ALBUM REVIEW: Lamb of God screams into the contemporary abyss

It seems there is no shortage of grim, angry and uneasy music being released in this turbulent time. The new self-titled album by Lamb of God encapsulates the collective anger and despair many currently feel amid the onslaught of crises that are collectively defining 2020 as an objectively awful time to be alive.

Lamb of God
Lamb of God
Epic Records, June 19

This album doesn’t offer an escape. In fact, Lamb of God presents a politically charged and furious collection of songs that portrays the instinctual wrath that people may be burying deep inside, only to be released in a hysterical tirade to our therapists once the quarantine has let up.

The follow-up to VII: Sturm and Drang, and Legion: XX—the latter of which served as a cover album performed under the group’s original name, “Burn The Priest.” It’s also Lamb of God’s first work following the departure of drummer Chris Adler, who has been replaced by Art Cruz. The band maintains a consistency in its atmospheric, doom and gloom stylings, with some hollow and subdued guitar ballads that evoke a horror ambience.

Throughout its runtime, Lamb of God evokes the soundtracks to video games like “Spec Ops: The Line,” “DOOM: Eternal” and “Silent Hill.” All of that is to say that the band has a knack for developing an immersive experience with each track. Opener “Memento Mori” has a subdued and haunting electric guitar intro with Randy Blythe’s lower range vocals interjected with the whispers of a child saying, “wake up.” The song uses omens and themes of psychosis and death, embracing traditional heavy metal motifs. Yet Lamb of God shows it’s capable of more than that, maintaining its status as a pivotal act within the new wave American heavy metal movement.

Many of the songs on Lamb of God maintain a sharp political edge, critiquing the xenophobic, nationalistic and manipulative policies of the Trump administration with songs like “Checkmate,” “New Colossal Hate” and “Routes.” On “Checkmate,” Blythe directly references Trump’s deceptive and divisive nature and mocks his campaign slogan with lines like, “Coup d’état on full display, a liar’s sick charade/ A traitor’s grand parade/ Narcissistic masquerades for those without a say/ Systematic disarray/ Divide and conquer and close them in/ And bury secrets deep/ Make America hate again/ And bleed the sheep to sleep.”

The political discourse doesn’t start and stop with the Trump administration either. “Routes” condemns the genocide of indigenous peoples and the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. “New Colossal Hate” criticizes America’s policies of turning away and antagonizing of immigrants and refugees.

Fans of Lamb of God’s work will find an album consistent with its predecessors. Those who are unfamiliar with the larger metal scene will find this record to be an accessible starting point into the genre. The album may not bring smiles or cheery vibes, but it will offer a cathartic release for those looking for something to channel their more difficult emotions.

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