(DemiGodRaven reviews the new album by Lamb of God.)
I know this is probably the case for quite a few people, but Lamb of God were one of the groups responsible for getting me into really heavy music. I had always enjoyed heavy metal in general, but I was one of those people who didn’t like screaming. Then I listened to New American Gospel at a friend’s house and for some reason just loved it, despite the horrendous drum production on that disc. After that, all bets were off, and I basically descended into the troll cave from which I write now.
Lamb Of God have always been just crushingly consistent. Ever since Ashes Of The Wake, they haven’t really felt the need to make a massive shift in sound and instead have iterated upon it in the same way I imagine artists will continually add more and more detail to their sculptures despite already being confident about where they are in their work. Sometimes this works really well. I thought Sacrament was a great release and listened to that disc so much that I can’t listen to it anymore. I acknowledge that it is an excellent CD, but I spun that thing into the fucking ground. The reception which greeted that one was always really weird. I always got the sense that the band didn’t really enjoy it and felt like it was more of a lateral jump from Ashes Of The Wake than a move forward.
Wrath was supposed to be a tremendously huge release for them, but it didn’t quite click for me. It was the first time I had ever thought, “Yep, this is just another Lamb Of God disc”. Nothing really stuck for me. Strangely, I found the bonus tracks, “Shoulder Of Your God” and “Condemning The Hive”, to be the best things they accomplished.
Then there was the in between “Hit The Wall”, which came out for the Iron Man 2 video game, and while the game itself was fucking garbage, the song was a pretty good tease as to where Lamb Of God might be looking for the future.
For the longest time, the only version of “Hit the Wall” that anyone heard was the instrumental track that was working its way around the net. It was a fucking lot to ask people to either check out the Iron Man 2 game or wait an incredibly long time for the eventual iTunes single. I personally became deadly familiar with how “Hit The Wall” worked as a single, and although it had been forever since I watched the making of Sacrament DVD, the song screamed of a bluesier tune along the lines of how “Descending” was written. Did that mean Resolution was going to be the band trying to go backward in time a little bit?
Well hell, we didn’t even have an album title around the time “Hit the Wall” emerged, so anyone who was pontificating about the bands’s future was talking out of his ass. That left the album that would become Resolution a mystery, with no one really having a good clue, though I got the sense that few people were really expecting a ton out of it.
The first press release came as a pleasant surprise for me, because it had not only an album title but also a track listing that was fourteen songs long. It looked like a ton of Lamb of God material to work through.
And goddamn, is this some Lamb Of God material. Anybody who has been worried that there was going to be a massive shift in sound can check their worries at the door. Resolution is about 20% experimentation and 80% Lamb of God doing what Lamb Of God do best, which is sound exactly like Lamb of God. But that 20% change in the sound, those little changes here and there, make Resolution feel like a new experience after Sacrament and Wrath.
The songs aren’t as overtly complicated as the music on Ashes Of The Wake, but there are still a ton of finger-workout-styled riffs on this disc. Opening track “Straight For The Sun” is actually an oddball in that regard, because the whole thing is just a sludge-styled crawler. It just feels dirty, and the opening scream is a change of pace compared to bands who prefer to start with an acoustic piece or some catchy opening riff to launch their festivities. Everything hits you at once on this opening, and you’re immediately familiarized with Lamb Of God again.
The two songs that follow, “Desolation” and “Ghost Walking” (the first single and video we’ve seen), almost walk hand-in-hand as galloping finger-workout songs. The trademark Randy Blythe machismo runs throughout both of them, bringing that very familiar feeling, like settling back into a favorite old chair or a comfortable bed. After the opening riff of “Desolation”, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that the band are about to play “Redneck” again. The opening proceeds at about the same pace with the same structure, which bothers me a bit, but the song does grow into its own. “Desolation” is one of the weaker songs on the disc because of that too-familiar feeling, and I almost tend to lose it in the shadow of “Ghost Walking”.
As the lead single and video, “Ghost Walking” is the song that almost all of us know by now. The guys over at MetalSucks had the initial premiere, and the reactions bounced between people brushing it off as just another Lamb of God song and people who thought it was alright. The song has grown on me quite a bit. It has a certain indescribable swagger, grooving so well that it brings about unconscious head-nodding.
Randy’s vocal performance is particularly impressive. He brings a cat-like high shriek that he has begun to work into many of his performances, and you’ll get some serious mileage out of it on Resolution in songs like “Ghost Walking”. Lyrically, he tends to stick with his common machismo tropes (21 to 1, liking the odds, so on…) and a bunch of verbiage that focuses pretty heavily on violence. While the lyrics may be par for the course, Resolution is nonetheless a vocally impressive disc. He seems to be getting better as the band grows older and more set in its ways. Lamb of God once represented underground heavy becoming “mainstream”, but they’ve now become the standard bearers, and so at the very least it’s nice to hear someone in that role pushing to become more extreme.
My eyes roll almost on reflex now whenever someone trots out the tired, beaten-to-death line of “They sound like Pantera!” when referring to Lamb of God. I’ve never quite understood this comparison. Both bands have had an ability to write riffs with groove, but such is the nature of the beast in much of the genre and if that were enough to justify lumping bands together, then you could say that pretty much every band who have fallen into a groove sound like Pantera. Here is the thing though: People trot out that line as if it were a bad thing, but they almost universally fail to realize that people liked Pantera for good reason: Phil, Dimebag, Rex, and Vinny were capable of writing some really heavy stuff for the time, and to date some of what they created still hasn’t been matched by bands who are currently competing for radio play.
But Lamb of God really do not sound anything like Pantera, and any time you see Revolver or Kerrang or some other fucking metal magazine featuring Lamb of God in the headline of the month under something like, “This Generation’s Pantera?!”, they’re just using sensationalist bullshit to sell issues. It might not work on you, but perhaps the average Joe sees that and maybe picks up a copy. It’s funny though: you see bands being compared to Pantera, yet you rarely see a crazy-ass headline along the lines of, “The New Metallica?!”. Let’s just lay all this to rest now: It’s strictly PR talk.
Resolution may be a consistently Lamb Of God disc, which means it will feel like a familiar friend, great but not terribly surprising or capable of producing amazement, but if you’re going to argue against that sort of thing, then you live in a strange, strange world. The small changes that the band have made in their sound feel risky enough in their own right. For example, there’s clean singing on this disc, which is new for this group, and surprisingly, it works well. Check out the song “King Me”, which is the official album closer. It’s a six-minute epic that takes most of what Lamb of God has been about lately and packs it all into a single song, while still building upon the established edifice.
Do I wish that Lamb Of God would stand pat and not try to do more? No. I want to hear as many things as possible filtered through the hands of these skilled musicians. But I think that the shellacking these guys take in some quarters on a daily basis is unwarranted. Willie Adler and Mark Morton are still a couple of really skilled guitarists. They write riffs that seem to shift as often as there are still notes available, while also writing just as many riffs that will simply let a note sit and ring out, providing mood and atmosphere.The soloing on Resolution isn’t anything amazing but it’s solid — no cheese-worthy, eye-rolling workouts here, just solos that fit well where they were needed.
Chris Adler is still a frightening guy behind the drum kit, and on Resolution he proves that he is still as capable as ever back there. I know he has spent the past two albums sort of pulling back the reigns a bit, aiming to be more subtle, so it’s great to hear him tear shit up again. The performance doesn’t reach Ashes Of The Wake or As The Palace Burns levels of obnoxious, but it still includes quite a few moments that will keep other drummers busy trying to emulate it. If anything, the song “Undertow “sounds like it would be really fun in the same sense that “Descending” (from Sacrament) is.
Bassist John Campbell also gets his chance to rumble through in a welcome return to bass-heavy mixing styles for this album. Wrath always bothered me in that it featured a very razor-sharp, very high-sounding mix, so that the bass was apparently missing in action. It’s as if the songs were written to be just all-out assaults, with none of the trademark bass-playing that propels many of Lamb Of God’s best songs. But on Resolution, Campbell is back, and it’s great to hear, especially on a nice sound system.
Yes, I’ll venture to say that Resolution probably won’t silence the legion of anti-Lamb of God detractors out there, but I will also say that it is an improvement on Wrath and an album that will grow on you. Featuring a ridiculous amount of material (16 tracks, if you gather up the iTunes edition), Resolution has made an excellent impression on me, even now, close to a month after its release. It’s an album that both hybridizes and iterates upon much of what the band have done up to this point in their career. It doesn’t take any drastic risks — what’s new seems to be very calculated — but when something new does pop up, you’ll wonder why the band hadn’t tried it before, which is an excellent problem to have.
They’ve written a good Lamb of God album that, if you have been a fan before, you’ll welcome home again like an old friend. It is heavy, and there aren’t really any songs that feel like they should be skipped. “Desolation” is a bit of a weak point, but it is over so fast in comparison to the rest of the album that you could just think of it as “Ghost Walking”‘s intro if it really bothers you. “Straight For The Sun”, “Undertow”, and “King Me” are all excellent if you want to hear Lamb Of God really letting themselves loose. Bonus track “Digital Sands”, if you can find it, is also a worthy listen.
Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, and I don’t think I’d be too excited at the prospect of a Resolution 2, but this album is Lamb of God as good as they’ve ever been.