Speed metal theory and practice with Lamb of God.
Is the new Wrath album too ’textbook’?
Us metalheads all love Lamb of God, the metal connoisseurs from Richmond, Virginia. They’re the peoples’ metal band. Drummer Chris Adler’s limbs are their own entities, vocalist Randy can pitch his screams so that they harmonise, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler play as if the word "speed" was synonomous with "relax" and bassist John Campbell can simply play anything on his four-string longsword. This is exemplified by their amazing live shows and their archetypal past few albums such as "Ashes of the Wake" (2005) and "Sacrament" (2006). But now is always the tough part after they have proven their genius and have to live up to their legend.
Early 2009 saw the release of "Wrath" which, I’m sure, everyone thought would be predictably different to their other albums but hopefully with that same touch of groovy sophistication they’re known for. On paper, it’s heavy metal extraordinaire. Theyve ticked off all their usual album criteria on their list, but on the first listen, you can hear the cold undertones of commercial interference despite the musical genius at play. They definitely got that "old-school" 80’s thrash feel that they said they were going for, but one can say the same for bad Megadeth albums. It seems as if their passion has moved half a step down on this album along with their signature dropped-D tuning.
This album is that documentary you learned a lot from, but didn’t want to engage yourself in. It’s that guy in passing that says "Hey, how’s it going?" but doesn’t stop to hear your response. It’s that kid in class who has all the answers, comes top in class but that no one really hangs out with. This album is probably best described as "very not crap".
Don’t lose hope yet. The album has some incredibly fantastic moments. The intro to the Machine Head-esque "Grace" is one of the most poignant clean intros since the classic Metallica ballads and the speed-laden "Contractor" will make you want to go out and actually party to old-school heavy metal. The clean parts are noticeably more prominent on the album and it even commences with an acoustic motif in "The Passing". There are also many instances which mirror moods from their previous albums. "Fake Messiah" is very reminiscent of songs from "As the Palaces Burn" (2003) and "Choke Sermon" could easily have been off "Sacrament".
However, this album is not all the strengths combined from the previous albums, but more of a wayward pilgrimage to find true metal’s Holy Grail. You may very well be crazy about it, but it defnitely lacks the almost traumatic passion of the other albums. "Wrath" should have tidied itself up and gotten rid of the 80’s thrash stubble.