Lamb Of God: Sacrament

B+

Lamb Of God

Album: Sacrament
Label: Epic
B+

Lamb Of God

Album: Sacrament
Label: Epic

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It's obvious why metal-heads consider Lamb Of God the heir apparent to Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer. The group not only recalls all three of those forebears at once, it also proves that ugly, uncompromising thrash metal can still infiltrate the mainstream. Case in point: Lamb Of God's 2004 Epic Records debut, Ashes Of The Wake, has sold more than 275,000 copies in spite of having zero commercial aspirations. And it's a testament to the band's consistency that in 2005, Epic released what sounded like a follow-up, but was actually the 1998 swan song of LOG's previous incarnation, Burn The Priest. Even reissued, the group's records were shaping the modern-metal zeitgeist.

Curiously enough, Lamb of God has waited two albums into its Epic contract to make a proper "major-label recording." That's not to say that the band has gone soft with Sacrament; if anything, it's used the fatter recording budget to become more excessive. Forever locked into syncopation with Chris Adler's punch-press drumming, guitarists Mark Morton and Will Adler have never needed sound collages ("Requiem") or Fear Factory-esque jump-cuts ("Blacken The Cursed Sun") to improve their riffs. But in the hands of Sacrament producer Machine, these elements just give the pair's playing a new sense of atmospheric dread.

While he's also learned to work a studio, front-throat Randy Blythe has changed his attack on a purely organic level: Blythe's new melodic depth, coupled with his lyrics' shift from the political to the personal, amounts to some of the scariest performances he's ever delivered. Breathless toward the end of "Blacken The Cursed Sun," he sounds positively desperate, and if his first-person accounts of addiction and collapse are autobiographical, then forget the mere audio comparisons: Lamb of God may be eclipsing its forebears' damaged personalities, as well.

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