A new Lamb of God album has arrived, and as I get ready to listen to it, I prepare a mental checklist of what to expect:
• Squeaky-clean production
• Riffs with a huge number of notes
• Massive grooves
• Randy Blythe sounding pissed off
Within seconds, VII: Sturm und Drang is ticking all four boxes. Well, apart from the last one, because after all the ups and downs of recent personal events, Mr. Blythe isn’t just sounding pissed off this time round. No, this time he is absolutely bloody fuming. Enraged. Fit to bust. After thirty-seven days in a Czech jail, wrongfully accused of manslaughter, it’s really no surprise that songs like “Erase This” and “512”, both born from his experiences in the prison system, have such anger.
If you like Lamb Of God then you’re going to love Sturm und Drang. It really is a very good Lamb Of God album. It’s missing that 5th star because these things are always subjective and, if you want to poke around in the LoG back catalogue, then, for me, 2009’s Wrath, with stand-out tracks like “In Your Words” and “Contractor”, that is their absolute best. If you don’t like clean, rifftastic groove metal then Sturm und Drang likely ain’t ever gonna win you over. But if you’re not already a fan of the band, then what could I say to persuade you to give this fine album a listen?
Let’s start with the lyrics. They are intelligent and poetic, and while there are interviews with members of the band that throw some light on the themes of the songs, the lyrics are open enough for any listener to find their own meaning. Take the opening of “Embers” as an example:
Gather the bones and lay them in the sun in patterns that capture the eye
No one could know, display for everyone the holes in our souls we despise
Timber and stone, monumental, remnants frozen in time
Carried alone the burden, knowing it was all we could do to survive
Plenty to explore there, eh? For Randy Blythe this song is about how death affects relationships within a family.
The themes on Sturm und Drang range from personal subjects like that to issues that affect us all, from big media’s manipulation of society (“Engage The Fear Machine”) to idiotic, biome-wrecking tourists (“Footprints”) and the anti-Soviet protest staged by Czech dissident Jan Palach in 1969 (“Torches”). Big themes, intelligently written. This is metal with a social conscience, for those who choose to listen.
Most importantly, though, the big draw for me with LoG is their absolutely top-notch musicianship. Man, those RIFFS! These guys can play, and they make it sound so damn effortless. It’s a delight to hear skills like this channeled into grade-A songwriting rather than the show-off instrumentals that seem to be such a temptation for some bands.
VII: Sturm und Drang is an outstanding slab of modern metal. From the get-go it grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you through ten excellently produced, blistering songs that rage at the injustices of the world. You feel the need to crack a beer and bang that head? Then Lamb Of God are here for ya!