full speed ahead for them. Alongside bands like Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage, they were heralded as a leading light in the heavy music resurgence that has been tagged the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. Prior to recording 2004’s Ashes of the Wake, they signed to a major label, Epic. On the road, they headlined last year’s inaugural Sounds of the Underground package tour and participated in the Unholy Alliance jaunt with Slayer (up next: the Megadeth-led Gigantour festival). Clearly, the band has been experiencing one high point after another. Morton remembers one instance in particular where he became aware of this fact: “We were on the Ozzfest tour in 2004, and all of a sudden it hit me that I was playing on the same bill every day with guitarists like Zakk Wylde and bands like Black Sabbath. It’s times like that where you just go, ‘Huh?’ ”