This month Lamb Of God’s enigmatic frontman, Randy Blythe, launched a campaign via his blog,Randonesia, to be America’s next President. Considering the timing of the announcement, with the release of the band’s new album Resolution just days away, it’s quite clearly a tongue-in-cheek PR stunt. The question here though is will the album prove as determined as his campaign?
Historically, these Virginian heavyweights rarely fall short when it comes to honing real quality. As their album output has developed from sinister slabs of misguided anger into a study in the art of attack, they have built up a portfolio of killer material second to none. Following the raw bludgeon of their early efforts, including most notably As The Palaces Burn, where speeding cantankerous hardcore was doused in that signature cyclical death metal groove, they went on to hit the motherload when they also threw anthem-fuelled hard rock onto the flaming pile. Cue the utterly masterful assault course of Ashes Of The Wake which fed us neatly into the instant addiction provided by, first Sacrament with those half-spat shards and endorphin-loaded hooks, and thenWrath with its exploratory flashes of brilliance and swaggering ability to create memorable monsters. Consequently, the longing for Resolution and the continuation of discovery has become steadily unbearable.
Resolution divides its time between disconsolately hammering your brains out with spiked aggression and then piping through deeply-rutted rhythms that toss and turn themselves into yet more hook-in-mouth bloodlust. It takes the old, uncomplicated malevolence of As The Palaces Burnand combines it with the hands-to-the-heavens glory of Sacrament and Wrath. All this means yet more of those verses that jaggedy-jaggedy-jaggedy along, before rockstar-pausing to explode with a wham-bam-thankyou-mam into the colossus that is the chorus. Randy Blythe owns these parts with his earth-shattering whoops and throaty rasps that invigorate with their intensity, each one containing coherent, slick lyrics that demand repetition and naturally provide the opportunity for plenty of heartfelt hollerbacks. When they grubbily fall flat it is disappointing to find these sequences flooding a track to bursting point yet again but, when they shed the dirt and fire on all cylinders, there is nothing in metal today that gets the blood pumping faster. Such is the fine line that Lamb Of God now find themselves treading, though only a true hater would dare suggest that, given their history and the talent on show, they are a one-trick pony.
We always knew he was a legend-in-waiting but, by actually getting fully-involved in the whole process of making an album (i.e.; not nipping off to indulge in his other projects whilst the band lay down the backing tracks), Randy has finally revealed his true value to the band by injecting more haranguing invective and raw-throated intensity than ever before. He warms hugely to his lyrics here, tugging at themes of self-destruction and isolation, with the album title left implying something much wider than just the political statement that the cover and a couple of the tracks suggest, and he delivers them with the conviction of a madman. The other tour-de-force here is Chris Adler. His rampaging drums do the work of two; an army of machine-gun peppering kicks loaded into a world of polyrhythmic intersplicing that will leave you gasping for air. He is a machine and with Resolution he finds yet another level to impress at.
Dug in amongst all this we get yet more progressive elements to savour. They lurk in tracks like “The Number Six” and “King Me” and add something spicy to the melting pot. The former plumps for gang chants and half-whispered messages (redolent of Faith No More’s “Crack Hitler”) whilst “King Me” is on a whole other level. There’s more portentous, hushed vocal but here it’s given an operatic backing (producer Josh Wilbur’s suggestion which should be roundly applauded) and the soaring dark heart, where Randy turns himself into an anvil-topped storm cloud, boiling and bubbling into a destructive twister that threatens to rip the top of your head off and suck out the contents, is mesmeric. When he finally blows himself out, you can actually hear the man collapse.
Other more intuitive tracks like the thrashy rumblings (where Megadeth meets Agnostic Front) of “Guilty” and “Visitation”, the hunk of molten metalcore that forms “Cheated”, or the jerky, bawled punk of “Invictus” provide solid, if unspectacular, padding to absorb the smack of the money-shots like “Desolation”, “Ghost Walking”, “The Undertow” and “Insurrection”. They may be the album weak points, but they aren’t those obviously jarring dips in quality that your average album carries around as bulk.
In fact, considering the quantity of variation within, from the long doomy opening blast, via the snatch of acoustic riffing, to the snippet of clean vocal harmony, there is much keep you coming back for further listens over and over again. In fact, you’ll be amazed to hear they’ve even managed to Crowbar in (pun intended) some bluesy stoner rock with “To The End”.
All this and yet the flow of the album is superb with parallel tracks linked together with re-worked riffs or just fiendishly simple wordplay and, with fourteen songs to run through, there’s plenty of bang for your buck. Okay, there is still the sense that they’ve held back, yet again, on really twisting our melons with something from left-field, and pound for pound it’s not got the star quality of say Ashes Of The Wake or Sacrament, but then it’s not lagging too far behind. An essential purchase, though? Well, put it this way, if I was an American citizen, I’d be voting for Randy!
01. Straight for the Sun
03. Ghost Walking
05. The Undertow
06. The Number Six
11. Terminally Unique
12. To The End
14. King Me