What is it about the metal community that decides as soon as our bands get some much needed recognition, notoriety, or (gasp) change things up a little, that we decide to throw them under the bus as "sellouts". Everyone has their favorites that they like to throw down on, like Metallica for instance. Lamb of God has almost seemed to be slipping into those shoes throughout the last 3 album cycles. It all started with 'Sacrament', continued on 'Wrath', and reached a fevered pitch on 'Resolution'. We all see it on various social media outlets; "They've gone soft!", "They've changed!", "They sold out to HBO!", or "Same old formula!" I, for one, do not share any of those view points. Especially surrounding their new album 'VII: Sturm und Drang'. (Translated 'Storm and Stress')
Very shortly after starting international touring for 'Resolution' Randy Blythe (vocals) was arrested and imprisoned in Prague, Czech Republic over manslaughter charges going back to 2010,where a fan died from actions that Randy "committed". In the end, he was found not guilty, but the events led to a lot of time for Randy and the gang to write and decompress from all that had transpired. There is a lot of heart, a lot of anger, and there are plenty of change-ups, both musically and vocally, on this album to silence any naysayers. They even used a VoxBox on one song!
The album was released on July 24th, but five tracks had been released for streaming and videos for several weeks prior to release; "Still Echoes", "512", "Overlord", "Embers", and "Erase This". All tracks show they are still throwing out some of the most aggressive, straight up metal, but also show progressing elements that prove they are not afraid to try out some new things. for one, and probably most surprising was "Overlord", where the band laid down a smooth bluesy riff, Randy comes in singing clean vocals. I'll be honest, I had some drinks in me at the time and thought I was hearing things. He has smooth, harmonic vocals that still have an edge where you know he could start shattering your eardrums at any moment. I must have listened to that track 4-5 times that night just going over it, listening to the music, the lyrics. It is a song that I could definitely see, whether they care or not, put up as a Grammy nominee for Metal Performance of the Year.
Another surprise, guest vocalists. Chino Moreno joined in on the track "Embers" lending an awesome layering to the vocals toward the last half of the song. The musical shift that happens during the vocals sound amazing, slowing it down just a touch, still very Lamb of God, but almost seeming to have a Deftones influence as well. Then Greg Puciato shows up for "Torches". The riffing and vocal pairing on this one has a dark vibe to begin with, followed by one of the most infectious guitar hooks on the album. "Engage the Fear Machine" is another riff lover's dream and has an awesome chorus with it.
This album will not be leaving my CD player or playlist anytime soon. There is too much to love about this album. There is a difference in the way everything came together on this album, from Randy's lyrics and the tale that goes with it, to Mark Morton and Willie Adler trading back and forth on the guitars. The album is amazing! No surprise that it gets 10/10 from me.
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