The New Guitar Gods: Lamb of God
Realizing that his heroes had become his peers could have been a triumphant declaration of arrival for Morton, but the impact had quite a different effect on him. “The last thing you can do when you reach a point like that is sit back and relax,” he says. “Our thing is to always get better and keep pushing forward. Otherwise, you’ll get left behind.”
As a result, after more than a decade together, Lamb of God now find themselves in the enviable position of having the entire metal world eagerly awaiting their next move. And that move, if Sacrament is any indication, appears to be a full-on bid for the heavy metal crown. The album’s 11 tracks reveal a marked progression in the band’s writing and arranging skills. The song structures are considerably streamlined, the verses and choruses are more developed, the riffs are not quite as knotty, and the overall sound of the record, courtesy of producer Machine (who also helmed Ashes), is more layered and varied. Even Blythe’s vocals, still characterized by a sandpapery bark, have added depth, and are at times multitracked to effect a massive roar.
And while the band’s trademark thrashy workouts are well represented in tracks like “Beating on Death’s Door” and the scathing “Forgotten (Lost Souls),” on which Morton and Adler’s acrobatic, rapid-fire riffs sprint in lock-step tandem with Chris Adler’s persistent double-bass drum patterns, Sacrament is also the most diverse batch of songs Lamb of God have recorded to date. One track in particular, a moody midtempo number called “Descending”—by no means a ballad, but arguably the slowest song in the band’s catalog—was such a radical departure from the band’s usual sound that Adler admits to having had reservations about including it on the album.
“Mark brought that one in, and from the get-go I did not want to even give it a shot,” he says. “It was so different from anything we had done in the past. It just didn’t seem ‘metal’ to me. I didn’t quite get it, and I thought there was no way it would make the final cut. But once I heard the finished product, I loved it.”
It’s these moments—and there are plenty of them on Sacrament—in which Lamb of God truly shine. The band’s best-known songs, such as “Ruin” (from 2003’s As the Palaces Burn) and “Black Label” (New American Gospel), have always been those that put on proud display their ability to perform extreme music with fierce precision and agility. But on Sacrament, it is the songs that feature their best songwriting that look to be the standout cuts. The album’s first single, “Redneck,” is an uptempo tune that features a slippery, uncluttered main riff and a hooky chorus. The song rocks rather than thrashes, with a rhythm that swings rather than pummels. “It has a bit of a looser swagger than we’re known for,” says Morton. “It’s just a fun song, both to play and to listen to.”
That said, the band also recognizes that there are those fans for whom even the slightest deviation in musical direction is interpreted as the severest of betrayals. While not quite as radically different as “Descending,” “Redneck” has already stirred up chatter among fans as to whether Lamb of God may be heading in a more commercial direction—as commercial, that is, as a song based around the refrain “This is a motherfucking invitation…” can possibly be. “There are some people who think the song isn’t heavy enough, or that Randy doesn’t scream enough. They’re pissed that he’s actually singing!” says Adler. “But there are always those fans that want to keep you in their back pocket. So maybe they’re not going to be into our trying different things, but we need to follow our instincts. And for the most part the response has been incredibly positive.”
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Artists:Lamb of God
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