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Thursday, March 26, 2009

CD Review: Lamb of God - Wrath

Lamb of God - Wrath
2009 Epic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Taking nothing away from Lamb of God as they have remained one of the consistently heaviest bands of the modern metal age, there has still been something a bit too polished and refined for a band recording one of this generation's bona fide gems, the hellacaustic As the Palaces Burn.

What made Palaces such an immediate classic is its roughshod urgency. Its clankety cacophony and hurried inventiveness whipped a torrential blend of death metal and metalcore yet to be exactly replicated, even by the band themselves outside of their live presentation. Sure, both Ashes of the Wake and Sacrament are nut-busting heavy, but neither album matches the searing, grandiose cataclysm of "A Devil in God's Country," still to this day Lamb of God's inarguable masterpiece.

Though Lamb of God traded in the backwoods clamor of As the Palaces Burn for the jokey, moonshine-soaked "Redneck" from Sacrament and ran all the way to sold-out gigs and a Grammy nomination, let's face the facts... Sacrament was a solid slab, yet its sparkled perfection straight to the you-are-there-beneath-the-splash-cymbals audibility spiffied up the scruffy Virginia metal mongrels to a level of near-discomfort. As unbalanced a prospect as bringing The Three Stooges into high society with the expected disastrous results as occurs in their halcyon comedy short "Hoi Palloi." As commercially suspect as strapping Michael Myers into a tuxedo (much less Moe, Larry and Curly) and ordering him to restrain his killing hand in polite company.

While nobody's going to accuse the mighty Lamb of God of wussing out since As the Palaces Burn, someone must've shit on their Cracker Barrel shingles because their latest album Wrath comes out bearing great titular fortitude.

Truly, Lamb of God hasn't sounded this motivated, like they're actually on the bottom of the totem with something to prove to the metal community. For a band bearing the distorted audile equivalent to piss streaming and steaming down an icy dumpster, as of their past two albums, the piss has collected into more agreeable indoor toilets. Come on, we want Randy Blythe and his demolition squad breaking the law with their beer-clogged dicks and thanks be to the Lamb, Wrath helps them unload their flogging cranks. Maybe not with the congruent fury of Palaces, but Wrath is still one angry beast of an album itself.

If there's any complaint to Wrath (and if you've been reading this site awhile, you know what's coming), it's the fact Lamb of God can't altogether let go of the breakdown chug that crops up on a fair share of the album. Okay, maybe the kids still crave such mindless joy in repetition, but like Unearth, Lamb of God has reached such a high level of musicianship those danged breakdowns cheapen their otherwise red-hot attacks.

Taking a chance at alienating maybe a pocketful of train jumpers to Sacrament, Wrath goes full monty with bazooka-boomed and snare-smacked thrash lines from Chris Adler, antagonistic string slaughter from Willie Adler, Mark Morton and John Campbell, blood-curdling yelping from Randy Blythe and some fabulous acoustic lavishment to sweeten the deal.

Almost everyone is daydreaming of Ride the Lightning-era Metallica with Wrath's swooning two-minute opener "The Passing," which ignites the abrupt speed collisions found on the subsequent "In Your Words." Though "In Your Words" (which also features a guitar line akin to Metallica's "Battery") might've been better served to stick with its primary thrash melding, the decree is served instantly on Wrath that Lamb of God is intent on going bare-knuckles, even with gradual sonic waves sculpted out of "In Your Words'" initial stripped essence.

Much of Wrath feels like Lamb of God chucked the flash and poured in the grease on cuts such as the fast and brutal "Set to Fail," "Contractor," (one of the band's fastest tunes ever) "Dead Seeds" and "Fake Messiah." As Chris Adler is routinely called upon to lead Wrath's songs with wrist-wrangling distemperment, Lamb of God takes cue by carving the gristle and sinking their teeth straight into the meat, ravenously scraping the T-bone along the way. As Randy Blythe mixes his trademark growls with a bit of Phil Anselmo and George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher nuances, ironically he hasn't sounded this coherent while yelping his bowels clean out until now.

In the past, producer Josh Wilbur has allowed Lamb of God to sound as major league as their label benefactor, however, now he residually lets them scale down to a more agreeable din still bearing sharp finesse. "Redneck" has forever doomed Lamb of God to cough up a similar party instigator to keep the check-writers happy, Wrath scorns such a prospect impudently. While always melodic (particularly with the elegant lead to "Grace" and through differing exchanges of aggression and tranquility on "Reclamation"), Wrath stamps on its own toes spitefully if it gets too close towards anything resembling mainstream. Even the shuck and jive tone of "Everything to Nothing" gets smacked around as quickly as it sets its bobbing groove to task.

Right on to that, because as they say, sometimes you have to step backwards to move forward. Lamb of God needn't drift back to their Burn the Priest days because a song like "Grace" featuring pinches of everything this band has tinkered with sound-wise is all they need to stay relevant.

Still one of the best in this scene and it's because Lamb of God values their reason for being enough to piss in public once again.

Rating: ****

6 comments:

Bob said...

Great review...I totally agree.

cjk_44 said...

ditto - great review.

for me LoG will have a tough time topping As the Palaces Burn. that album was one of those rare albums that i listened to exclusively for about a month upon securing my review copy.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Well thank ya, fellas! I had just started receiving promo after I bought Palaces upon a recommendation. I too played the crap out it.

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Great album! maybe the best release from the past year!

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