There are metal bands and then there is Lamb of God.
A new breed of modern American metal was erected in the 2000s, with Lamb of God serving as an architect, designing the blueprint that would become the standard by which bands that came after them would be judged. So often, the European metal scene has set the tone and established the creative high watermark of the global metal scene, providing the template that their American brethren would follow. Then Lamb of God came along and all bets were off.
It was Lamb of God who rewrote the rules, devised a new playbook and raised the standard. The genre was forever and irrefutably changed by what the band has done.
By the mid-00s, there was a full metal Renaissance, if you will, in America, with the genre enjoying several years of renewed success and critical respect. Lamb of God worked to establish themselves without question as the scene's alpha males, dominating at every turn, leaving a parade of other acts to merely feast on their leftovers and scraps. Mind you, this was not a scene, style or era populated by middling acts. The era was filled quality bands and still, it was Lamb of God who defined the time period and that quickly ascended as the game changers and torch bearers. No. Questions. Asked.
Turns out, they've merely nicked the surface of what they can do and plan on accomplishing.
In 2012, Lamb of God remain the pre-eminent metal band and not by default, either. The scene is still healthy, even if some of the peers who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them during that period of growth have fallen by the wayside. Lamb of God still reign atop of the genre thanks to their consistent ability to feed fans with only the best extreme metal there is. Their seventh album Resolution finds the band firing on all cylinders and doing things their way. As if we'd expect anything less from this Virginia wrecking crew.
With a rich history including three Grammy nominations, an invitation to tour with Metallica (which they did in 2008 through 2010 on the World Magnetic trek); multiple debuts in the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 (2009's Wrath debuted at No. 2 while 2006's Sacrament debuted at No. 8); multiple Platinum-selling DVDs (Killadelphia and Walk With Me in Hell); an arena tour with Slipknot (which took place in 2005); the main stage of OZZfest (2006) and wearing the fact that they were banned in Los Angeles (the Forum had a problem with their name and booted them off the bill of two shows, one with Slipknot and one with Metallica) as a badge of honor, there's no question that Lamb of God rule the metal roost. Everyone else is left to watch and marvel, and choke on their dust. However, they're not resting on past successes or what they've done. For Lamb of God, what happened in 2002 happened in 2002. It's about the right now and what's next: Resolution.
With Resolution, Lamb of God emerged from their haven in the South as powerful, as hungry and as extreme as ever. While most bands are running on fumes or coasting and sputtering to album No. 7, Lamb of God are reinvigorated. They still have something to say and more to prove…to themselves and no one else. This sonic terror squad has come along way from playing squats in basements as Burn the Priest with one constant element: the instinct to make legit, honest music their way, which is just what they've done with Resolution.
“The first and foremost thing that you have to realize about LOG is that we do exactly what we want, when we want, and how we want to," declares vocalist Randy Blythe. "We always have and we always will. That’s why each record is a snapshot in time. We never consciously sit down and say 'We’re going to keep it heavy. We’re going to keep it metal.' We just do that because that’s what we want to do. If we felt like putting out a polka record tomorrow, we would. We’re trying to make 'smart' heavy music.”
Point taken and mission most certainly accomplished with Resolution, a 100 percent trend-free and intelligently constructed album that could power a small country with its unstoppable energy and potent riffery. In a scene littered with "here today, gone tomorrow" bands, Lamb of God have survived because nothing stops them from staying the course they've purposely chosen to embark upon. They're not here to collect a check or respond to a label exec's request to pen a "radio song." It's none of the above for Lamb of God. The men that comprise the band are a little older now, a lot wiser and have families to support. Yet despite all those realities, making this music and making it their way is something that compels them, drives them and sustains them.
“You can still be a band that goes to the practice space, actually writes music together and then records. Being an actual band is still a viable option," Blythe says. "Bands are disappearing with digital recording today. Things are progressing to the point where people are just playing a riff or pattern and programming the drums, and at the end of the day, they have a technically perfect record, but it isn’t a real record. We didn’t do that. Our record is a REAL record.” Indeed, there is blood and adrenaline coursing through every vein of Resolution and its pulse will be felt by all who listen. It's an incredibly human record.
"We're not spitting out a Lamb of God template record," guitarist Mark Morton says. "If it's uninspired or you have nothing left to say, you stop. We're all putting other things in life off to do this, and we're not going to do it if gets boring to us. It's still exciting on our seventh studio record. We're still gaining momentum and getting better." That's not a quality you come across often with aggressive bands. Playing physically taxing music at full tilt leads to wear and tear on the body and the mind, but Lamb of God are not affected by such issues. They're like mutants made stronger by challenging themselves. While 2009's Wrath was sonically forceful enough to shift tectonic plates, Resolution finds the band knocking out their songs with the signature groove and swagger that made them heir apparent to Pantera's throne --an accolade left at LOG's doorstep by critics over time-- but with a little more refinement and attention to dynamics.
Overall, Morton feels that Resolution is the natural next chapter in his band's history, albeit one that harks back to the past, saying, "It almost completes the circle. There is a purity in the music, like when you first begin and you don't have those big aspirations, in a business sense, other than to play."
Drummer Chris Adler, long regarded as one of the most jaw-droppingly talented and proficient rhythm keepers in metal concurs, "Wrath was a bit of a first round knock-out punch to the face album and was purposefully very aggressive. Resolution is much more of a dynamic album.” He also feels that Resolution is born of the desire to surprise himself along with the fans who are happily along for the ride. He says, “A lot of bands get to the point where they put out seven or eight records and fans start to take them for granted. They aren’t the 'cool guys' anymore. I’m not immune to that, and we wanted to push ourselves and surprise ourselves by not resting on prior successes and by default surprising our fans.” Even so, he's not interested in following any sort of trends. He continued, “The biggest thing is that we don’t all want to be the next 'fill in the blank.' We don’t have a unified influence as a band. Because of that, our approach and our sound is slightly different than most bands. We fight and argue which makes it a more honest process.” As bandmate Blythe said earlier, Lamb of God, as an entity is like a living, breathing creature, not one that is plugged in.
The desire to maintain a "personal best" also keeps Adler and his bandmates at the very top of their game this deep into an enviable career. “What inspires me is to outdo the 21-year-old that I was," he states. "I have to prove to myself that I am still a player in this game and keep up with the best. As a band it was important to us to prove to ourselves that we have something left to offer. We don’t need to put out records anymore, but we want to put out records. We don’t want to tarnish the legacy of the band, so whatever we do has to be stronger than what we’ve done. And we’ve done it with Resolution.”
As Blythe decreed, the fact that the band owns the same goals since their humble beginning is what makes the album so real. Bassist John Campbell says, “Putting out heavy music has been our aim since we started this. We wanted to be a great, heavy band. It was never a thought to us that this would be conceptual commercially. We’re all the original members and this is what we do. This isn’t a contrived business thing to get famous and make money. Our core value is to write heavy music, and I think that’s what makes a great band.”
Amen to that!
So with that mindset firmly and collectively in place, when it came time to write and record Resolution, and to get into the the guts of the album, the band elected to let producer Josh Wilbur become involved sooner, to direct what was flowing out of them, egos be damned. "We did incorporate Josh [Wilbur] a bit earlier in the process this time around," guitarist Willie Adler says. "To have an objective ear early on in the process allowed us to sideline our egos at times and really drive for the best shit possible. We also wanted, as far as guitars are concerned, to really capture our live tone to record.”
Morton also revealed that the band did try something new and different with Resolution. “Unlike any other album before, this album was written over the course of a couple of years, at least with the guitars. Willie and I starting songwriting as soon as we started touring with Wrath," instead of their usual M.O. of touring writing upon their return from the road. "Due to having the recording software, we were able to take down ideas," he says about the head start. As a result, Resolution boasts some of the most punk rock moments and some of the bluesiest moments of the band's recorded career, perhaps fostered along by the liveliness of the writing-on-the-road process.
The album may display some of the band's deeper and less obvious influences, but Chris Adler is quick to assess the album's frantic energy. You can feel tension and release in the songs, making the album as a whole a truly cathartic experience. He says, “We really were living on a bit of the edge of our capabilities. There are some frantic moments in the music; they sound almost panic-inducing. The album is overwhelmingly aggressive and will definitely get people off their asses and driving fast.”
Blythe, he of the booming, bellowing voice, is known for spitting out provocative verses in a militaristic, almost drill-sergeant style bark. His voice and his style demand and command your attention. What he declares in the space of his lyrics isn't always comfortable –for him or for you- but he will always make you think about what he is saying. "I’m 40 years old, and I’m just now really getting some clarity on where my place in my life is," Blythe admits. "This is about me getting clarity after partying for a long amount of time, looking at my life and saying 'This is where I am, where do I want to go now?'"
Asking that question, which is something more than a fair share of the band's red-blooded, average American fans are likely to pose to themselves, allowed the singer to enter an entirely different zone on Resolution. While he may have experienced discomfort, LOG ended up with a better and more honest record for it. He continues, "It’s an introspective record and goes over some uncomfortable things for me. I hope people that hear those lyrics will look at themselves and look at the world around them and say 'This is where I am, I don’t like this.' and try to invoke a change in themselves. My overall feeling for this record is 'awakening.'"
The singer admits that he was attracted to underground, aggressive music in his youth because it offered a voice of dissent, one that he could relate to, so he attempts to distill that same feeling into Lamb of God. "That’s what I’m trying to put forth in my music," he says. "Not everything is really okay. You can have your cable TV and Xbox in your car or whatever, but that doesn’t mean that everything is okay and you can just stop because it’s easy. The root of what I try to put forth lyrically is 'Think for yourself.' Do something, do anything.” And that's precisely what bonds Lamb of God to their legion of loyal fans that have stuck with them for seven albums. Well, that and those bludgeoning riffs and technically proficient grooves have something to do with it, as well!
While Resolution admittedly contains some of "the swampiest, sludgiest stuff" of their career, according to Morton, as well as some of the aforementioned "most punk" songs they've ever laid to tape, the album also boldly goes elsewhere and features strings, orchestral movements and bluesy, acoustic guitars living among the band's patented, potent groove and swagger. The song "Insurrection" is a signature, natural and instinctive moment for Chris Adler, who revealed the song was born when the group was locked together in a room and tasked with seeing what it could come up with.
Album closer "King Me" is a real showpiece on an album full of showpieces. As Resolution's punctuation mark, it's a beautiful piece of music from grizzled, meat-and-potatoes-peddling veterans. It was purposely placed at the end of the album, as an unexpected pay off for the fan who spent an hour of his or her life listening to what came before it. Even though Lamb of God make music that could put hair on your chest, underneath the buzz of the guitars, the thunder of the percussion and the ferocity of the vocal declarations, this is still thinking man's metal.
""King Me' is an epic song," Blythe declares without hesitation. "It fits that definition, there’s no way around it. When a song is an epic song, you want to make it as big as possible, which is what we did with the opera singer and the string incorporation." Morton shared a little more about the process and how they arrived at such an "epic" moment, saying, "This isn’t necessarily us changing our songwriting approach or the method, but we really stretched out in the way we 'treated' the songs. Those are things that are added to the song after the fact, but they have a very impact on the overall sound. I don’t think we looked at it as 're-inventing' ourselves; it’s really as simple as that we’re continuing to strive to make music that we’re interested in and that we’re challenged to play, and that we enjoy performing.”
Now that Resolution is in the books and has asserted its rightful place as one of the most cohesive, dynamic and boot-to-the-throat heavy albums in Lamb of God's already extensive body of work, complete with epic and provocative moments, the goal remains singular: to move fans and connect with them, all the while creatively stimulating themselves. Lamb of God are pleased with the album. The only question mark is the fans and judging from the heft and the intensity of Resolution, there will be nothing but pleased fans once they get a load of the album.
Willie Adler said, "To see someone who has really been touched by the music is inspiring to me. Regardless of what emotion they’re feeling, what they’re going thru in their life at that moment, as long as they feel something, I feel as though I’ve done my job.” It's true that Resolution has the capacity to connect with its listener on multiple emotional levels, in addition to the sonic one.
Perhaps Morton sums up Resolution the best: "If it doesn't make you want to push the accelerator to the floor a little harder, flip off a cop or throw a bottle against a brick wall, then I haven't have done my job."
Few bands can craft an album that's as thoughtful as it is visceral. One is often sacrificed in favor of the other. But such is not the case here. Lamb of God have managed to create a masterwork that allows the listener to unlock layers of sound and meaning on each consecutive listen.
There's a whole host of reasons that Lamb of God remain at the top of their game in 2012, while others have faded and fallen away. Resolution is evidence of the band's stronghold on heavy metal in 2012. None can match it, nor do they come close.
In 2012, and with Resolution, Lamb of God has earned their place in the metal pantheon.