RESOLUTION: SOMEHOW, LAMB OF GOD ARE STILL GETTING BETTER AT BEING LAMB OF GOD
I haven’t really been on board with Lamb of God actively since As the Palaces Burn. I’ve kept up with them, but after a few spins (especially with their last two albums), I’ve been disinterested. The familiar Lamb of God sound is there, but the appeal isn’t. It’s not bad music, just sort of… existent. And for a band often hailed as one of the torchbearers of modern metal, that’s not enough. True, they aren’t the same scrappy bunch of Southern longhairs that made the weird, dark groove metal of New American Gospel — nor should they be — but for me, that didn’t excuse reasonably inoffensive metal on cruise control. But after a while, I recognized that it could simply be me and my relationship with LoG fandom, and chocked it up to a “no offense, but this isn’t for me anymore” frame of mind.
Regularly, here is where I would say, “But Lamb of God’s latest, Resolution, restores my faith in their ability to slay motherfuckers like a hybrid of Ted Bundy and Genghis Kahn,” or something less caffeinated and hackneyed. But I’m stopping short of that, because there’s still that slickness Lamb of God added around the time of Ashes of the Wake that doesn’t sit well with me. That being said, this is the first album where I feel like they’re comfortable in their role as a well-funded major label act. Sure, the production is slick, and there are a few bizarro-radio singles here, but more importantly, the music sticks while still being thoroughly Lamb of God. The songwriting may be a little more streamlined, but there’s also more underneath it than there had been as of late. Perhaps Resolution is not the bridge upon which old and new LoG fans can high-five eachother — if such a thing is even in the cards — but a little more of a warm welcome than I’ve come to expect from them.
Of course, this could all stem from “Straight for the Sun,” the heaviest opening to an album they’ve had since Sacrament‘s “Walk With Me in Hell,”and possibly the heaviest opening to an album they’ve ever had, period. Equal parts toxic sludge-doom (think NOLA-style — haarp especially) and groove metal swagger, “Sun” is surprisingly weighty even by the standards of the band that made the latter half of “11th Hour.” From there, Resolution features a smattering of the band’s best riffs: the primo fat guy metal grooves of “Ghost Walking,” the band’s trademark Meshuggah-meets-Pantera-meets-In Flames guitar work that opens “Invictus,” and even the arbitrary hardcore castoff “Cheated” manages to kick the shit out of a lot more than its two-and-a-half minute runtime would suggest. Josh Wilbur does a hell of a job behind the boards, making the band sound huge. And while it robs them of their former, grimy appeal, they sound content in their newly expansive role. If you’re going to wear big shoes, you may as well be able to fill them.
And Randy Blythe, well, he’s still Pantera-era Phil Anselmo’s heir apparent, lyrically volleying between interesting turns of phrase (“By any other name, the guilty still remain/Suspended in the feign, pawn to his own intentions”) and out-and-out clunkers (“There’s nothing new under the gun/Cognitive dissonance” — come on, man) with a weathered growl. I can’t think of another frontman that would better suit Lamb of God, but then again, I can’t think of any other member of Lamb of God that could be replaced by anyone else (is there any drummer more instantly recognizable than Chris Adler?). It’s one thing for the band to have stuck with what they do for as long as they have; it’s another that they’re still finding new ways to subtly expand on it. No, they’ll probably never properly recapture what I loved about them ten-plus years ago, but then again, if they did, it would probably kill them. Now that they’ve found a decent balance between sheen and evisceration, there’s a hint that they may be heading into a new era. Then again, the album’s last track, “King Me,” is basically a slower Lamb of God song with an orchestra slapped onto it. At the end of the day, it’s still Lamb of God. But they’re still getting better at it somehow.
(3 1/2 out of 5 horns)