They’re back. After five years (not counting their EP The Duke or their 2018 cover album Legion: XX under their original name Burn The Priest) Lamb Of God have returned with their self-titled 10th LP. A lot of change and turmoil went into the making of it; the most pertinent piece being Art Cruz replacing founding member Chris “The Wizard” Adler behind the kit, another factor being the coronavirus pandemic pushing back the release date of the album, which was set to come out next month. On a macro level, much chaos on a societal level has transpired since VII: Sturm und Drang, undoubtedly inspiring the lyrical matter of #10 as the Iraq War did Ashes Of The Wake.
Opening the box of ear-goodies up is the single “Memento Mori”, ominously starting with clean vocals, a first for Randy Blythe, breaking swiftly thereafter into trademark L.O.G fare much in the vein of Wrath and Resolution. The song speaks of “false perceptions, the weight of the world” and gives “a prime directive to disconnect” from the devices distracting us, leading observers such as the folks at Revolver to deem it alarmingly relevant after the coronavirus blew up. “Checkmate” follows in like fashion, sonically a combination of “Redneck” and later tracks like “Grace” and “Condemn The Hive” and lyrically a broad statement on the divided state of American politics. Lines of the likes of “Make America hate again” come off plainly pointed at Donald Trump, though the band insists the song had no specific target. The stomping drums and chugging riffage so easily identified with Lamb Of God define “Gears” as well as they do the last two tracks, for this reason this approach starts to feel a little worn out. One can say three tracks in though that Art Cruz has Adler’s style down to a tee (Adler recommended him after all) and, by God, may even do it better.
“Reality Bath” makes the necessary change while continuing the album’s topical tone, touching upon recurring atrocities such as school shootings and the apathy and desensitization to them as a “new abnormal” the populace must reject. The state of the States is addressed furthermore on “New Colossal Hate”; the track along with “Reality Bath” being marked by some tight footwork by Cruz. “Resurrection Man”, while not quite sludge pace is the right tempo for the molasses-thick riffing of Willie Adler to be fully felt before jumping back into the pile-driving “Requiem” feel of 2006. “Poison Dream” further resurrects the Sacrament vibe, bringing Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Kingdom Of Sorrow in to contribute hardcore vocals over the song’s breakdown, a tightly fitting addition. Testament vocalist and noted Corona survivor Chuck Billy contributes to “Routes”, the track itself containing some distinctly thrashier moments in turn (along with some bongos) in contrast to Lamb’s usual groove metal getdown.
“Bloodshot Eyes” is the most versatile track on the album, unlocking a whole other level of heaviness for L.O.G and showcasing D. Randall’s vocal diversity beyond his iconic growl with clean singing and hardcore belts coming into play. Blythe and company get one last bit of commentary in with “On The Hook”, addressing the U.S opioid crisis in comparison to the 1980s crack epidemic and similar drug waves throughout recent American history. Adler and Mark Morton soar while Cruz breaks here and there into deadly blast beats and Bleed-esque hertas that set him clearly apart from his predecessor. The apocalyptic essence of “Hook” echoes back to “Reclamation” though not quite as long, ending abruptly just at the right time to close the album out on an impressively strong note.
It’s more than safe to say that Lamb Of God comes all the way through on this latest release and kicks it up a notch despite their sort-of hiatus. There is an incredibly dark and foreboding substance to the record, much in tune with the time and key to the record’s strength; making it stand out against the rest of the band’s catalogue. There is a bit of tinkering and addition to the band’s sound, as there should be, but the record essentially stays in keeping with Lamb’s usual form, a plus or minus depending on who you ask. One can bicker on where the flaws lie, but at its core Lamb Of God is an impressive show of strength.