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Lamb Of God VII: Sturm Und Drang

2015 Epic Records

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Lamb Of God - VII: Sturm Und Drang

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Given all the time Lamb Of God and their frontman Randy Blythe spent in the spotlight during his manslaughter trial, it kind of makes sense that they would essentially record “VII: Sturm Und Drang” in relative secrecy. Having figuratively already been sunburned by the spotlight, who would want anymore undue observation?

That said, for any other band, incarceration and a trial in a foreign country for the unfortunate death of a stage diving fan could fuel an anthology of releases. Not so for burgeoning renaissance man Randy Blythe, who lyrically dedicates a respectable lone two tracks to his time spent in a Prague prison.

With seven albums to their credit (eight if you count Burn The Priest,) Lamb Of God are close to being a metal institution. A modern day reflection of 90’s heroes like Pantera, they’ve established a lasting impact and a trademark style that has continuously evolved into heavier fare.

While “VII: Sturm Und Drang” features clean singing on three tracks (two of which comes via guests) the album itself remains as caustic and unrelenting as ever. Blythe certainly has no shortage of enmity as he wrenches out his thorny bellows and screeching howls.

Surely at this point you’re familiar with the included track “Overlord“. It’s the first foray into clean singing from Blythe and lumbers along with bluesy grunge licks that recall Alice In Chains and Black Label Society. It’s unquestionably a giant step for the outfit, but one that by no means defines the rest of the album.

At times just as adventurous is “Embers“, which affirms its authority with typical Lamb Of God menace and scouring riffs. That is until halfway through when the dark clouds part and Chino Moreno (Deftones, etc.) showers down his smoldering melodies as Randy screeches back in response. What’s also interesting during this particular cameo is the very Deftones-ish nature that emerges, especially in the charismatic bass playing of John Campbell.

Footprints” follows that song directly with a bone splintering push and a ferocious chorus that finds Blythe asking “how the fuck did you think this would end?” In many ways this is the bread and butter of Lamb Of God, as drummer Chris Adler keeps his snare crisp while a breakaway groove recalls their pit classic, “Ruin“.

Anthropoid” on the other hand is another step outside the comfort zone, though one nowhere near as drastic as “Overlord“. A tad more screechy, it almost has an air of black metal/noise charm to it when it comes to the understated shrieks that pad the chant-like chorus. Had it not been written prior to the release of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘, you could almost see the chorus’ end proclamation of “I live, I fight, I die” being inspired by a War Boy rallying cry.

The haunting closing track “Torches” further displays Lamb Of God‘s blossoming range. It deftly pairs Randy‘s grim spoken word and anguished wails against The Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato‘s digitally altered moans and screams. Once the ominous veil is shed though, a flurry of hostility is unleashed.

Outside of three tracks, Lamb Of God largely stick to exactly what you want them to, powerful groove laden metal. The kind molded by lung collapsing double kick, sharp technical ability, vigorous solos and sinewy aggression. Despite evidence to the contrary, the strength of “VII: Sturm Und Drang” is not in its adventurousness, but its effectiveness. Sure there’s countless little innovations and unexpected surprises. The apparent use of a talk box in “Erase This” was certainly a shock. But much like the other refinements, it’s all more subtle than sensational.

Recent years have seen Lamb Of God endure a hell few other bands have ever had to face. Despite staring down uncertainty, they’ve emerged from the fires with even more conviction and viciousness. Having had their comfort—both financially and personally—essentially stripped away from them, they now play more like their life depends on it: because in many ways it once again does.

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