Lamb Of God announce U.S. shows with Ice Nine Kills, Suicide Silence and more
Lamb Of God have announced an eight-date summer headline tour in the States – and they’re bringing some absolutely killer supports with them.
From New American Gospel to 2020’s self-titled LP, we rank Lamb Of God's hardest hitters…
Lamb Of God do not fuck around. Ever since they left behind the Burn The Priest moniker at the turn of the millennium (worried about being mistaken for a Satanic metal outfit), the LOG brand has been a guarantee of deep grooves, concrete hard edges and righteous lyrical fire from Virginia’s most uncompromising musical quintet.
Four of the current line-up have been present from the beginning: vocalist D. Randall “Randy” Blythe, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, and bassist John Campbell. Winds Of Plague sticksman Art Cruz stepped in to replace Willie’s enormously accomplished brother Chris behind the kit in 2019, but the mission has remained the same as they continue to be the heaviest force in modern mainstream metal.
There have been some massive ups and downs – from mainstream breakthroughs that have seen them level festival main stages and rack up five GRAMMY nominations between 2006 and 2015, to the death of a fan in the Czech Republic that saw Randy held on manslaughter charges before an eventual acquittal – but they have never truly taken a backward step. Nonetheless, we dove into that none-more-stacked back-catalogue and ripped out the best of the best…
Dropped just five months before Randy Blythe’s arrest on manslaughter charges in the Czech Republic, Lamb Of God’s seventh album was forgotten somewhat in that incident's wake. Tucked within, however, are some of the band’s sharpest-ever cuts. This two-and-a-half minute banger is pure punk rock, from its ‘One, two… One, two, fuck you!’ intro to a caustic chorus line (‘Ever get the feeling you’re being cheated?!’) borrowed from Sex Pistols’ frontman John Lydon himself. Never before had Lamb Of God felt so thrillingly to-the-point.
‘A sacred cash cow with sickly tits / Dripping temptation for hypocrites / To death she's beaten / The prosperous endlessly stating the obvious…’ A thinly-veiled deconstruction of the backstabbing and money-hungriness of the music industry (or, indeed, any number of other corporate engagements), the first song proper on 2009’s Wrath could be read as the band’s reflection of their breakout success following the release of Sacrament three years earlier. With riffs that sounded like a swarm of enraged killer bees and the sort of unrelenting heaviosity that felt anything but mainstream, the message was mercilessly hammered home.
When victorious generals would march back into Ancient Rome, it would be the job of one particular servant to whisper into their ear ‘Memento Mori’: Latin for ‘remember that you, too, will die.’ Arriving as the lead single for 2020’s searing self-titled LP, LOG’s Memento Mori sees the band reckoning on the fleeting nature of mortality by seizing the moment with ravenous purpose. 90 seconds of sombre, Sisters Of Mercy indebted ambience explode with Randy’s demand that we ‘wake up!’ into a hammering showcase of their neck-wrecking abilities. Special mention, here, to new drummer Art Cruz’s hammering percussive display.
Speaking of impressive performances behind the kit, this thunderous stand-out from 2009’s Wrath features some career-best work from Art’s predecessor Chris Adler. Exploding out of the gate with a headbanging barrage and largely refusing to let up, Set To Fail was the sound of LOG settling into their new role as one of the biggest metal bands in the world. Despite a pervasive a sense of killing floor brutality, there’s actually an affirmative message at the song’s heart. ‘So go and weave your tale of woe,’ sings Randy. ‘Convincing yourself it's so / You're so set to fail…’ You’ve gotta’ believe in yourself, or no-one else will.
Written by guitarist Willie Adler all the way back at the beginning of the 21st Century, Hourglass examines many of the same themes of life’s transience and time running out that the band were still coming to terms with on this year’s self-titled LP. Darkened by the long shadows of the then-recent 9/11 terrorist attacks, the track follows the story of an American soldier sent to war and dying as part of an escalating cycle of violence that ultimately precipitated nothing but more death. ‘You finally made it home / Draped in the flag that you fell for,’ it rails, pessimistically. ‘It’s only getting worse.’
From its twangy blues intro to the angular sludgery of its main attack – think Pantera, but with maths degrees – the lead single from Resolution felt like a benchmark of the consistent quality offered by LOG in 2012. Initially written by Mark Morton from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran who’s picked up a heroin habit in his efforts to cope with the horrors of war, it opens out as a more universal acknowledgement of the human condition, and that sometimes it’s necessary to do unsavoury things to pull oneself through.
Although there was something special about Lamb Of God right from their emergence onto the scene – with 2000’s New American Gospel and, before that, 1997’s Burn The Priest – it was the more fully-realised feel of 2003’s As The Palaces Burn that set the stage for them to become modern metal heavyweights. A brilliantly visceral production-job with the twisted genius of Devin Townsend was a big part of that, sure, but more important was the near-perfect tech-southern metal on show, and their compellingly destructive declarations that, ‘This is the art of ruin!’ A music video set inside a Mexican church added yet another layer to the self-sacrificial aesthetic.
After having courted some sort of mainstream metal accessibility with Sacrament, Wrath was very much a return to the caustic burn at Lamb Of God’s hearts. The beauteous plucked intro to Grace teased that it might be the album’s soft song, but nothing could be further from the truth as it subsides into an absolutely pummelling avalanche of ten-ton riffage and lyrical bile. Themes of self-salvation play heavy again, along with a rejection of the concept of divine intervention: ‘Broken, bones and the will / Capacity to disappear in misery saves / Soaking, pain as a thrill, hate to instil / Compassion's a cage…’ The only deliverance comes with that gorgeous guitar-solo around the three-minute mark.
Along with the polished tech-metal of Ruin, the colossal, cathartic atmospherics of Vigil were key to Lamb Of God gaining big-time traction back in 2003. The Mark Morton-written composition opens with the band’s first-ever use of acoustic guitars, but its escalation through inescapably swampiness and on into buzzsaw attack ensures it’s a tumultuous trip. Religious imagery is poured on heavily but, reading between the lines, the track appears to be more a lament for the state of Gulf War II-era America than any indictment of the God-fearing mindset: ‘Ask me why I hate / Why I've prayed to see the nation that I loved disintegrate…’
Another Mark Morton-penned classic, the sixth track from Sacrament was the greatest departure from the Lamb Of God formula up to that point. Steering away from the labyrinthine tech-metal of previous albums in favour of an almost hypnotically repetitive main riff, his bandmates initially thought it didn’t meet the standard. Layering up the fathomless production and Randy’s biblically epic lyrics, however – ‘This god that I worship (a faded reflection) / This demon I blame (a flickering flame) / Conspire as one, exactly the same’ – it now stands as a monument to LOG’s dynamism and unequivocal thematic heft. Get down.
Few bands are more effective at channelling personal trauma into powerful sounds than Lamb Of God. Written mostly by Mark a year after the loss of his firstborn child Madalyn, and finished off by Randy discussing the difficulties of reconciling interpersonal relationships after the other person has passed, Embers is, topically, one of the heaviest songs in the LOG songbook. It’s glued together, though, by an incredible guest appearance by Deftones’ Chino Moreno which leaves off with a powerful sense of hope rather than pain.
Over the last decade, both sonically and thematically, it feels like there’s been more hardcore and tech-metal influence in the Lamb Of God mix than the sludginess that helped them stand out as 'the new Pantera' in the first place. Resurrection Man corrects that spectacularly. Opening with a music box tinkle before plunging into an absolutely disgusting main riff (complete with crowd-pleasing ‘BLEGH!’), we get Randy dropping outrageously bad-.ass (albeit socially conscious) lyrical nuggets – ‘I was born in a cemetery!’, ‘I'm a shadow on your brightest dreams / A horse for Baron Samedi’ – as the band draw us into a swamp of sound that’d do Eyehategod, Crowbar or Exhorder proud.
‘Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward,’ declares Randy Blythe at the outset of this Ashes Of The Wake banger. ‘Whoever cannot take care of himself without that law is both. For a wounded man shall say to his assailant: "If I live, I will kill you. If I die, you are forgiven." Such is the rule of honour.’ The Omertà is a Southern Italian code of honour that places massive importance on silence in the face of questioning by law enforcement and outsiders, and LOG deliver five minutes of fury that perfectly evokes the same sense of uncompromise and outlaw cool. A bloody-minded, stomach-churning masterclass.
Sacrament’s imperious opener set the standard for what remains one of the greatest albums in modern metal. Mark Morton and Willie Adler’s guitars whip up a tangle of atmosphere and melody before another, more spring-loaded riff brings us properly up to speed. Randy’s devilish lyrics add yet more layers to the sonic hellscape, with the singer declaring, ‘Pray for blood / Pray for the cleansing / Pray for the flood / Pray for the end of this nightmare.’ Ultimately, though, the message is a positive one, with that pivotal promise shining through: ‘Take hold of my hand / For you are no longer alone / Walk with me in hell…’ Spine-tingling stuff.
Held on manslaughter charges relating to the death of Daniel Nosek, a 19-year-old fan who passed away during injuries sustained at a Lamb Of God concert in the city, Randy Blythe spent over a month of 2012 locked up in Prague’s Pankrác Prison. This Sturm Und Drang highlight – named after Randy’s cell number in the penitentiary – was written during that stay and has been described by the singer as a snapshot of his mentality at the time. ‘Six bars laid across the sky,’ he seethes. ‘Four empty walls to fill the time / One careless word, you lose your life / A grave new world awaits inside.’ Charged with the claustrophobia and looming threat of that horrible situation, it is one of the band's most potent compositions.
Sacrament remains Lamb Of God’s moodiest, most darkly evocative release, and the infernal atmospherics of Blacken The Cursed Sun are its crowning glory. The washed-out riffage and rattling cymbals of that intro create a sense of ominous unease, before the remarkably full-sounding main composition sweeps in like a storm cloud blocking every ray of light from the sky. Randy’s vocals stack up more and more of the nihilistic spectacle, at first confronting some undisclosed personal trauma (‘A tragedy on display / A sickness for all to see / I will kill this part of myself that I hate and that I see in you’) before unloading with an unsettling atheistic creed: ‘Can we still be saved? Hell no!’
At its ferocious best, the Lamb Of God live experience is a white-knuckled match for anyone else in the game: Slipknot, Devildriver, and even the mighty Slayer. This iconic cut from fourth LP Ashes Of The Wake might just be their ultimate circle pit soundtrack: a destruction derby of knotty technical riffs, deep-gouged grooves, breathless percussion and air-punching vocal hooks that invites punters to take their lives in their hands. Its deeper anti-war message is also one of the band’s most subtly profound, again calling out the American war machine that was in full gear during that first decade of the 21st century: ‘Bombs to set the people free / Blood to feed the dollar tree / Flags for coffins on the screen / Oil for the machine…’
The prototypical Lamb Of God banger, Laid To Rest opened Ashes Of The Wake with a finely-balanced cocktail of everything that made them great. Head-spinning technicality? Check. Skull-cracking brutality? Check. A melodic through-line that somehow draws the sonic violence into a coherent, compelling whole? Checkmate. This has been the soundtrack to a million bust lips and broken bones over the last 15 years, with every gleeful impact egged-on by Randy’s unforgettable vocal hook: ‘Destroy yourself / See who gives a fuck!’ Awesome.
So ubiquitous has Redneck become in the 14 years since it revved the NWOAM up to another level that it almost feels like too obvious a pick as one of Lamb Of God’s greatest creations. Fuck that, though, and credit where it’s due. Embracing their Virginian heritage (‘American by birth, Southern by the grace of God…’ etc.) these four minutes found the quintet running riot, drunk on bourbon and chest-beating bravado with a message for the entitled urban elite of the music industry that these backwoods bruisers were not the sort to be fucked with. Its infamous call-to-arms – ‘This is a motherfuckin' invitation / The only one you could ever need…’ – has never knowingly been passed-up in the pit.
The opening track on their post-Burn The Priest debut and still the closing track at the majority of their live shows, Black Label is the dark banner under which most of the last two decades have unfolded for Lamb Of God. The song’s near stream-of-consciousness lyrical tirade takes the perspective of a misanthrope trying to dissect his own condition, but it’s the serrated delivery that really makes it. From that snarling riff and the defiantly tinny drum sound, to a final-third breakdown that threatens to detach fans’ heads from their necks, it is absolutely iconic in its simple, purposeful, annihilating construction. Oh, and the Black Label of the title? It’s reportedly a nod to the band’s favourite tipple at the time: Carling Black Label beer…
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