By Samuel Stevens
Release Date: June 19, 2020
Genre: Groove Metal
Label: Epic Records
The Richmond, Virginia based groove/heavy metal legends, Lamb of God, have returned with their first body of original work in five years. Originally scheduled for a May 8th release, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed certain aspects of the aforementioned album resulting in the band and their label to delay the album by six weeks to make sure they could fulfill everything for the fans. The brand new self-titled release marks the band’s eighth album, and the first since the departure of their long time drummer Chris Adler. The album features newcomer Art Cruz, also of Winds of Plague and ex-Prong on the drums. Lamb of God recorded the album at Dave Grohl’s recording studio, Studio 606, in Northridge, California. The group also partnered once again with their longtime producer Josh Wilbur, also best known for his work with Korn, Megadeth, Gojira, and Trivium, to produce the ten track album.
Lamb of God began the writing process for the album’s ten tracks a few years ago before they took a break to hit the road after an offer they could not refuse came their way, to join Slayer as main support on their final expansive world tour that was dubbed, The Final Campaign. Vocalist D. Randall Blythe took an approach to the lyrical side of the album drawing from early punk, and wrote with his mind on past and current world affairs. There isn’t any one track on the band’s self-titled record that’s about any specific individual. Instead the band examines past and current topics in the world rather looking at the causes of these problems from a wider perspective.
Lamb of God opens up with the track, “Memento Mori.” Beginning with a haunting intro with slow methodical guitars, with Blythe clean singing quietly over top, until the track explodes to it’s truest form. “Memento Mori” touches on the topic of not being consumed by your cell phone, computer, and/or television. It’s important to remain engaged with the real world in front of you, stay informed, and not just live in and consume a digitally filtered representation of our own reality, to help yourself maintain a positive mental state. “The hardest hour, the cruelest sign / I’m waking up from this wretched lie / I fight it the same, don’t waste this day / Wake up, wake up, wake up / Memento mori.”
“Checkmate” is a ferocious track brushing upon the wide-angle perspective of modern world events that could be perceived that they occur because of political activity. Hatebreed’s own Jamey Jasta appears on the track “Poison Dream” and Testament’s frontman Chuck Billy appears on the track, “Routes.” The song “Routes” is a monster of a track from it’s fast thrash-esque riffs, to it’s bombardment of drums, or the lyrical content. The song was inspired by Blythe’s time protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, between 2016 and 2017. It was vital of Blythe to have an Indigenous American voice represented on the track, and by enlisting Chuck Billy, who is of Pomo Native American heritage, he achieved that need. “A black snake beneath the ground, extinction dripping from his mouth / Poisons water, hearts of men who choke the sky and rape the land.”
The eighth studio album from Lamb of God is best described as a joint piece of work of each of the band’s five members contributions, blended all into one singular sound spread among ten blistering tracks. Both guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, fan the flame on the album with their endless barrage of riffs, taking what Lamb of God are best known for, and unimaginably, raising the stakes like ever before. Bassist John Campbell is evidently looming at large behind it all with his rhythmic sections on the tracks, while drummer Art Cruz brings a new perspective with his recent addition to the group and some fresh and exciting dynamics to the drumming. Vocalist D. Randall Blythe is still as angry, insightful, and informed as ever. He’s never been one to hold back his voice in the past on major world events, or his previous incarceration, trial, and acquittal of manslaughter in the Czech Republic, that was the main lyrical focus on their previous album, VII: Sturm und Drang. Blythe once again faces these subjects of the human nature head-on, on the newest set of material only as Lamb of God can in the past, present, and future. It’s more than certain that Lamb of God will satisfy any metal fan who listens to this timeless piece of work.