After the excellent 2003 album 'As the Palaces Burn' and the even better 'Ashes of the Wake' in 2004, it was going to be interesting to hear what Lamb of God would come up with next. The biggest question on this reviewer's lips was, 'can the band keep up such a level of metal consistency?' Few bands can boast three great albums on the bounce, but I feel with this Virginian five-piece they can count themselves in that exclusive group, because their new offering 'Sacrament' is an absolute belter.
Lamb of God, quite rightly in my eyes, were bundled into the supposed new wave of American heavy metal along with Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and God Forbid. However Lamb of God seem to have outgrown the scene the metal media wanted to pigeon hole them in because whereas Killswitch Engage have stood still, Shadows Fall take an eternity to actually release anything, Lamb of God have put the hours in to release three albums in only three and a half years. Not only are the band quite prolific, but their ability to pen killer tunes and catchy riffs without sacrificing their thrash metal roots, is keeping them ahead of everyone else. The last four albums see a natural progression in sound and style, but not too much that would alienate the listener (The regular release of material is the easiest way to combat the alienation syndrome). Unlike Killswitch Engage whose new album has exactly the same production as its predecessor, Lamb of God choose to alter the guitar tone and over sound to give each album its own identity.
As you can imagine 'Sacrament' sounds the business. It's chunky, rich and powerful and is totally Lamb of God. The band is becoming renowned for the stellar axe work from Mark Morton and Willie Adler, and it's key to their overall distinctiveness and appeal. 'Sacrament,' like all their previous works is brimming with riff goodies, from the haunting 'Walk With Me in Hell,' to the explosive 'Pathetic'. Morton and Adler are being heralded as the new age of guitar hero, and rightly so. It's all well and good playing as fast and technically proficient as possible, but without the creativity, and the initial ideas, the above facets are pretty meaningless.
Vocalist Randy Blythe excels on this release. His voice isn't to everyone's taste, but on this disc he seems to have more control over his growl, occasionally coming across as Chuck Billy's little brother. His intonation is more coherent than on any other LOG release, but thankfully his voice is still quite brutal and relents from singing clean thus keeping the music credible.
On any great album there are a couple of stand out tracks that could fit in a band's set list from the time of release until the end of their careers. On 'Sacrament' there are at least five tracks which could grace the Lamb of God set from now until their end. As well as the two previously mentioned tracks, 'Redneck' is as catchy as thrash metal can be, 'Requiem' is just too damn good, and closer 'Beating on death's door' is simply brilliant thrash metal.
The new wave of American heavy metal may have helped Lamb of God get their feet onto metal's musical ladder, but they're taking strides up its rungs leaving their contempories in their wake. Many would argue this point in favour of Killswitch Engage, but where as Killswitch have been copied by many clone bands and thus themselves become part of the pack, Lamb of God have driven their style of thrash forward. Superb.