Three years ago, the fate of Lamb of God very much hung in the balance. The much-publicized arrest and imprisonment of singer Randy Blythe on manslaughter charges caused shockwaves across the metal world, with his subsequent acquittal bringing relief, celebrations and a stunning documentary in the form of As the Palaces Burn. Now, following the publication of Blythe’s book ‘Dark Days’ comes VII: Sturm und Drang, the last chapter in this part of the band’s career and one to draw a line under the sand and move on. It’s not all about the events of 2012 and ’13, with the mass media also taking a place in the firing line, but when the title of the album literally translates as ‘Storms and Stress’, you don’t need to be a genius to work out that the majority of the words will be connected with Randy’s time in the Czech Republic.
If you look back through Lamb of God’s catalogue, you will notice a very common theme. Black Label, Ruin, Laid to Rest, Walk with Me in Hell, In Your Words, Desolation…they really know how to write album openers. Still Echoes is no different – there’s no build up in volume, no ease into the album, just a full on hurricane that slaps you round the face better than the Tango man. That knotted feeling you’re beginning to experience? It’s the desire to headbang, throw shapes and wreak havoc. Get used to it, because you’re going to be like this for the duration of the album. Erase This continues the breakneck speed and harks back to songs like ‘Laid to Rest’ and ‘Redneck’ with its incredible riffage, 512 is lyrically harrowing as Randy opens his heart on his incarceration, Embers delights with its soaring chorus and superb performance from Deftone’s Chino Moreno, whilst Footprints incites comparisons to ‘Set to Fail’ and ‘Pathetic’ as Blythe screams to the world “How the fuck did you think this would end?!”
Then there’s Overlord, which is easily the most diverse song Lamb of God have ever composed. Singing clean for the first time, Randy’s vocals come across as a darker, less Southern version of Zakk Wylde and we’re treated to a gorgeous guitar solo as well. The turbo charger kicks in and it’s back to the same pace as the rest of the record for a shot while before returning to the original tempo, but its no less intense or powerful. Just as with album openers, they also have a knack of placing one of the strongest songs in the ‘Track 7’ position, and Anthropoid is no different, the huge singalong of “We are the faces of the end, we are the architects of ruin” firmly placing it next to such greats as ‘Blacken the Cursed Sun’ and ‘A Devil in God’s Country’. Engage the Fear Machine is the aforementioned mass media song, incredibly potent with the phenomenal lyric of “Paranoia writes our cheques” punching through the bedlam. Delusion Pandemic is by far the most high tempo number and, should it make their live set, will see circle pits break out from every corner of every venue they play with it’s speed and aggression. Rounding this maelstrom of an album off is Torches, which features Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan and yet another superb moment as Randy yells ‘I am Inferno!’ with all he can muster, before the song fades to a clean guitar hook and you’re left sweating and wondering what in the world actually just hit you.
This is easily the best album Lamb of God have released in the last decade, and it’s wonderful to see that, in the face of such adversity, they’ve managed to produce a record of such wealth and quality. The memories of the last three years will no doubt live on, but the ghost is finally at rest in the most brutal way possible.
Randy Blythe – vocals
Mark Morton – guitar
Willie Adler – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums
Engage the Fear Machine