It’s been 5 years since new Lamb Of God songs have hit fans ears, the longest gap in the bands career but as the band push into their third decade with multiple successes and an ever growing fanbase that has catapulted the band into the top tiers for heavy music, those long gaps are expected and possibly may become a frequent thing as the now veteran metal act spend longer times on the road as well as really hone their craft with new music. With their self-titled album, it’s a good representation of where the band are at and anyone expecting it to be any less of what has become expectant of Lamb Of God may be in for a surprise, even with the introduction of a new drummer to place the big shoes left behind by Chris Adler.
The evolution of Lamb Of God has been an interesting one, purely from a musical standpoint. With all the challenges that have been thrown at them which has included sobriety, prison time, key changes in the lineup plus the current pandemic which has seen the release of this album pushed back into June, the longstanding 5 piece have forged on no matter what. Starting out with a very abrasive from of hardcore meets groove metal that led the path to the new wave of American metal and moving along to a more slicker groove based, hook driven and at times, a hint of bluesy southern metal riffs mixed with massive breakdowns and pure modern metal components which the band retain very much on this new album, Lamb Of God are a band that look for the best in what they can put out and it shows in their live shows. The last couple of tours I’ve witnessed were pure brilliance but that’s backed up by the quality of music they have produced.
The new album has already seen a fair bit play through the 4 singles that have been released so any genuine Lamb Of God fan will be familiar with these by now. “Memento Mori” opens the album up after a brooding intro and it’s trademark Lamb Of God stuff a soon as the guitars come crashing through. There’s comfort in that sound as you find a certain familiarity that’s not unheard in albums such as “Ashes Of The Wake”, “Sacrament” and even their previous album “VII: Sturm Und Drang” which saw the band expand even further on their sound and style.
“Checkmate” follows right after with it’s heavy groove after being the first taste of the album back in February, a digestable track that’s accessable for the casual listener. “New Colossal Hate” is probably the strongest of the singles released and also the perfect vehicle for new drummer Art Cruz who shines bright on this and “Routes” featuring the legendary Chuck Billy from Testament gives us a bit of thrash to kick things into high gear.
Speaking of Art Cruz however, one of the reasons this album is of somewhat importance in the catalogue for Lamb Of God is the fact that this is the first album without Chris Adler behind the drumkit. It’s a massive change as for many fans, Adler was one of the driving forces behind the band and just from a technical point of view, a drawcard for many who were influenced by Adler’s brilliant drumming style. A huge loss for sure but make no mistake, Art was clearly up for the challenge when taking on the role and after hearing the album through even after the first listen, it’s safe to say that Lamb Of God will do just fine. That’s not a dig at Adler of course, I consider him one of the finest modern drummers of all time and his style is a joy to watch (a fond memory comes to mind of a time I stood behind Adler’s kit from the crowd as they opened for Metallica back in 2010 in Sydney where the stage was in the round so to witness Adler from behind with all his footwork on full display is a moment I won’t ever forget). However to say that the drumming on this new album is sub-par, not of Lamb Of God’s level and so on and so forth can be easily dismissed. Art did a fantastic job and it will be certainly an experience to see him live with the band.
Moving on, we get to the unheard tracks thus far. “Gears” provides a solid beat but it’s “Reality Bath” that wins the highlight reel with the band hitting it right in the pocket with a healthy dose of that tasty groove that they do so well. Catchy chorus lines to match and it’s a sure fire winner for the live show if it ever gets the stage time.
“Resurrection Man” is an interesting one, it’s the darkest track here and while the pace is a little slower, it still manages to produce some heavy artillery to keep things moving along. “Poison Dream” features a cameo from Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta and he kills it when the hardcore interlude comes in where the band back off and let Randy and Jamey have at it for a bit of a throwdown. “Bloodshot Eyes” shows the lighter side of the band which has been an aspect the band have slowly experimented with on the last couple of albums. There’s plenty of melody here but again, there’s also a balance of the heavier stuff to keep things on the metal side still.
Rounding things up is probably the most diverse track in “On The Hook“, combining heavy elements with intricate parts and more atmospheric passages. It’s not the strongest track to leave a huge impression on you but it will make it’s mark in being the most different song on offer. With 20 years gone by since their debut, Lamb Of God can’t afford to rest on easy laurels and play the easy card. The dichotomy of a great band is always to challenge themselves and the audience while still retaining the roots of the band’s core sound and I believe Lamb Of God have done that pretty well here which really cements the self-titled name.