2018’s Burn The Priest covers album may have been a treat for fans, but after a five-year-long break from their previous record, ‘VII: Sturm Und Drang’, the modern kings of groove metal Lamb Of God are back for real with their self-titled eighth effort.
This also sees Art Cruz‘s debut behind the drum kit, following last year’s departure of long-time drummer, Chris Adler.
It couldn’t kick off more strongly for opener ‘Memento Mori’. Lots of tension and a withered-sounding croon from Randy Blythe help to set the scene, before a feral “Wake up!” kicks off things off for real and we get their trademark pummelling groove and bone-crushing guitar riffs. Welcome back.
‘Checkmate’ is also another highlight, with hooks, riffs, and their signature groove aplenty. Even if “the American scream” is a little cringe-worthy, it’s otherwise as righteous and on-the-nose as you’d expect lyrically. It turns out the last few years indeed have given Blythe a great deal to work with, and some of the growls on this song, and many others, demonstrate why he’s one of the best vocalists in the business. ‘Gears’ peaks as a song crushing half-time groove, and we’re off to a flying start.
‘New Colossal Hate’ brings more of a swinging feel to proceedings, and Blythe continues to impress. ‘Resurrection Man’ has another impressive riff from Mark Morton, and this is very much Lamb Of God as you’d expect in some ways, but at the same time you’d rather listen to the best band at their craft stick to doing what they do best than their many imitators.
The opening run of songs will undoubtedly sound colossal live when gigs are allowed to take place again, and they may sit amongst their best work. But, probably serving as a reminder that they’re human, there’s a slight dip in proceedings in the second half. Jamey Jasta‘s (Hatebreed) guest vocal feature in ‘Poison Dream’ feels tacked on and a little incongruous, and from then on it doesn’t quite have the same impact as the previous tracks.
Chuck Billy‘s (Testament) guest appearance on ‘Routes’ adds a layer of depth to things, but his vocal performance could be more prominent in the same way that ‘Memento Mori’‘s brooding opening is given a significant length of time to make an impact.
‘Bloodshot Eyes’ is another highlight, and showcases a little more light and shade musically and vocally. While the second half isn’t of the same quality as the first, it undoubtedly ends strong enough.
If you’re a long-time Lamb Of God fan, it’s hard not to imagine being completely taken in with this new collection of songs, with much of its first half possessing potential long-standing mainstays in the Lamb Of God canon.