Album Review – Lamb of God / Lamb of God (2020)

Re-energized and unrelenting, Richmond, Virginia’s own Groove Metal titans are finally back after five years with their pulverizing eighth studio album.

At long last, five years after the release of the excellent VII: Sturm und Drang, Richmond, Virginia-based Groove Metal titans Lamb of God are finally back with a brand new album self-titled Lamb of God, the band’s eighth studio effort, for our vulgar delectation. Produced by Josh Wilbur (Korn, Megadeth, Gojira, Trivium), the fact that their new effort is self-titled is a testament to the band’s pride and satisfaction with these songs and this period in their creativity, showcasing a true and healthy collaboration between frontman Randy Blythe, guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton, bassist John Campbell and newcomer Art Cruz on drums, a re-energized and unrelenting lineup that’s more than ready to lay claim to the metal throne. “Putting only our name on it is a statement,” Mr. Randy Blythe said. “This is Lamb of God. Here and now,” expressing in words all the rage, groove and darkness found in each of the album’s ten original and extremely acid songs.

An eerie start evolves into a pounding Groove Metal feast in the opening track Memento Mori, where Willie and Mark and infernal with their riffs, inspiring us all to slam into the pit like true metal maniacs while Randy darkly vociferates the song’s psychological lyrics (“The hardest hour, the cruelest sign / I’m waking up from this wretched lie / I fight it the same, don’t waste this day / Wake up, wake up, wake up / Memento mori”), whereas in Checkmate we’re treated to more of their modern-day, austere words (“Watch the gears grind off their teeth / The screeching halt machine digging heels in disbelief / Two reactional identities, opposing policies / A bait and switch routine”), while Art brings forward all his fury and dexterity on drums, proving why he was chosen to take the band’s drumming duties. And in Gears, my favorite song of the entire album, Randy sounds inhumane with his enraged roars accompanied by Art’s pounding beats and the groovy and thunderous bass by John, resulting in a very intricate, multi-layered and thrilling aria from start to finish.

Speeding things up a notch, the quintet fires the neck-breaking, pulverizing tune Reality Bath, bringing an amazing shredding blasted by the band’s guitar duo while Randy alternates between his trademark growls and dark, eerie clean vocals, followed by New Colossal Hate, keeping the album at an insane level of wrath and violence. In other words, it’s another song perfect for jumping up and down with the band, with John and Art making the foundations of the earth tremble with their hellish kitchen, and they continue to crush our heads with the wicked and visceral Resurrection Man, one of the heaviest and most obscure of all tracks, with Art hammering his drums fiercely while Rady fires deep, vicious roars nonstop. Then featuring guest vocalist Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), the band delivers more of their hybrid of Groove and Thrash Metal in Poison Dream, with the sick riffage by Willie and Mark adding an extra kick to the overall result, not to mention the song’s vibrant and aggressive vibe.

The one and only Mr. Chuck Billy (Testament) lends his thunderous vocals to the high-octane Groove and Thrash Metal hurricane entitled Routes, sounding very melodic and at the same time as vile and caustic as possible, offering our avid ears their usual frantic beats, rabid screams and strident guitar solos, and you better get ready for another round of insanity and heaviness spearheaded by Randy and his demented screams in Bloodshot Eyes, also bringing some introspective moments while John and Art deliver endless groove through their unstoppable weapons. And last but not least, Lamb of God fire one last breath of first-class, demolishing metal music entitled On the Hook, with all of its crisp and thunderous riffs and bass jabs being nicely spiced up by Art’s rhythmic beats, uniting the heaviest elements from Thrash and Death Metal to the band’s core essence and, therefore, putting an amazingly heavy and explosive end to the album.

You can follow Lamb of God on Facebook and on Instagram (if you haven’t done so yet, of course) to stay up to date with everything that surrounds the band, including their tour dates, new songs and videos, news and other nice-to-know details, but I highly recommend you invest a small amount of your hard-earned money into their brand new album by clicking HERE and selecting your favorite version of it, as this is among the best metal albums of the year hands down. It might have taken a little longer than expected for Mr. Randy Blythe and his henchmen to released their new album due to all this horrifying and tedious COVID-19 pandemic, but at least the wait is over and, if you look on the bright side of life, all the wait was relatively worth it, making us insanely eager to see what Lamb of God had to offer us all in such obscure times. Needless to say, they didn’t disappoint at all, with their self-titled installment certainly fueling their inner selves to keep composing and delivering more of their unique Groove Metal for many years to come. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for metal concerts to be back on, buy your tickets to see Lamb of God live, and witness them kicking some serious ass with both their classics and the new fulminating songs from their new album, just the way we like it.

Best moments of the album: Memento Mori, Gears, Reality Bath and Routes.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Epic Records/Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Memento Mori 5:48
2. Checkmate 4:30
3. Gears 3:55
4. Reality Bath 4:32
5. New Colossal Hate 4:30
6. Resurrection Man 4:59
7. Poison Dream 4:57
8. Routes 3:04
9. Bloodshot Eyes 3:57
10. On the Hook 4:30

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Art Cruz – drums

Guest musicians
Jamey Jasta – vocals on “Poison Dream”
Chuck Billy – vocals on “Routes”

Concert Review –Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/27/2017)

When you have two of the best and most iconic Thrash Metal bands of all time playing together in the city, you know exactly where you have to be.

OPENING ACTS: Prong and Sepultura

As much as I enjoy the Phoenix Concert Theatre and obviously the bands that were going to play last night, I truly and deeply hate the weekdays rush hour traffic to get from my town, the suburban Oakville, to Toronto whenever there’s a good metal concert I want to attend. At least the weather was fantastic (even with a short storm that happened at around 7pm), with the temperature being above 20 degrees, which means no one had to carry their burdensome jackets like what always happens when a concert is in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, due to traffic (and because I had to eat something before heading to the venue), I completely missed the performance by American Crossover Thrash power trio PRONG. I have absolutely no idea if it was a good concert or not. Well, probably yes as the group spearheaded by Tommy Victor has all it takes to deliver great music to the audience, but unfortunately I can’t say a word about what they did last night, not even write down their setlist.

Band members
Tommy Victor – lead vocals, guitar
Jason Christopher – bass guitar, backing vocals
Art Cruz – drums

Fortunately, I got to the Phoenix Concert Theatre just in time to see the always amazing show by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal masters SEPULTURA, who are currently promoting their latest album, the very experimental and exciting Machine Messiah.  Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Eloy Casagrande put on an electrified performance on stage from start to finish, blending several songs of their new album like the excellent Phantom Self and Sworn Oath with all-time classics such as Desperate Cry, Inner Self (my favorite of the night) and Refuse/Resist, and of course the song most fans at the venue wanted to hear, their ritualistic hymn Roots Bloody Roots. The sound was very clear, cohesive and powerful, just like what the band offers us in their studio albums, proving Sepultura are a band that always provides their fans the same high level of quality found in their studio versions when they transport those compositions to the stage. As usual, the highlights of their performance were the insane riffs, solos and other awesome tricks done by Andreas with his guitar. That guy is one of the most gifted guitarists in the history of heavy music, which means if you’ve never seen him playing live, don’t miss that chance the next time “Sepultura do Brasil” visit your city.

Setlist
I Am the Enemy
Phantom Self
Choke
Desperate Cry
Sworn Oath
Inner Self
Alethea
Resistant Parasites
Refuse/Resist
Ratamahatta
Roots Bloody Roots

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

After a short bathroom and beer break, it was time for American Thrash Metal behemoths TESTAMENT to create a sonic Armageddon in Toronto with their unparalleled aggression and refined technique. I guess I always say the same thing about Testament, but all band members are extremely talented and way above average, in special the guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick and the human earthquake Gene Hoglan. Those two are not simple musicians, they’re demonic beasts when armed with their instruments, delivering the best of the best when it comes to heavy music.

Blasting some of their newest creations from the best metal album of 2016, the superb Brotherhood Of The Snake, especially the kick-ass tunes Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold, with old school songs and newer classics, they delivered a flawless performance for the delight of all metalheads at the venue. A few songs from their setlist deserve some special attention, like the brutal and sensational Rise Up for its enhanced mighty power when played live, the high-octane Centuries of Suffering for the insanely intricate magic Gene does behind his drums, and Electric Crown for the amount of groove and feeling flowing from the band’s instruments.

My only complaint about the concert was the excessive amount of solos, one for each band member. As much as I love each guy from the band, I personally prefer regular songs than solos. If they replaced those solos with newer songs like “The Number Game” or “Native Blood”, or with classic like “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “Burnt Offerings”, it would have been just perfect, but that’s just my opinion. The whole concert was fuckin’ awesome anyway; not even all those solos were able to cool down the audience, mainly because whenever there was a solo there was also a demolishing classic right after it, like when they played the circle pit-generator First Strike Is Deadly after Gene’s drum solo.

Before playing the encore, the iconic Chuck Billy, who by the way is singing better and better as time goes by, therefore being able to perfectly replicate his sensational deep growls live without making any extra effort, told the fans a story about when they were in Texas hanging out with the guys from one of the most respected, energized and violent bands of all time, the one and only Pantera, drinking Jack Daniel’s (and probably taking other stuff as well) with them. Can you imagine that? Testament and Pantera together? The 90’s were definitely the best period for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that. Chuck said that after a lot of drinking, something hit his head (maybe a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or maybe it was the alcohol itself) and he told the other guys he had the name for their new album. It was going to be called Practice What you Preach, one of their biggest hits, and one of the best of the night as well.

There was still time for one last sick mosh pit with Over the Wall, and after all was said and done you could see how happy all fans of Testament were with their amazing performance. As Chuck said, I hope all promoters in Canada turn their eyes to Testament more often aiming at having more concerts all over the country, not only two or three cities. Let’s hope that those promoters listen to the deep voice by Chuck and we have more of the brotherhood of Thrash Metal in our currently not-so-cold country, because after such brilliant performance last night I’m sure all Torontonian fans of Testament are eager for more of their music.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Alex Skolnick’s Guitar Solo
Electric Crown
Into the Pit
Low
Throne of Thorns
Stronghold
Eric Peterson’s Guitar Solo
Eyes of Wrath
Gene Hoglan’s Drum Solo
First Strike Is Deadly
Steve DiGiorgio’s Bass Solo
Urotsukidôji
Souls of Black
Seven Seals
The New Order

Encore:
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums