Sound — 9
Lamb Of God has been on a continued ascent over the past few years. Sure, the natives of Virginia were banned from the Los Angeles Forum last year because the venue was owned by a church group who didn't like the band's name, but they have thankfully had more than a few things that have sparked a positive stream of attention. Their legendary Wall Of Death that crowds create at the band's request (Google this one and you'll see something to behold) has been written about in countless publications, while signing with Epic Records pretty much confirmed their popularity. On the band's latest CD, Sacrament, Lamb Of God (vocalist D. Randall Blythe, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, bassist John Campbell, and drummer Chris Adler) will likely continue to gather a positive reaction with a collection of raging, musically intriguing tunes. The first track Walk With Me In Hell is hands down the best song on Sacrament. Beginning with a repeating guitar riff that almost feels akin to a grittier, steroid-pumped Sweet Child O' Mine intro approach, it suddenly explodes into an even more furious and faster-paced guitar line. Walk With Me In Hell is actually a good indication of how the rest of the album will unfold: with guitarists Morton and Adler stealing the spotlight. Their work actually takes the mediocre songs on Sacrament and pushes them up to a higher standard. In the bonus DVD the accompanies the new CD, it is fascinating to watch exactly how each riff is created and how the two guitarists -- Morton with his more blues-based style and Adler as the rhythm-driven player -- work off of each other. If you're a fan of Lamb of God already, then vocalist Randy Blythe's growls and screams are probably seen as an intricate part of each song. For those not familiar to the sound, however, the testosterone-drenched vocals may be a bit too much for the year on first listen. What the band should be commended for is their attempt to experiment with vocal effects. In Foot To The Throat, an echoing vocal is heard at the end adding a really effective contrast to the vocals on other tracks. Combined with a powerful Slayer-ish guitar breakdown with a slower rhythm in the chorus, Foot To The Throat captures the best of the band. One track was a bit of a letdown, given it's dark and egregiously creepy title of Requiem. The song lacks a strong melodic base and the focus is primarily on the driving rhythm for most of the tune. This is the pitfall that many thrash/hardcore/metalcore bands fall into: opting for pure aggression over quality songwriting. The aggressive nature could appeal to plenty of angry individuals out there, and that's probably where the band was coming from in making it. But when you compare Requiem to the other tracks on Sacrament, it's simply lacking the strong arrangement that's present in plenty other tunes.
Lyrics — 8
When listening to the lyrics on Sacrament, it brings to mind much of Pantera's work. There is that basic underlying anger that flows out of each song and the musical arrangement fits that sentiment to a tee. Lamb Of God's songs do tend to be based around one theme most of the time, which could grate on some people's nerves, but they do find interesting ways to present that pent-up anger. In Again We Rise, the song is a big F-you to a greedy liar from the South -- you can make your own conclusion whether it is dedicated to President Bush. Blythe sings, A thousand-yard stare across the South; A full belly and a lying mouth; Momma's boy plays heretic; The real thing would kill you quick. Many a band is going the route of writing political lyrics, and that is not such a bad trend if we want kids to be more concerned about what's going on in the world. The band focuses on more imagery in Walk With Me In Hell, creating a much more abstract and old-school death metal feel. Blythe sings, Now witness the end of an age; Hope dies in hands of believers; Who seek the truth in the liar's eyes; Take hold of my hand. For a metal band, these lyrics really go hand in glove and it's always kind of refreshing to see tradition holding strong. Some listeners might think the darker lyrics get trite at times, and for those people, Lamb Of God should not be on their playing list.
Overall Impression — 9
Lamb Of God clearly distinguishes itself as a band with plenty of talent on Sacrament. There are a variety of driving guitar riffs and double-bass drum work usually associated with metalcore bands, but Lamb of God goes a bit further. They prove on songs like Foot To The Throat that they have a unique songwriting style that peaks when one guitar riff leads to another completely different one and then another one -- yet all the guitar lines fit together seamlessly. Watching the bonus DVD gives you a glimpse of the songwriting process, which unsurprisingly is primarily written by the two guitarists. While the growling vocals are usually an essential part of metalcore, they actually get in the way at times on Sacrament. The legions of Lamb Of God fans, however, would probably not have it sung any other way. Thankfully, even if you're more of a fan of the traditional singing voice, the band's songwriting is able to still shine through as well thought-out and constructed.