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Lamb Of God

+ {Burn The Priest}

A visceral “five” horsemen of the apocalypse, encompassing a swathe of all things heavy metal (speed, thrash, punk, sludge and death), minted Americans LAMB OF GOD culled not a creature great nor small in order to rope-in woolly disciples from our once green and pastured planet. Led by the uncompromising frontman Randy Blythe, a post-millennium musical lineage of BLACK SABBATH, BLACK FLAG and BIG BLACK guaranteed them an unholy run of three consecutive Top 3 sets: “Wrath”, “Resolution” and VII: Sturm Und Drang”.
Founded in Richmond, Virginia, as BURN THE PRIEST they began sprouting horns in 1994; bassist John Campbell, drummer Chris Adler and rhythm guitarist Abe Spear offering up a shared 7-inch single with compadres ZED; and another shared alongside Agents Of Satan, before they reinstated original lead guitarist Mark Morton and guttural screamer Blythe to bolster a terrorizing eponymous album, BURN THE PRIEST (1999) {*7}. From the entrails of wrist-opener, `Bloodletting’, and onwards to `Resurrection #9’, `Lies Of Autumn’, `Suffering Bastard’ and `Departure Hymn’ et al, the relentless quintet squeezed the last drop of blood, sweat and tears from every orifice. To duly dispense with any religious or satanic connotations, the addition of Will Adler (for the departing Abe Spear), the quintet rechristened themselves LAMB OF GOD.
A post-millennium touring spree to promote their meaty, beastly, big and cut-throat inaugural set, NEW AMERICAN GOSPEL (2000) {*8}, LoG weaved their wands of woe and destruction. Without a hint of “gospel”, this mighty oak of heavy metal precision has now come to be regarded as one hell of a recording; its unsparing drum snare and Drop D chords (like a pneumatic drill-sergeant on parade) for the likes of `Black Label’ and others, it paved the way for Prosthetic (then Epic Records) to jump on board.
2003’s long-awaited AS THE PALACES BURN {*7} captured the spirit and essence of LAMB OF GOD, and spawned fan faves `Ruin’, `Vigil’, `11th Hour’ and the title track. Produced and engineered by DEVON TOWNSEND, and featuring guest axeman Chris Poland (of MEGADETH) on `Purified’, the album made inroads into the charts; patient British metal fans had to wait nearly a whole year to witness it for themselves.
Emerging from the run-down studio tenement they tagged Heavy Rock Manor, LoG’s Machine-produced ASHES OF THE WAKE (2004) {*8} deserved its position within the boundaries of the Top 30. The Slaughterhouse Five of the metal world spearheaded by the gut-wrenching growl of the sniping Randy Blythe, the thrash-ic brutality of `Laid To Rest’, `Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’, `Omertia’ and the head-spinning title track, galloped into the mind-set of their growing legion of disciples. There was also room on board for the aforementioned Poland and TESTAMENT’s Alex Skolnick to counteract/interplay with Morton and Adler through an Armalite machine-gun spray of metal bullets and frenzied feedback.
To mark their new-found fame with a made-for-DVD concert (recorded and filmed at The Trocadero, Philadelphia, in October 2004), the CD version of KILLADELPHIA {*7} was unleashed in December 2005. Featuring an hour-long assault of LAMB OF GOD’s heaviest pieces up to now, this glorious stop-gap of sorts filled a void prior to their next studio outing.
SACRAMENT (2006) {*8} was the Lamb’s inaugural Top 10 entry; an album that was kept off a Grammy winners spot by their idols SLAYER. Not for the squeamish nor people with an unhealthy disposition, the onslaught of `Walk With Me In Hell’, `Redneck’, `Pathetic’ and `Blacken The Cursed Sun’, never let up; all relentless and pounding in the extreme; finale `Beating On Death’s Door’ more or less expressing their fans’ sentiments fully.
Picking up where their previous PANTERA-esque pact-with-Lucifer left off, both WRATH (2009) {*8} and RESOLUTION (2012) {*7} rattled on the door of the No.1 slot, whilst securing their highest British chart performances to date at Nos.25 and 19 respectively. Their accomplishment was not in how many fans they could hook on board, but the serpentine solutions on how LoG could spin out speed-metal; it was particularly commendable that they chose to open “Wrath” with an awesome NWOBHM-like instrumental, `The Passing’; a somewhat false sense of security in the brutality that was to follow by way of `In Your Words’, `Fake Messiah’, `Grace’, et al. The aforesaid “Resolution” – also produced and mixed by Josh Wilbur – was also in no way a let up; opening cuts `Straight For The Sun’, `Desolation’ and rare single, `Ghost Walking’, bone-crushing pieces of meat ready to be thrown to the wolves.
That same phrase might well’ve been used to depict the aftermath of a tragic incident that involved the death of one of LoG’s over-enthusiastic fans, who jumped past security on stage at a Prague concert in 2010, and was duly bundled off by a concerned Blythe. As it turned out, the said 19 year-old duly died of complications from his head injury. In 2012, Randy was subsequently arrested while in the Czech Republic and, in turn, imprisoned at the notorious Pankrac Prison for around a month before his long-overdue acquittal. During these “Dark Days” – the title of Randy’s memoir on the matter – the singer (and group) accrued financial and psychological problems; problems to haunt him for the rest of his life.
Avoiding the phrase “Lambs to the sacrificial slaughter”, 2015’s VII: STURM UND DRANG {*8} – meaning “storm and stress” – was no RAMMSTEIN set in disguise, but another injection of high-octane smash-and-grab thrash-metal. A cameo for DEFTONES’ Chico Moreno (on `Embers’) and DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN’s Greg Puciato (to balance up the brooding `Torches’), lavished the set extra spice, whilst an uncompromising Blythe and Co set the record straight, so to speak, on the mind-numbing `Still Echoes’, `Erase This’, `512’ and the scalding-hot `Anthropoid’.
Perhaps in penance to possibly redress the tragic accident that befell the fan from Prague, but more importantly to honour a long-time devotee closer to home (Wayne Ford), who lost his five-year battle with leukaemia in 2016, LoG paid homage by releasing a limited-edition EP entitled `The Duke’; a disc featuring a couple of fresh cues (the title track and `Culling’) and a trine of live cuts.
To mark the up and coming 19th anniversary of their eponymous BURN THE PRIEST set, the metal quintet resurrected the moniker in order to unleash a fresh covers collection, LEGION: XX (2018) {*6}. A throwback to times tougher and rougher, the Wilbur-produced low-key record bowed to gods of punk-metal:- The ACCUSED (`Inherit The Earth’), MELVINS (`Honey Bucket’), BIG BLACK (`Kerosene’), STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH (`Kill Yourself’), BAD BRAINS (`I Against I’), Sliang Laos (`Axis Rot’), MINISTRY (`Jesus Built My Hotrod’), AGNOSTIC FRONT (`One Voice’), QUICKSAND (`Dine Alone’), CRO-MAGS (`We Gotta Know’) and bonus cover: HELMET (`In The Meantime’).
Sidelined from touring after being injured in an earlier motorcycle crash, the absent Adler saw his berth taken, permanently, by former PRONG sticksman, Art Cruz, in time for the 2020’s eponymous LAMB OF GOD {*7}; Adler had now surfaced with Firstborne. The record was a Top 20 entry on both sides of the big pond; its core, uncompromising cuts including one with TESTAMENT’s Chuck Billy: `Routes’, and another with HATEBREED’s Jamey Jasta: `Poison Dream’. Apart from the calm-before-the-storm that interceded opener, `Memento Mori’, there was indeed no let-up for the Uzi-igniting follow-on `Checkmate’ piece and the bludgeoning `New Colossal Hate’.
© MC Strong/MCS Nov2018-Jun2020

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