Braving all the storms and stress in their lives, Mr. Randy Blythe and his squad boldly externalize their deepest fears through their aggressive new album.
Several bands and artists all over the world would love to benefit from the type of exposure frontman Randy Blythe got on the media after his manslaughter case, focusing on the external situation rather than on the music itself to sell more and consequently make more money. Fortunately for fans of high-quality heavy music that’s not the case with his own band, American groove metallers Lamb of God, who put together instead their talent and personal experiences to generate another excellent and violent studio album, this time entitled VII: Sturm und Drang.
Of course there are many references to Randy’s period in prison, but this is not a “prison record” according to him. The whole album is in fact about the psychology of humans reacting under extreme conditions, which also explains its subtitle “Sturm und Drang” (a German term that means “Storm and Stress”), how we deal with our personal demons and what to expect for our future. And when the music supporting such emotional concept is as thrilling as what Lamb of God can craft, you know the album is already more than halfway to success.
Longtime fans of Lamb of God will connect instantly to the new album as soon as the brutal and vicious Still Echoes begins, led by an enraged Randy Blythe and with Chris Adler, who will drum on the new Megadeth album, proving here why he was chosen by Mustaine for the duty. And the battle rages on in the awesome Erase This, a violent but still very melodic tune where the band will break your neck mercilessly, with highlights to the great job on guitars by Willie Adler and Mark Morton, especially their solos. Then in the dark and heavy tune 512 you will be able to feel in details the time Randy spent in prison. He actually wrote the lyrics to the song in Pankrác Prison, in the Czech Republic, cell number 512 (most of his time was spent in a basement dungeon), while he was contemplating how the experience was changing him, and you can feel his desolation and pain flowing through his words (“Six bars laid across the sky / Four empty walls to fill the time / One careless word, you lose your life / A grave new world awaits inside”).
Embers, featuring lead singer Chino Moreno of Deftones, whose clean vocals sound good but nothing truly remarkable, is a rhythmic and melodic devastation perfect for their live performances to ignite some circle pits, while Footprints showcases a modern version of the band’s Groove/Thrash Metal with an amazing dark atmosphere, with Chris kicking ass on drums and Randy vociferating all his anger and frustrations. Randy is definitely not in a good mood in this song, no doubt about that. Following that bestial massacre, Overlord cools down the animosity a bit, reminding me of some of the old classics by Stone Temple Pilots but obviously heavier. It’s a good “break” from all the havoc the band has delivered so far, but that’s just until its melancholic and introspective instrumental suddenly becomes another demonic metal feast.
The magnificent Anthropoid is the perfect depiction of contemporary extreme metal, where although violence is the most important element present in the music, its level of complexity is still extremely high and astonishing. It’s a nonstop headbanging tune fueled by huge doses of madness and electricity, and knowing this song hasn’t been included in their most recent setlists makes me deeply sad. In Engage the Fear Machine, they slow down the rhythm once again without losing their ferocious vibe thanks to the growling vocals by Randy, to its groovier than usual riffs and to its frantic drums, which sound like bullets hitting solid metal to be more precise.
Closing the regular version of the album, it’s time for war with Lamb of God in Delusion Pandemic, where the cohesiveness among band members beautifully enhances the song’s obscurity. In addition, the metallic guitar lines by Willie and Mark provide Randy all he needs to keep kicking ass and delivering aggressive words (“Allocate your future to the delegates / Relegate your muses to the surrogates / Long green apron stings that end in hooks / Sunk deep, written off, and on the books”). And finally, Torches, featuring lead singer Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan, is in my opinion the weakest of all tracks, very bland and generic compared to the rest of the album with nothing special to offer to the listener like most of the other songs of the album. Moreover, if you acquire the limited digipak edition of VII: Sturm und Drang, you’ll be treated to two bonus tracks, Wine & Piss and Nightmare Seeker (The Little Red House), both as good and exciting as the regular album tracks.
To sum up, it’s good to see Lamb of God are leaving their comfort zone by exploring new approaches and heights and facing their inner demons, which in the end translates into more meaningful music for the total delight of their loyal fans as we can enjoy in VII: Sturm und Drang. That is to say, if there’s a band that truly learned how to externalize all their weaknesses and fears through their music, braving all the storms and stress in their lives without showing any signs of backing off or giving up at any moment, that’s undoubtedly the ruthless squad led by the one and only Randy Blythe.
Best moments of the album: Footprints, Anthropoid and Delusion Pandemic.
Worst moments of the album: Embers and Torches.
Released in 2015 Epic Records/Nuclear Blast
1. Still Echoes 4:22
2. Erase This 5:08
3. 512 4:44
4. Embers (feat. Chino Moreno) 4:56
5. Footprints 4:24
6. Overlord 6:28
7. Anthropoid 3:38
8. Engage the Fear Machine 4:48
9. Delusion Pandemic 4:22
10. Torches (feat. Greg Puciato) 5:17
Limited Digipak Edition bonus tracks
11.Wine & Piss 3:33
12.Nightmare Seeker (The Little Red House) 4:56
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums
Chino Moreno – additional vocals on “Embers”
Greg Puciato – additional vocals on “Torches”