Every now and again, a record captures the mood of an era with such frightening accuracy that even though it might not be the greatest thing you’ve ever heard, it resonates so profoundly that you have no alternative but to sit up and take notice. Not since the ’80s, when the burgeoning thrash scene was fuelled by a world living in fear of murky politics and the threat of nuclear war, has the timing been so perfect for such a scathing indictment of present times.
Every track on Lamb of God (Epic Records) sounds like it was written as recently as yesterday, and although vocalist Randy Blythe denies the songs were written about you-know-who, they are demonstrably aimed at this specific period of history. Notably the current escalation of fear, hatred, and consumerism, not to mention the division and possibly irreparable lack of unity within the United States (and the world) at the moment.
Owing everything to UK goth act Sisters of Mercy, ‘Memento Mori’ is shaken into life by Blythe screaming “WAKE UP!” and a tumultuous landslide of jagged riffs courtesy of the always reliable Mark Morton and Willie Adler. ‘Checkmate’ follows with bluesy noodling erupting into a venomous ‘make America hate again’ message and a crushing breakdown.
Focusing on capitalism, ‘Gears’ is as bullish as it gets, while ‘Reality Bath’ features a (future) crowd-pleasing chorus and is every bit as savage. A reference to American poet Emma Lazarus‘ 1883 sonnet The New Colossus, ‘New Colossal Hate’ describes the marginalisation of immigrants as new drummer Art Cruz proves he is more than capable of stepping into the shoes of former sticksman Chris Adler.
‘Resurrection Man’ is a crushing mid-paced political horror story which explodes with Slayer-esque intensity, ‘Poison Dream’ finds Hatebreed‘s Jamey Jasta exercising his vocal cords while the punishing three-minute thrash of ‘Routes’ features none other than Testament frontman Chuck Billy sharing the mic. The melodic, but no less pummelling ‘Bloodshot eyes’ includes roars, screams, clean vocals, and gravelly narration as Blythe switches effortlessly between styles in arguably his best performance of the record, before ‘On The Hook’ closes the album with frantic riffing and brutal blastbeats.
Aggressive and belligerent, heartfelt and honest, Lamb of God finds the band channelling their resentment and bitterness in the most positive way while covering the most depressingly negative subject matter.