Lamb Of God have established themselves at the top of the ‘new american heavy metal’ scene continuing their wave of commercialized supremacy without hopping onto the trending band wagon. With each release the band not only establish themselves as musicians but they maintain a fan base, growing it to epic, worldwide proportions. Lamb Of God have moved their unique sonic mayhem to every corner of the world. 2015 sees the band release its seventh record (eight if you include the group’s Burn The Priest album) and it’s undeniable that the American groove metal band are worth the attention and upcoming anticipation they are receiving in the lead up to “VII: Sturm Und Drang”. The five piece has always had an uncompromising approach to their own music, helping shape what the ‘Lamb Of God’ sound is today. It’s not a “fans first” method of song-writing, nor does the band think to make an album that suits directly to a live setting (although Lamb Of God can bring all these elements together on stage to their very best) but it’s the fans that benefit most from Lamb Of God’s new music.
More often than not Lamb Of God are known for covering serious topics (usually political), Randy Blythe is by no means a slouch with his words, sharing his (and the bands) views in a context that ensures the every day listener will think about what they are actually listening to and how it effects them. From war and contract killings, gods and people’s belief systems to Blythe’s own life experiences where he sat in a prison cell only metres away from a heavily used guillotine. Take it how you will as it’s not only the context that lifts Lamb Of God from the crowds, the group is also known for providing an left of field outlook on their idealism’s, seen on Sacrament’s “Redneck” which rather comically plays on witty hooks. The message? Look deeper, the topics for discussion have never gone away.
Move nine years into the future and Lamb Of God’s 2015 effort, “VII: Sturm Und Drang” which translates directly to “Storm and Stress” and most fans would know of the hiatus which was created from Blythe’s incarceration in in a Czech republic prison, Pankrac Prison in which Blythe was held for the manslaughter of a fan during the band’s concert. The case was eventually dropped with Blythe’s full acquaintance but not before Blythe had spent a considerable amount of time behind prison bars and while Randy says this is not a “prison album”, the album does share it’s moments from Pankrac. Album opener, “Still Echoes” shares the prison’s history, coupling Blythe’s personal feelings about the place. The music is harsh, resounding and reflective marking exactly what the listener can expect from the album. You can hear the track here:
Randy states: “It’s a record about how people handle extreme situations. Obviously it started with me being in prison, but this isn’t my prison album. The song ‘512’ is asking ‘How am I handling this?’ Anyone who’s been locked up will probably understand what I’m trying to say. It’s about the brutal psychic shift you undergo when you become incarcerated, because it’s not a normal situation at all. People in prison think and act 100% differently from people on the outside. It’s a different world.”
The album bears a certain resemblance to Randy’s experience behind bars but it’s not all about the experience. Lamb Of God preserve a certain sense of awareness, not only in the current climate but also what they are moving towards as a band. “VII: Sturm Und Drang” sees the band mature, grow and move towards the darker aspects of their lives. Where every aspect of modern metal is touched (I mean if you wanted an album to sound like it was released in 2015, make it like this) and every little nuance of the band sounds exactly like “Lamb Of God wrote it” it speaks miles to assume that the boys behind the album are still churning out ideas, making everything cohesive and more importantly, like it’s supposed to be there. The band’s previous record, ‘Resolution’ showcased a dirtier, more real Lamb Of God, rather than the clinically produced ‘Wrath’ (which still all bore the same trademarks of every other Lamb Of God album) and yet still “VII: Sturm Und Drang” produces some of the band’s finest music to date.
For what it’s worth, the typical Lamb Of God elements still provide room for surprises including guest performances from Greg Puciato (from Dillinger Escape Plan) and Chino Moreno (from Deftones) who add their talents (yes, talents) to “Torches” and “Embers” respectively. Both are massive tracks highlighting that even the likes of Lamb Of God love collaborating with others. “Torches” brings a spoken word, building atmosphere and gets the most of the combined efforts. The track is intense and closes the album in a spectacular way. Crunching guitar work intertwines with percussive simplicity. Even vocal phrasing crashes into the listener with full force, drawing in the instrumental aspects of the track. The lyricism throughout the album is strong but it truly culminates in the final track. It’s not a song of pleasantries, rather the harshness of a final act of a man against tyranny. As much as Lamb Of God has presented an album of tragedy, death, despair and hopelessness, they tell some serious stories of heroes, most of which didn’t make it.
Overall it’s a wonder that some of these stories can surface at all. For Lamb Of God it shows how in touch the band is with both all past, present and future. It’s metal, it’s not ground-breaking but it sure is spectacular. “VII: Sturm Und Drang” is a hell of a record and its lasting value far outweighs its run time. This will be one of my most played records of 2015 and years to come. This is the thinking man’s metal record. Enjoy it, ponder what it means to be you.
01. Still Echoes
02. Erase This
08. Engage The Fear Machine
09. Delusion Pandemic
Release: 24 July 2015