Aside from the ultra-ambitious, genre-crossing, mind-bendingly brilliant antics of Mastodon’s recent opus, Lamb Of God’s fourth full-length effort, _Sacrament _was the record that everyone in the metal fraternity had been hyping and hoping to the top of the podium in 2006. Thankfully, neither has fallen short of the expectation.
Along with Trivium and Killswitch Engage, they are the unpredictable frontrunners in the much-loathed New Wave of American Heavy Metal. LoG are much more steeped in American rather than Swedish tradition, and as such owe their musical debt to homegrown metallers Pantera and Slayer rather than metalcore pioneers In Flames and At The Gates.
The best heavy metal (see: Metallica, Slayer) has always relied on a majestically elaborate rhythm guitar (see: James Hetfield, Jeff Hanneman) just as much as the impressive thunder-stealing lead guitar solos (see: Kirk Hammett, Kerry King) that the genre is renowned for. Accordingly, this Virginian quintet has created the strongest set of rhythm parts I’ve ever heard on one album while continuing to err on the side of caution with some constantly understated but still incredibly complex solos.
That Mark Morton and William Adler continually interchange between lead and rhythm with such seamless ease throughout is testament to the talent that this band possesses. They probably go home at the day’s end with absolutely ruined wrists from all the string skipping, but they know it’s been worth it. Such virtuoso antics are found in abundance in lead single ‘Redneck’. When you’re expecting highly accomplished, straight-up thrash with a dash of death metal deviance about it, this highly political diatribe is a real curveball.
With low-slung southern grooves and a welcome restraint shown on Chris Adler’s formerly overused double-kick bass drum, this is a departure, however slight and obvious, from the rapid-fire thrash affair that was Ashes Of The Wake. Featuring a less-abrasive version of Randy Blythe’s trademark gritty, bile-ridden snarls and shrieks, _‘Redneck’ _is hardly an obvious choice to welcome fans and newcomers to the latest LoG album, especially as it risks alienating their entire Republican fanbase.
That restraint and new thought employed by Chris Adler sees him add a new dimension to his already fantastic repertoires of rolling beats and industrial snare sounds, as well as his obscure technical ability. Make no mistake: without him this band would be a shadow of what it is now, here. His ingenious fills are the only aspect to this album that can be labelled 'filler' here. From first to last, this is one angry behemoth of an album with Blythe taking out other, non-political frustrations with admirably seething fury.
Opening with the slower, more expansive splendour of ‘Walk With Me In Hell’ _is a masterstroke as it brings the listener in gently before dealing a hammerblow with the first amazing riff of the album. You already know that it’s not going to be the last. Indeed, _‘Forgotten (Lost Angels)’ and _‘Requiem’ _are stomping, catchy beasts that both have outstanding climaxes, while the savage and aptly-titled _‘More Time To Kill’ _and _‘Foot To The Throat’ _mean there is no respite afforded at all. While Lamb Of God album closers are traditionally slow, with the jumping, juddering _‘Death’s Door’ _ finds the band still running until ten metres past the finish line. As a result, this record’s wall-to-wall canned anger is as ferocious a metal record you will hear this year.
The rest is absolutely outstanding. In fact, it is sometimes a little bit too perfect. While _Sacrament _is impeccably produced, you cannot help but feel that often there are too many layers and overdubs that add to the massive, epic sound, particularly with the vocals and occasionally with the guitars. Regardless, or maybe because of this very minor gripe, Lamb Of God have provided us with a dazzling benchmark for modern metal.
9Raziq Rauf's Score