ASM-R Featured October 2022 | Lamb of God
Metal has a proud, longstanding tradition of confrontation: With society, with the self and even with genre conventions. It is restless by nature, with bands rarely allowed to coast on past achievements, and careers typically being a lifelong labour of love (or sometimes hate). Expectations are ruthless, standards are exacting, loyalties are fierce, and consistency is extremely hard to maintain – fickle bands and their fickle fans don’t last.
Perhaps the most consistent representative of the genre in this century has been Lamb Of God. The Virginia outfit have amassed one of the all-time great catalogues in heavy music, maintaining both critical and fan credibility at a remarkably high level for a considerable length of time. That, and levels of live crowd intensity usually reserved for full blown riots.
Their metal is an alloy formed of gleaming technical precision and rusted rural decay, the sound of middle America in crisis and an inner self in perpetual turmoil. Nobody is safe and no cow is sacred – this is the unforgiving response to a merciless society that has long had it coming. From the skewering subject matter to the cruel, nasty power groove that saw them spearhead the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement in the early 2000’s, this as unflinching as music gets.
In vocalist Randy Blythe, they possess not only one of metal’s most articulate lyricists, but also one of the genre’s most respected community leaders. Through the fires of severe addiction, unjust imprisonment and deep mental anguish, he has emerged as the face of modern metal, representing a band that has survived trend after trend by never forgetting who they are or where they came from, ugly as those realities may often be.
This is a band that runs from nothing and nobody, be it the tragedy of the American opioid crisis, or the wasteful stupidity of foreign wars for oil. In embracing that ugliness, one acquires the grit that allows a staying power that flashier, friendlier music can’t sustain. Much like their power groove forefathers Pantera, their strength is in resisting trends and constantly sharpening their edge. Both have been extremely fast and technically proficient groups with all the flair in the world, yet maybe they’re at their best when they are brutally simplistic.
Take new album Omens for example – it hits the ground running with no warning, as ‘Nevermore’ opens both the record and that fucking pit up, rudely announcing intentions without a damn given. But it’s the delightfully direct nastiness of ‘Ditch’ that really steals the show, grabbing the listener by the throat and forcing them to pay attention. Indeed, that command of focus is the secret sauce for these veterans. In a world full of fugazi ‘artists’ who demand attention but do nothing to hold it, LOG back you into uncomfortable dark corners to face you with brutal truth and play like it’s their back to the wall, not yours.
With one of the tightest rhythm sections in the game powering a dynamic assault on the senses, this is one of the few bands over such a tenure that have only produced quality records – even their early work under their old Burn The Priest moniker holds up well. The risks taken are calculated, and most pay off, avoiding the cringe moments that the likes of Metallica or Megadeth often indulged in. In truth, there’s a very strong case for them being the best metal act of the century so far.