Early 2020, the Virginian groove-metal ambassadors, LAMB OF GOD, announced that they would be releasing a new studio album on the brink of the summer, on 8 May 2020 via Nuclear Blast. It was going to mark the release of the first album in nearly five years containing all-new material since the 2015 album, “VII: Sturm und Drang.” As a teaser, the band released two singles, “Checkmate” and “Memento Mori,” on 5 February and the quality management, with regard to the riffs, frantic bass drum rolls, and vocal delivery, was of the band’s usual high caliber. Randy Blythe sounded more pissed-off than ever, especially in the politically charged “Checkmate.”
Thus, it probably made the forthcoming LAMB OF GOD release one of the most anticipated metal albums of the year. In April, the fans were spoiled with yet another treat, a lyric video for the third single of the album, ”New Colossal Hate,” with the song being an outraged take on the state of the world, on the marginalizing and demonizing, ass-backward politics applied everywhere. These three album cuts hinted that the upcoming album was definitely going to be far beyond driven by angry riffs and balls-to-the-walls attitude with a distinct political sting.
At some point, though, the global repercussions of a peculiar pathogen spillover event far, far away had complicated matters a bit, hence the album release was postponed to 19 June 2020. This play of cat and mouse, pushed by the circumstances, probably just charged the album release with even more pronounced anticipation.
The single cut, “Memento Mori,” starts with Blythe chanting gloomy verses through a reverse reverb, which adds a certain spine-chilling quality to his words, up until to the point when the song explodes into a maelstrom of crushing riffs with the words: WAKE UP! The song has an uncanny relevance today, as the world is sinking deeper and deeper into the matrix of fabricated reality and lies. The Latin imperative in the song’s title, “remember that you must die!” is solid advice, especially right now. Or, to rephrase it with a little less somber tone: remember that someday, we will all die, but on all the other days we should not – especially not in spirit. In “Checkmate,” Blythe speaks out in truly unvarnished terms about our world leaders. At face value, the song could be taken as if it was addressed to President Donald Trump, in particular, and to his “divide and conquer” tactics being played upon the US citizens. Actually, Blythe disclaimed this sort of implication in a Metal Hammer interview recently, saying that we should not give Mr. Trump all the credit for the song’s inspiration. The global arena of politics is indeed infested with all kinds of shady characters, like the next single release seems to confirm. “New Colossal Hate” adds another chapter to this saga, zooming the lyrical lens on the somewhat flagrant observation that the whole system is broken, on a global scale. The meticulously crafted riffs lay a solid ground for Blythe to vent out his anger.
At the end of May, LAMB OF GOD debuted the fourth single off the album, “Routes,” which featured a guest appearance by Chuck Billy of TESTAMENT. The guest could not have been chosen any better: the song is quite an in-your-face bruiser that honors the fine tradition of old school thrash metal. With themes surrounding the environmental destruction and corporate-scale injustice toward indigenous people – a protest song, basically, and one of the best ever written. The paradigm might not shift by strumming “Kumbaya” on the acoustic guitar, but maybe LAMB OF GOD‘s new collection of ten feisty headbangers might be just what we need for a little motivational push in the right direction.
At this point, all the fans were probably tied in knots out of anticipation for the album release. Even without hearing the rest of the songs, it was pretty clear that the new album would cut to the essence, to the hard core of the “New Wave of American Hardcore Metal,” musically, and take sharp aim at the darker side of the “American dream,” lyrically. The album track, “Reality Bath,” for instance, could not have been more aptly titled: the song, let alone the whole album, is like a cold shower in the current, dismal reality of our surroundings – in the “new abnormal.” The sonic textures underline this conceptual framework perfectly. The song starts with a bass motive that resonates simultaneously with the air of TOOL’s laid-back, progressive grooves and vintage hippie-rock before the pent-up anger takes off like a scud missile. I guess the world is fundamentally different today, compared to the time when the songs on this album were initially written – and still, the lyrics bear unnerving relevance that seems to grow thicker by the day.
“Gears” is a 4-minute metal-groovathon that makes piercing observations of the disease of our times: consumerism. Maybe it’s a tell-tale sign about the state of the world that musicians and stand-up comedians make the most penetrating and spot-on observations about the zeitgeist of our times. On the new LAMB OF GOD album Blythe makes poignant remarks, if not discerning footnotes in the story of our moral decay, much like George Carlin -but pissed-off beyond any reasonable degree, and for a reason, too.
On “Poison Dream” the vocal duties are split between Blythe and Jamey Jasta of the metalcore band, HATEBREED. Jasta‘s metalcore vocals fit the riff-driven landscape pretty seamlessly. He goes beyond the call of duty and delivers 110%. The song is a triumphant riffathon in the classic LAMB OF GOD style, or in hip business language, a brilliant exercise in team cohesion: it surges forward like a freight train. Well, the song kicks ass just like all the songs on the album. It has been a kind of trademark for the band for years.
In “Resurrection Man” you can hear one of the best lines on the album: “I was born in a cemetery and learned to walk on skull and bones.” While the lyrics are pretty straightforward and might not be eligible for actual Romantic poetry, not even in the broadest of sense, Blythe‘s words are heavily loaded with strong emotions and his fiery stanzas nicely leave room for interpretations, notwithstanding the fact that the underlying message suggests that our world is fundamentally fucked-up. Nevertheless, the new LAMB OF GOD album is fit music to raise spirits during hard times. I dare claim it works better than those inspirational “Live, Laugh, Love” posters. For those who disagree or have a hard time wrapping their heads around this new LAMB OF GOD album, I shall give the best advice I’ve ever seen in the dubious internet music forums: if the music does not kick you in the nuts properly, maybe you’re not listening to it loud enough?
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Memento Mori
- Reality Bath
- New Colossal Hate
- Resurrection Man
- Poison Dream
- Bloodshot Eyes
- On the Hook
Randy Blythe – Vocals
Willie Adler – Guitars
John Campbell – Bass
Mark Morton – Guitars
Art Cruz – Drums
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”