The Growing Pains of Lamb of God’s VII: Sturm und Drang
Editor’s Note: Opinions are like assholes; everyone’s got one. As such, while MS co-head-honcho Axl Rosenberg has been digging Lamb of God’s new album, reviewer Emperor Rhombus felt more lukewarm towards the record. So it goes! Carry on.
Lamb of God deserves our respect. They are one of the few bands among their peers to remain not only relevant and interesting, but also talented and prolific, all without the help of mainstream recognition or promotional gimmicks. They aren’t pretty, they aren’t simple, they just fucking slay on a consistent basis, and they do it all with their hearts behind their music.
Given the recent buzz surrounding the band since frontman Randy Blythe’s imprisonment and legal battle in the Czech Republic, many have been chomping at the bit for Lamb of God’s return. And VII: Sturm und Drang, the band’s seventh studio album and their first in three years, brings lots of the Lamb of God we know and love overall. But just as some albums have highlights that overwhelm their flaws, VII has certain issues that color even its best moments, and make the record a mixed bag throughout.
The issue with VII: Sturm und Drang that initially registers is its production. This record sounds less lush than previous efforts — the guitars aren’t enveloping and deep as they’ve been in the past, and the drumming comes off a little light. The mix isn’t the full mess of St. Anger by any means, and on the better songs one can easily forget about it, but when opener “Still Echoes” kicks in one notices a certain punch lacking. The other bothersome point on the album is, predictably, the clean vocals. Randy’s singing on “Overlord” and “Torches” sounds just a bit too much like a Corey Taylor impression, and Chino Moreno’s guest spot on “Embers” feels unnecessary and out of sorts. Neither piece of clean singing seems to add the depth to the album that such a departure from routine should.
There is still plenty of neck-snapping metal on Sturm und Drang. The aforementioned opening track and the follower “Erase This” both fucking kill, packed with momentum, venom, and kickass riffs. “Footprints” is a prize headbanger, “Anthropoid” is speedy while at the same time huge and heavy, and the parts of “Embers” before Chino comes in are really incredible. Same goes for “Torches” — though it’s not perfect, it seethes with Lamb of God’s unique brand of brutal melancholy. But there are other minor disappointments throughout, too — “Engage the Fear Machine” is a good song, but its lyrics feel like something Lamb of God has done too many times before, as does Randy’s rant at the end of “Delusion Pandemic.” Lamb of God has always been good at wrapping their points in poetry and metaphor; these are a bit on the nose.
Due to their their solid songwriting talent and their continued ability to absolutely destroy live, it’s easy to think of Lamb of God’s career as spotless, but it’s not — the band has put out simply decent albums in the past. And though there’s a lot to love on it, VII: Sturm und Drang is just that: a good-not-great record. This sounds like a band trying some things out, and given what Lamb of God has been through of late, you can’t eat their lunch for that. Hopefully, the next album will see the tools they are learning how to use being wielded by the masters we know these five guys to be.