When a band that has been going for as long as Lamb Of God has decides to put out a self-titled album, it can be construed as some sort of statement, wiping the slate clean or the beginning of a new era. With the well-publicized departure of drummer Chris Adler, the first major lineup change since the band renamed themselves from Burn The Priest to Lamb Of God, all of these could’ve been an option. Instead, this album is not a departure or a reinvention, but a calculated effort proving the five years since their last album, VII: Sturm Und Drang, hasn’t lessened their deadliness.
It’s possible some of that is courtesy of fresh blood in the group in the form of Art Cruz, who takes over Adler’s drum position with the same destructive force. He doesn’t mimic Adler’s style of playing, but sticks to one that fits within the groove mentality of the band. That’s clear from the very first song, “Memento Mori,” which leans into that groove after an extended intro complete with vocalist Randy Blythe showing off his melodic vocals.
Yes, Blythe does sing, though nothing to the extent of “Overlord” off of VII: Sturm Und Drang or the title track from The Duke EP. They appear on “Memento Mori” and “Bloodshot Eyes,” with the latter expertly switching between them and his demented screams. As Blythe heads deeper into middle age, his rage at society, government and humanity as a whole has grown into this callous voice demanding change.
Some may perceive this album as an overly political affair, a damning statement against the current U.S. administration in office. While single “Checkmate” comes off as a protest song, it’s more of the failings of the entire governmental system and not one particular person or party. There’s no specific blame laid on anyone, but on everybody. Blythe has upped his lyrical game, making powerful statements about addiction on “On The Hook” and gun violence on “Reality Bath.”
As was the case on VII: Sturm Und Drang, the band brings in notable guest vocalists. This time around, it’s Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta on the morose “Poison Dream” and Testament’s Chuck Billy on the thrashy “Routes.” Neither singer overshadows the band, but Blythe does some harmonies with both vocalists that are well conceived. “Routes” is as close to thrash metal as the band has come in the last decade.
A lineup shift hasn’t stopped their momentum, and listeners shouldn’t expect a self-titled affair to mean a whole new direction. While the album as a whole doesn’t step too far away from what Lamb Of God has been doing since the turn of the century, it’s a refined sound from a premier mainstream metal band.
(released June 19, 2020 on Epic Records)
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Watch Lamb Of God – “Memento Mori” Video