Released: 2009, Epic Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Patience is a virtue, they say, and for those of us who have had our fingers on the pulse of Lamb of God since 2000’s NEW AMERICAN GOSPEL, the time is here. ASHES OF THE WAKE fell just shy of being that truly great album and SACRAMENT started out on fire but fizzled out too soon with a weak second half. On WRATH, though, Lamb of God has delivered the record they have been striving for and its ever-growing legion of fans has been asking for. A change in producers has generated a record less slick than the previous two but still maintains a blazing hellfire of sound that captures the essence of Lamb of God’s stock in trade: groove-based, thrash-influenced, modern American metal.
“The Passing” opens the record and owes a great deal to the progressive instrumental pieces that Metallica was doing on …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. Clean guitars, structured around a slower-tempo, epic base is a nice touch and an angle Lamb of God has yet to do. The tranquility ends quickly, though, as the pitbull vocals of Randy Blythe tear through the twin guitar attack on “In Your Words.” Blythe used a cleaner-sounding shriek back in the Burn The Priest-era of the band and he revisits this style here, mixing it with an arsenal of growls and paint-peeling roars. Fans looking for WRATH’s answer to “Redneck” and “Laid To Rest” will find it on “Set To Fail,” a blistering assault of the senses led by drummer Chris Adler. An immediately catchy riff paves the way for a head-bobbing groove that wraps itself around a chorus sure to be shouted out in unison in the live setting. “Contractor” draws on the Adlers’ thrash metal influences by injecting a pit-pleasing tempo sure to fire up the masses while they await the wall of death. “Fake Messiah” is just as vicious, with Blythe screaming to the heavens during the chorus and Chris Adler turning in one of his most controlled performances to date. Mark Morton and Willie Adler take centre stage for “Grace,” a song which slithers between its neo-classical intro and a gut-punching groove throughout. “Choke Sermon” is another six-stringer’s tutorial as the pair tease with harmonics that fuel the band’s patented grooves.
That is not to say Adler and Morton are becoming stagnant, either, as the aforementioned clean and classical guitar parts, as well as the swampy intro/outro to “Reclamation,” prove they are not content to rest on their laurels. Likewise, Blythe continues to evolve and improve as a vocalist with each progressive record. He still possesses the same ferocity as always but his range is becoming clearer and broader without giving in to the overly-saccharine clean vocals of his North American peers. Josh Wilbur has given bassist John Campbell some room in the mix, too, with a beefy bottom end that co-exists with Chris Adler’s drum god performance to solidify one of the sturdiest rhythm sections in metal. Adler’s stellar cymbal work, tasty fills and double bass fury is the icing on an already delicious cake.
WRATH is certainly among the higher-profile metal releases of the year and it goes above and beyond expectations. Many will still claim ASHES OF THE WAKE is this band’s finest hour but given some time to sink in, WRATH might just overtake it. Stripping back the over-production that put a glossy, but soulless sheen on ASHES OF THE WAKE and SACRAMENT, the new record sounds warm, brutally heavy and more organic than its predecessors. Couple that with the fact these eleven songs are among the best arranged, written and played in Lamb of God’s catalogue and the whole thing adds up to the crown jewel that is WRATH.
KILLER KUTS: “In Your Words,” “Set To Fail,” “Contractor,” “Fake Messiah,” “Grace,” “Everything To Nothing,” “Choke Sermon”