Album Review: Burn the Priest’s Legion: XX

  • Axl Rosenberg

Cover songs come in one of two varieties: reinterpretations and recreations. There’s Guns N’ Roses’ “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which uses the basic skeleton of Bob Dylan’s original song and not much else, and Guns N’ Roses’ “Live and Let Die,” which is more or less a second-for-second mimicking of Paul McCartney’s contribution to the James Bond franchise. Occasionally there’s something that I guess you could argue is kinda-sorta in-between these two categories, like Undisputed Attitude, which Slayerizes covers by playing them in faster time signatures but doesn’t make a whole lot of other changes to its inspiration. But generally speaking, a cover can be classified in one of these two ways.

Legion: XX, the new anniversary celebration from Lamb of — er, that is, from Burn the Priest — is pretty squarely in the recreation group. Listen to their take on The Accüsed’s “Inherit the Earth” side-by-side with the original and you’ll get a pretty good sense of what kinds of changes you can expect from XX: there are some updated drum fills and Randy Blythe ain’t tryin’ to sound like nobody other than Randy Blythe, but for the most part, it’s just the original song played by different musicians.

This being the case, how are we to judge XX? Fans who are already familiar with the original tracks will likely continue to favor the originals, even if there’s nothing wrong with these versions per se. Naturally, then, the most interesting inclusions are the ones which are also the least expected, like Quicksand’s “Dine Alone,” Sliang Laos’s “Axis Rot,” and Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod” (all of which, coincidentally, feature clean or mostly-clean vocals from Blythe); when they play S.O.D.’s “Kill Yourself,” it’s like, “Well, yeah, of course BtP/LoG like S.O.D.,” and also like, “Yup, this is what ‘Kill Yourself’ sounds like.”

But that’s not to say XX is a pointless stopgap release. Just as Metallica’s Garage albums, Slayer’s aforementioned Undisputed Attitude, or GN’R’s “The Spaghetti Incident?” undoubtedly introduced scores of younger fans to bands like the Misfits, Minor Threat, and Fear, XX seems likely to be a gateway drug into hardcore for listeners who aren’t necessarily familiar with the originals. So perhaps it’s best to think of XX not as a covers album, but, rather, as a tribute album: Bad Brains and the Melvins and Cro-Mags helped create Burn the Lamb of God’s Priest, and now the latter band will volley some of its fans back to those influences. That alone makes XX a worthy endeavor, even if it won’t supplant your copies of Atomizer or One Voice.

Burn the Priest’s XX comes out May 18 on Epic. Pre-order it here. Listen to our new podcast interview with guitarist Mark Morton here.

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