Album Review: Lamb of God Guitarist Mark Morton’s Anesthetic
Anesthetic, the debut solo album from Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton, could be two EPs of thematically distinct material.
About half the album answers the question “What would Lamb of God sound like with a different frontman?” These tracks, which include such all-stars as late Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington (“Cross Off”), Testament’s Chuck Billy (“The Never”), and Buckcherry’s Josh Todd (“Back from the Dead”), are all good, if also unsurprising. Although your appreciation of each may be tied directly to your feelings about its singer (hard as I try, I just cannot get into the vocal performance of Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, even if everything else about his track, “Sworn Apart,” is solid), your general takeaway will be “Hey, Mark Morton can write awesome groove-metal riffs!”, which you knew already. Album closer “Truth Is Dead” includes both Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, and it’s a good song, but, c’mon, it’s basically a Chris Adler drum performance away from just being LoG.
It’s the other half of the album, then, that will really grab the listener’s attention – that’s where Morton has truly spread his wings creatively and justified Anesthetic as a project apart from his day job. “Axis,” featuring Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, is moody, folksy, and depressive, kinda like an Everlast song if Everlast was, y’know, good. True to its title, “Blur,” featuring Mark Morales, is a bluesy, druggy, Pepper Keenan-era Corrosion of Conformity-style anthem. “Save Defiance” features vocals by Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, and it has the kind of oversized, cinematic chorus for which that singer is known – but the verse’s slithery guitars owe a clear debt to Tool. Morton himself provides vocals for “Imaginary Days,” which sounds like a ‘90s alt-rock band channeling “Kashmir.”
And then there’s “Reveal,” which is both the album’s strongest and most out-of-left field offering. Featuring a gorgeous vocal performance by Naeemah Maddox, “Reveal” is a soulful, funky, smooth-jazz rock song that’s about as metal as wood. Even with Morton tossing in some shreddy leads, someone could play you “Reveal” and you’d never know that anyone from Lamb of God had anything to do with it. That the song is so memorable despite its complete stylistic divergence from Morton’s norm illustrates his talent as a songwriter and a musician. It may also make you wish he’d spent more of the album really pushing his creative limits.
Hopefully, he will do so in the future – Anesthetic is certainly good enough to pique interest in more solo releases from Morton. If he cuts loose and lets his freak flag fly, I’m betting he can make something truly special.
Mark Morton’s Anesthetic comes out March 1 on Spinefarm. You can listen to the track “Cross Off” here and pre-order the album here. Listen to our new MetalSucks Podcast interview with Mark about the album here.