Lead single Checkmate (a twisted ode to ‘The American Scream’) keeps up the momentum, combusting with gnarly, politically-supercharged uncompromise of an IED. The pile-driving Gears barely comes up for air before Reality Bath plunges us deeper still into a stampede of neck-mangling riffage as Randy asks, with corrosive pertinence, ‘Is this the new abnormal?!’
Key to these songs’ success is the performance of Winds Of Plague sticksman Art Cruz. Repeating the trick pulled-off by Jay Weinberg in Slipknot and Brooks Wackerman in Avenged Sevenfold, of stepping into the apparently impossible-to-fill shoes of a revered predecessor with the correct blend of respectful imitation and energised innovation, he sounds positively unbound. Indeed, the whole band have reiterated their goal of all-for-one, one-for-all songwriting that draws out the best of the collective. On tracks like New Colossal Hate (another superb old-school anthem) and the incredible Resurrection Man (a chest-crushing sludgy masterwork that sees Randy declare with spine-chilling conviction, ‘I was born in a cemetery!’) they strike rich paydirt.
Even when their esteemed peers pile in – Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta dropping a fist-swinging verse on the scourging Poison Dream and Testament frontman Chuck Billy adding thrash swagger to full-throttle throwback Routes – there’s a consistency, confidence and well-defined purpose that remains unbroken. Firing through the closing salvo of Bloodshot Eyes and On The Hook, the record burns out with pedal to the metal rather than fading away, having built on the crusty, traumatised foundations of 2015’s VII: Sturm Und Drang while reconfiguring their older strengths in a way that feels both crunchily familiar and thrillingly fresh in 2020.
Critics will inevitably draw comparisons with the earlier landmarks in their career (2003’s raging As The Palaces Burn, 2006’s monumental Sacrament) seeing the continued shift away from much of those classics’ painstaking architecture and sprawling grandiosity as a failure. They miss the point. Having now endured so many miles of the hard grind of life on the road – long stretches scarred by controversy, insobriety and incarceration – Lamb Of God are not the band they once were. Those were the sounds of then. This is the now.
Lamb Of God's self-titled album is out June 19 via Nuclear Blast – pre-order it now.
READ THIS: Lamb Of God: Rage, sobriety and the end of the fucking world