Let's face it, the career trajectory of Lamb Of God, as well as the commercial viability of metal as a whole, has probably left many of the suits at Epic Records equally bewildered. As sales steadily decrease and the record industry's strongholds continue to crumble, these Virginian natives repeatedly choose to become even more repugnant and abrasive, ensuring a mainstream breakout or guaranteed recoup of the labels investment is probably out of the question.
And yet this is exactly what defines Lamb Of God. Despite the pressure and trappings they must face being a purveyor of the North American metal scene, the band have increasingly dedicated themselves to their music and their fans above all else. In turn, "Wrath" sees the band further streamlining their sound in a darker, sleeker and ultimately more direct approach. Truly, if any group were ever to continue the attitude, sound and legacy left behind by Pantera, it would have to be Lamb Of God (yeah, nice try Throwdown.)
The warts and all inner turmoil this band have faced over the years has left them resoundingly pissed off and on this release it shows. Large choruses, grandiose song structures, primal brutality and a battery of meat hook-like riffs stylized enough to make Pinhead consider a career change are just some of the finer points of this outing. But while metallic butchery is par for the course, "Wrath" also sees a firmer grasp on understated clean instrumental melodies and their inherently brief appearances inject some much needed color into this otherwise bleak and crushing listen.
Unsurprisingly, the vocal content drips with venom. Whether it ferociously tackles the military industrial complex in "Contractor" or delves into the twisted malevolence frontman Randy Blythe is known for; it makes a fitting companion to the rage and ire spewed forth by the rest of the band. That said, as relevant and crushing as "Wrath" is, it's not necessarily the bands finest hour. Instead it's more like an explosive release of festered hostility with some methodical thought put behind it.
Admittedly it tends to lack somewhat in the instantly memorable riffs and hooks (see "Ruin, "Redneck") that populated the groups last few albums. It also sounds a bit lacking in the mix as well with the drumming in particular feeling a bit limp when such thunderous parts are obviously being played. Still, while "Wrath" may not be the expected hallmark entry in the bands discography due to its somewhat workman-like nature, it is entirely canon for the group and will surely (and deservedly) be viewed by many as one of the finest metal albums to see a release in 2009.
(4 / 5)