Review: Lamb of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang – Break Your Brain Riffage

Let me begin this review by saying that I’ve been a fan of this band since around 2011. They singlehandedly kickstarted my love for metal music that had no clean singing. Up until that point, I was listening to ’80’s Thrash classics such as Reign In Blood, Ride The Lightning, Peace Sells, and so on. The moment I heard the opening riff to the fan favorite Lamb of God song Laid to Rest, a switch in my brain flipped and the rest is history. Enough about me, on to the real subject: The album.

When it comes to Lamb of God fans, everyone has a different favorite record. My personal favorite is their sophomore effort, As the Palaces Burn. Some people swear that Ashes of the Wake is band’s finest album. I consider this to be a testament to the unparalleled consistency of Lamb of God. Each effort is just different enough to keep you enthralled but not radically different to the point you wonder as to where the band you knew and loved had gone.

On Sturm Und Drang, they’ve managed to keep every aspect of the music the fans love, while simultaneously toying with new sounds and ideas. Notably: Overlord, and Embers.

Overlord is special for two reasons: the always impressive Randy Blythe does a fair bit of clean singing on the track, while the guitarists Mark and Willie play good deal of bluesy leads. For Mark, I’d be willing to bet that he felt right at home. He’s mentioned in numerous interviews that he is very much rooted in the blues, and I’ll be damned if this song doesn’t confirm that. The overall vibe of the song reminds me a great deal of Alice in Chains, with a touch of NOLA era Down, more specifically Down’s track Stone The Crows.

Embers is a different beast entirely. It’s spacey, it’s melancholy, and it’s brilliant. It features vocals from none other than Chino from Deftones. On paper, Chino doing vocals on a Lamb of God song sounds like an awkward fit, while in practicality, if they had demo’d this track to me and asked me who should do a vocal bit on it, I would say Chino. Every. Goddamn. Time. While the track starts the way you would expect from this band, Embers has atmosphere that is more or less unprecedented for the band starting late in the track. Part of me wanted to hate it, because it’s so unlike what I’m used to hearing from Randy and the boys. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but love it.

When it comes to lyrical content, I’m fairly convinced this album is Lamb of God’s best effort to date. It’s grim, historical, poetic, and altogether well rounded. I’ll do a quick instrument by instrument breakdown of my thoughts on the album now, so bear with me.

Chris Adler is one of the finest drummers in the genre. He’ll blast his way through a tune that’s well over 200bpm and in an odd time signature like it’s just a warmup. He’s a monster plain and simple.

Mark Morton and Willie Adler are pure riff machines. It’s half unrelenting clock-like rhythm, half “break your brain” riffage. Mark plays some very tasteful solos in the album as well. The aforementioned atmosphere in Embers is due heavily in part to Mark and Willie’s ability to pull it back and bring the chordal score-like like guitar melodies to the front.

John Campbell, the bassist for Lamb of God, is arguably the unsung hero. Most bassists would consider keeping together a tight machine like Lamb of God a daunting task, but there’s no noticeable gaps in the music like you hear in some other artists songs where you imagine the bassist said “Screw that- I need a break somewhere in here if I’m going to do this live every night.”. Nope, not John. He just keeps making the rumble like it’s going out of style.

Randy Blythe, where to begin. No one sounds like Randy. I’ve heard a metric shit ton of other vocalists who mostly do growling. Not one of them could trick me into thinking they were him. On this album and the previous album Resolution, I noticed much more dynamic range from his vocals in comparison to the albums before them. His clean vocals on Overlord are an excellent palette cleanser in between tracks, he actually has a very soothing singing voice.

Overall, it’s a contender for my favorite album of the year. These metal masters from Virginia never disappoint, and VII: Sturm Und Drang is no exception.
I rate it a solid 9/10.

Special thanks to guest contributor Christopher Ward for this review.