Solo projects are notoriously difficult. Sometimes they are born of internal conflict within a band leading to splintering factions looking to pave their own way. More often than not it proves that a part is not greater than the sum of the whole: who can honestly say they prefer Serj Tankian’s solo work to the output of System of a Down? They can also be the result of an ego attack, a misplaced sense of superiority with often disastrous results. Lamb Of God’s Mark Morton, however, seems to fall into neither category, so his debut solo release, Anesthetic (WPP/Spinefarm Records) can only be viewed as a long-awaited labour of love.
Morton has assembled an all-star cast of the great and good of Rock and Metal for his first foray into the world of the solo artist. The album lives and dies on the strength of guest performances. Some are stronger than others though none fail to hit the Mark… Morton.
For the most part, and perhaps most fortunately, this album does not sound like an amalgamation of Lamb of God off-cuts. Things are at their most LOG on finale ‘Truth Is Dead’ featuring Alissa White-Gluz and Randy Blythe. White-Gluz does an admirable job performing against Blythe, though forcing anyone into a screaming match with the Lamb of God frontman is like making Woody Allen fight Muhammad Ali. This song is the most byzantine and labyrinthine that the listener will find on the album and decidedly the track to most satisfy fans of Morton’s day job.
In a blindingly brilliant posthumous display, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington kick-starts the album with ‘Cross Off’, and song that strays into the more rocky end of Lamb Of God’s oeuvre calling to mind the more straightforward hit ‘Descending’, and paving a perfect foundation for Chester to perform upon. Even Park’s decriers will have a hard time denying the brilliance of this opening track.
Morton displays a dextrous versatility across the album. ‘Back From The Dead’ has a pounding and rollicking pace to it, smashing through addictive Groove Metal riffing, as does ‘Sworn Apart’. Country ballad, ‘Axis’ shows a softer side to the guitar hero, made all the more poignant and authentic with Mark Lanegan’s gravelly vocals added to the mix before a left turn into more Funk-influenced territories near the album’s close on the glorious and soulful ‘Reveal’. Any preconceptions that Morton is purely a metal head through and through are roundly quashed as he peels off a clean and virtuosic bluesy solo to elevate the song into the realms of the magical.
Mark Morton’s first attempt at a solo album is an admirable success. While there are few world-beating songs to name, the best moments are exhilarating and every guest performs with a cool verve. Morton himself plays with the adept brilliance the world has come to expect of him, and proves his versatility, pushing himself beyond recreating his day job, he has created an excellent and laudable piece of work.
8 / 10