If tough times create great music, then we can all be forgiven for getting a little bit excited about the new Lamb of God album. Throw in the fact that they are consistently one of the best heavy metal bands we have and Sturm Und Drang already feels like a contender for album of the year. However, after all the shit that Lamb Of God, and in particular lead singer Randy Blythe, have had to go through in the last couple of years, can it really stand up to fan’s expectations?
The simple answer, at least for this fan, is yes. Damn right it can. Sturm Und Drang is Lamb of God sounding as good as they ever have and right from the opening bars of ‘Still Echoes’ they seem determined to prove it. As one of the lead singles off the album, this track about the guillotine still housed in the same prison that Randy was a guest of in Prague, doesn’t push the boat out. It’s classic Lamb of God, but it’s classic Lamb of God done really well.
That doesn’t mean this album is a rinse and repeat job, because on tracks like ‘512’ we see Lamb Of God really twisting the formula. A slow and deliberate song, it opens with the lines ‘Six bars laid across the sky, four empty walls to fill the time’, you can safely bet what it’s about. Not only is it about Randy’s life, it’s also very much his song, as his vocals take centre stage and he proves he’s still one of the best we have.
Which is actually true for most of this album. The last couple of times I’ve seen Lamb of God live there has been a feeling that Randy’s voice wasn’t quite what it used to be. He was relying on the crowd at times and occasionally lacked that little bit of oomph. However, this album shows there’s life in the old bastard yet. As he roars ‘Jesus Christ you make me sick’ on the pissed off ‘Footprints’, you believe every word.
If there’s a misstep it’s ‘Overlord’, a slower and more melodic track it goes too far from the Lamb of God formula and it just doesn’t sit right. I hate to say it, but it’s just a bit cheesy and you breathe a sigh of relief when half way through they speed things up for a bit. That doesn’t stop them also showing that this more melodic style can work with their music. With ‘Embers’, which features Chino Moreno (Deftones), stepping up to the plate. On paper that’s not a combination that should work, but something clicked here. The contrast between his vocals and Lamb of God’s groove filled metal turns it into one of the album’s highlights.
Randy’s not alone in putting in a big performance here, with Mark Morton and Willie Adler’s guitars still wrecking havoc all over the place. They are one of metal’s most reliable twosomes and the big chunky riffs that make up songs like ‘Anthropoid’ show why that reputation is well-earned. Further back on the stage Chris Adler is still one of the best heavy metal drummers we have and the fact that he’s now behind the kit for both Megadeth and Lamb of God can only be a good thing. Lamb of God have had their problems over the years, but this line up have been playing together for about 16 years and that tightness and experience shines through on this album.
Lamb of God are just fucking great and you really shouldn’t need me to tell you that. While they’ve had up and downs they are very rarely bad and Sturm und Drang was never going to be the album to buck that trend. With what these guys have been through in the last few years it’s just great to have them back and the fact that they’ve taken those troubles and used them to craft this beast of a heavy metal album, just makes it all the more enjoyable. Thank fuck for Lamb of God.