Monday, 23 January 2012

Lamb Of God - Resolution [8/10]

Lamb Of God are one of the biggest metal bands of the last 10 years. No, seriously. Grammy nominations, consistently name-checked by (and subsequently taken on tour as main support with) Metallica, and 2009’s Wrath debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Chart in the States. NUMBER. FUCKING. TWO. This is a band that are the bastard child of Pantera and Black Flag, a band who release singles with nary a hint of clean singing, a band that have never written a ballad in their entire career. And yet there they are, rubbing shoulders with the Nickelback’s and Linkin Park’s of the world. It’s enough to keep your faith in metal firmly attached. Bands like Lamb Of God shouldn’t be this big. A lesser band would’ve sought to repeat their success on their next album by replicating the last one. Not Lamb Of God though. Instead, they’ve thrown caution to the wind and released their most experimental album to date. Don’t let that throw you though. This is LOG at their most quintessential, it’s just that there’s now flavours on the plate you didn’t know they had.

Nowhere is that statement of intent more apparent than on album opener ‘Straight For The Sun’. Where most metal bands opt for the “eerie” intro or the fastest song, this is the sludgiest and most doomy thing Lamb Of God have ever conjured up. But at a substantial 2 and a half minutes in length, it isn’t long before the Lamb Of God you’ve come to love rears its ugly head on ‘Desolation’, the “true” opening track if you will. This one-two opening couplet is going to be one of the defining moments of Download 2012, as is lead single ‘Ghost Walking’, one of the album’s more traditional moments, with its slithery ‘Redneck’-style riffs and an unbeatable hook in “You lived through hell, now you’re trying to die”. ‘Guilty’ showcases a more violent side to the band, while ‘The Undertow’ and ‘The Number Six’ (especially) prove once again that Lamb Of God make catchy, indelible metal better than any other band on the planet. Acoustic instrumental ‘Barbarosa’ serves as something of an intermission, separating the album neatly in half before ‘Invictus’ levels you with an absolute cavalcade of holy-fucking-shitballs riffs and a ridiculously impassioned vocal performance from Mr. Randy Blythe. Elsewhere, ‘Cheated’ is the sound of Lamb Of God going seriously punk rock, with a “one, two, one-two-fuck-you” intro straight out of the Pantera bible and even referencing Johnny Rotten with a chorus of “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”. ‘Insurrection’ is one of albums many highlights, which see’s some full on clean vocals in the verses from Randy and one of the albums biggest choruses. This is where the album starts to veer just a tad off course however. The triplet of ‘Terminally Unique’, ‘To The End’ and ‘Visitation’ may boast some strong riffs, but there’s not a whole lot to keep your attention, often appearing a little samey and just standard fare for Lamb Of God. But this is what makes the impact of album closer ‘King Me’ so unbelievably fucking colossal. At 6 minutes and 37 seconds in length, it’s the second longest song LOG have ever penned (behind Wrath’s ‘Reclamation’), and it is by all accounts an epic, combining all the distinctive traits that made you fall in love with this band in the first place with brand new textures and atmospherics, including (but not limited to) the use of an orchestra in the mammoth choruses. It is almost certainly the most structurally adventurous outing Lamb Of God had had to date, and like all album closer’s should, it brings an overwhelming sense of finality to one of Lamb Of God’s finest efforts as Randy’s stunted breaths linger in your ear long after the song has reached its climax.

The sad realisation however is that even with an album as strong and overloaded with punk rock spirit as this, it’s arrived at the complete wrong time in the music industry. Things are frankly worse than they’ve ever been before. If this album had have landed even five years ago, then it would’ve catapulted Lamb Of God into the major leagues the world over, not just in their native homeland. If the trajectory of success is to be trusted, then the follow up to their most successful album to date should see them landing headline tours at Apollo-sized venues, graduating to a “logo band” on festival line-up posters and, finally, hitting that coveted No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts. But the truth is, all of this is vastly unlikely to happen. In a world with no justice, Lamb Of God can only go so far in the commercial ranks. But, let it not go unrecognised that it’s a miracle they’ve even got this far in the first place. Even with the music business in the sorry state it’s in, this band have managed through dogged perseverance and pure work ethic to make the creation of music and touring behind it their living. That’s all a full-on heavy metal band can aspire to in this day and age. If you can reach that level, you’ve cracked it, and you are one jammy little fucker. So even if Lamb Of God unjustifiably move no further up the ladder on this, their sixth album, just remember that they are an inspiration to metal bands the world over. The time may have long passed for a band as ferocious as this to reach even their meagre level of success, but they are poster boys for hard work, determination and stubborn loyalty to the cause. As long as we have bands like Lamb Of God keeping the floodgates open albeit narrowly, we’re probably going to be alright. Raise a glass to the spirit of heavy fucking metal. It still can’t be beaten.

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