We are currently in the middle of some strange heavy metal/punk rock malestrom. Seriously. Every single band that I was heavily into when I was a wee-little headbanger (in an oversized Children of Bodom tee) has announced a new record or has already released one. Everything from Iron Maiden’s upcoming epic (seriously, the thing is an hour and a half long), to new offerings from Slayer (the only big 4 member that’s still thrashier than a shark in a dishwasher) to a new Disburbed record (new record, same Draiman, everybody wins!).
But first, to set the bar at colossal height we have the latest offering from metal heavyweights Lamb of God. Enter “VII – Sturm Und Drang” a furious record that reflects a band that have been through one hell of a dark period, and are ready to infuse that darkness right back into their music…a pretty vicious circle when you think about it.
Lead single “Still Echoes” rips away the album’s protective aluminium coating unleashing a fiery storm of furious riffery and lyrical poignancy. The song addresses the Czech Republic’s Pankrac Prison (which held frontman Randy Blythe) and acts as a venmous recount of the prison’s history. With lyrics like “To the bear, the Blitzkrieg and the Holy Father, they just bowed their heads!”, it’s easy to say that there’s a lot to be vented on this record, and it’s being done in the most violent way possible.
“Erase This” continues the signature , well-known, LOG groove, conjuring up flashbacks of classics “The Faded Line” (Ashes of the Wake, 2004) and “11th Hour” (As The Palaces Burn, 2003). There’s even some talkbox guitar, sounding almost like as if Bon Jovi had been possessed by the world’s darkest phantasm. Second single “512” is clearly personal, as the title refers to Blythe’s cell number during his incarceration. Cathartic lyrics “My hands are painted red, my future’s painted black!” act as a clear representation of the deep, personal turmoil that Blythe was subjected to. These are combined with melodic riff-work from axemasters Mark Morton and Willie Adler, as well as a shredding guitar solo and a driving bassline courtesy of John Campbell.
The record also forays into clean vocals territory, including featured vox from Deftones frontman, Chino Moreno on “Embers” and an almost entirely clean-sung track from Blythe himself on “Overlord”, sounding like the demonic spawn of Layne Staley and Devin Townsend. This, coupled with Mark Morton’s bluesy guitar chops adds some new flavour to LOG’s signature brand of blues-infused groove metal.
The exploration of clean-vocal territory and grunge valley however, does not mean that Lamb of God have lost their furious spark, not by a long shot. “Footprints” is where drum-king (and latest addition to Megadeth) Chris Adler gets to work his blast-beat and double-bass pedal mastery to such a pinnacle that I’m pretty sure he’s a shaman (I always wondered who became Shaman King) whilst “Anthropoid” brings a riff made of more thunder than Thor’s farts alongside a gang-vocal chorus of “WE ARE THE APEX PREDATOR!” (I wonder if this is going to be Randy Orton’s new entrance theme…). “Torches” rounds the record of brilliantly, with guest vox from mathcore magician Greg Puciato adding some great ambience to signature LOG aggression.
On the whole, this is a brilliant well-rounded record. It’s consistent, it’s heavy and just the right level of explorative. Above all, it’s clear that this album is personal and it sure as hell meant something to the people making it. The one criticism I have is for the production, and it’s murkiness at times…but that’s being really pickey and it took a couple of listens to pick up on! Lamb of God stuck to their roots on this record, and it’s definitely worked. I’m looking forward to hearing these new tunes on the road! (if I don’t live through the concert,you’ll know why).
I’m giving “VII – Sturm und Drang” a rating of:
“VII – Sturm und Drang” – 8.5/10
“VII – Sturm und Drang” is out NOW via Epic and Nuclear Blast