The return of Richmond Virginia’s Lamb Of God with their first album of new material in five years and their first with new drummer Art Cruz (ex-Winds of Plague, ex-Prong) as a replacement for Chris Adler has been one many have been foaming at the mouth in anticipation for. The recording was delayed by the bands extended run in support of Slayer on their final World tour, the band whom they now take the crown from as would be Kings of the current scene, not to mention the deviations like Mark Morton’s solo project, but this tenth studio record sees them return to producer Josh Wilbur, the man who helped them with 2009’s “Wrath“. We’ve already had four singles prior to the release, delayed by an inability to print physical media and get the bands all important pre-orders shipped, but how does it all hang together and what does the remainder sound like?
A dark and brooding opening to “Momento Mori” sees Randy Blythe deliver a spoken word akin to something by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with haunting whispers in the background before the gut punch of the riffs and a gutteral roar as things kick into life, awaking the demon from its slumber. The groove is tight with and Blythe is as scathing as ever as he roars “wake up, wake up, wake up“. Prior mentions of Lamb Of God evolving into an extension of what Pantera were doing in the Groove Metal sound seemed adrift of the mark, but here they seem more on point than before as their sound matures. “Checkmate” rattles up like a snake as the first single that was heard from the album and has a distinctive Southern groove with some technical riffs in the otherwise staccato mix. It’s ironic that Thy Art Is Murder, another would be pretender to the Kings of Metal crown share the same phrase “Make America hate again” as is heard in this cut, one which wears it’s politics very much on its sleeve. “Gears” is the first song on the album that we haven’t heard prior to its release and sees Blythe deliver some cleaner uncleans as he rants and raves about capitalism in a very wordy track with a bright solo. The thing with this is that as good as it is, sometimes less is more and the extra lyrics shoehorned in are a bit overkill.
“Reality Bath” uses some eerie spoken word haunt touches to break up the flow of the riff attack while having “this is the new abnormal” at its lyrical heart. It’s ironic that the song was written before the Corona Virus pandemic and yet it has gained new meaning in the new context. Socially aware and it has plenty of chantable lyrics while maintaining atmosphere but doesn’t have that gut punch moment that would make it stand above the rest. “New Colossal Hate” sees Blythe deliver some hitherto unheard gutteral lows and the work of Art Cruz deserves a mention. While Chris Adler was a force of metronomic perfection, Cruz gives more feel and drives the tracks with such skill that while it’s obvious that this is not the performance of Adler, there is still so much to enjoy about it. Totally unexpected is the “Bleigh!” moment at the start of “Resurrection Man“, a track that throws back to “Ashes Of The Wake” with storytelling of the finest order. Probably the heaviest track on the album with buzzsaw guitars it is a worthy stand out moment of darkness. Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed is perhaps a surprise guest on “Poison Dream“, a solid track but perhaps a missed opportunity to do a Hardcore Punk cut with him. They give Jasta a staccato breakdown over which to have a rap screamed verse before Blythe repeats his own rap screamed verse and then the pair intertwine for the follow-up verse, which works well but lacks that special moment to take it from “solid” to “banger“.
Getting an figure who inspired and influenced them in Testament vocalist Chuck Billy for “Routes” makes for a track with Thrash leaning riffs and far more venom about it, especially when it comes to a blistering solo that is a real stand out moment, sorely and perhaps strangely missing from the majority of the rest of the album. “Bloodshot Eyes” is a tale of burning bridges with some Alice is Chains esq backing vocals from Mark Morton which seems to point at time spent wasted waiting on someone who then has to be cut out to keep on track. The lyrics are spiteful and barbed as Blythe tells his side of a story, naming no names while telling it how it is and spilling his guts. “On The Hook” or “prescription for a homicide” as the most repeated lyric, is a another suitably barbed lyrical piece with plenty of ideas and an underlying melody rather than a lead flourish that it perhaps cries out for until the killer final breakdown section gives that edge that the rest of the track and perhaps album lacks. The issue with this record is that it doesn’t have that wow factor, that instant grab or gratification. It has everything else you’d want from a Lamb Of God record and is a solid and well crafted piece of material, it just lacks that something to round it off [7.5/10]
New Colossal Hate
Poison Dream (ft. Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed)
Routes (ft. Chuck Billy of Testament)
On The Hook
“Self titled” by Lamb Of God is out now via Nuclear Blast