Lamb of God – Self Titled 2020 (REVIEW)

20 years ago (in the year 2000) – I read a review in the back of a Guitar World magazine. The review was about an album called “New American Gospel” by a then unknown band – Lamb of God. I picked up the record and within a few months had all my metalhead friends sprung. It was raw, dirty… heavy… with monster riffs and power grooves I hadn’t heard since Dimebag was murdered and Pantera disbanded.

One of the most consistent and prolific metal bands of late, Lamb of God has now had a successful 20 year plus career. A few of their albums could already be called classics. As the Palaces Burn and Ashes of the Wake – seemed to be statements about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The post apocalyptic chaos and brutal sounds fit so well with the world we were and are living in.

It’s not an accident that the latest album from the internationally acclaimed metal institution arrives with nothing more than LAMB OF GOD as its title. On their eighth studio album, the prime architects of the explosive New Wave of American Heavy Metal assemble ten songs of unrelenting might, encompassing every aspect of what they do best. The band has become a force that is beloved around the world with the same devotion as thrash metal forefathers and touring comrades Slayer and Metallica.

The first track Memento Mori opens with a slow building clean guitar riff and a half mumbled vocal before it eventually explodes into the type of full force metal groove fans have come to love.

By the time you get to the breaks during the 2nd track Checkmate it is evident that new drummer Art Cruz is a worthy replacement for Chris Adler. Let’s face it, Adler is a monster and those are some very big shoes to fill. Cruz does a fantastic job and the band maintains every bit of it’s technicality and ferocity with him behind the kit.

The lyrics for Checkmate really stuck out to me:

Watch the gears grind off their teeth
The screeching halt machine digging heels in disbelief
Two reactional identities, opposing policies
A bait and switch routine.

L.O.G. has never been a band to shy away from politics and this little piece of poetry very accurately describes our current 2 party political system here in the U.S.

The 3rd track Gears is another riff laden beast that has some really intricate technical breakdowns and Reality Bath has some great, almost video game style breakdowns using counterpoint guitar parts. One thing Lamb of God has done well with this record is bringing in new riff patterns and elements without watering down their signature, heavy sound.

New Colossal Hate is a textbook Lamb of God track. It starts with the chugging riffs and arpeggios. The lyrics have a political undercurrent and the song ends with the lines:

The melting pot is melting down
A pool of slag on poisoned ground
Choking from the venom’s sting
Pull the fangs, let freedom ring.

Resurrection Man has a breakdown at about the 3:00 minute mark that is such a fantastic throwback to old school Thrash Metal. Once it’s in full swing they add a 2nd guitar at a higher octave ala Iron Maiden. It’s the perfect mesh of classic and modern heavy metal – bridging the gap between generations.

Poison Dream continues the onslaught and features a guest spot from Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed fame. This is something that rappers do a lot and I support it more often in the metal community. Jasta’s verse fits very well on the song and he doesn’t have to alter his style at all to mesh. This is undoubtedly one of the hardest tracks on the album so far.

Then comes Routes – another track with a feature, this time from bay area thrash legend Chuck Billy of the band Testament. Again, the feature works very well to compliment the overall sound and feel of the song. It doesn’t feel forced in any way. This is what I would expect from a veteran act like Lamb of God who has a 20 year career with a lot of albums and tours under their belt.

Bloodshot Eyes is one of the few tracks on the album that has clean vocals. During the verse part there is a melodic vocal presumably by

On the Hook – is without a doubt the heaviest song on this record. It’s a welcome surprise since a lot of bands like to start out ultra heavy and then end on a lighter note… this record does the reverse of that. Starting off more mellow and building into a raging, chaotic bull of a record. This last track “On the hook” is brutal not only in drums and riffs but also lyrically…

A dead silver spoon with needles in his skin
Rode a pale horse down from Afghanistan
Tears in the suburbs, mothers praying for their damned
Death has crept into their zone of the promised land

Lyrics like this illustrate the some of the side-effects our military entanglements have had on American communities.

The song has a nice little melodic break where it lets up slightly and then punches you in the solar plexus one last time as Randy screams out:

KILL THEM ALL

A lot of people don’t really even care about lyrics but to me it can make or break a song. I appreciate people like Randy who take time to really think about what they are saying and craft something interesting – regardless of their political beliefs or whatever you think about them.

“There’s the musical sequence, which is the flow of the album, and then there’s the lyrical sequence,” Blythe notes. “In the lyric booklet, the lyrics are printed sequentially. I start by pointing out several glaring problems, the most important ones in my mind, and the root of them. Then it moves into a feeling that you can resist this stuff, to a feeling of hope. I could sit here and be a negative Nancy, and just write a completely 100% nihilist record, which I might have done if I were still 27 years old and drinking. It was important for me to have positivity in here, to keep the PMA, as Bad Brains have taught us, which starts on an individual level.”

This album represents yet another classic from a band who at this point have solidified their legacy among the greats. Bands like Megadeth, Metallica, Testament, Anthrax… Lamb of God is now among their peers. This album is a nod to that fact. Another incredibly high quality batch of songs from a band that never fails to deliver incredibly high quality music.

If you love hardcore thrash metal you know what to do… (listen to this album ASAP.)

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