Lamb Of God – Lamb Of God (Self-Titled) Album Review

I went into this album with sort of low expectations. I was a bit late to the Lamb Of God party, but when I did join, I fell hard. The first new album that came out after I was a fan was Wrath, which was utterly amazing, and the first time I saw them live it was basically the cure to a lengthy bummer after a bad break up. I am really fond of the band ever since.

That being said, their previous album, 2015’s VII: Strum Und Drang and the following EP The Duke howeverby comparison were relatively underwhelming (not bad, just not up to the usual standard), and the last time I saw them live, in between Anthrax and Slayer, it wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting. Add to that the fact that my favourite band member has always been drummer Chris Adler and this is their first album without him, well, I was a bit worried that the band might be on a downwards trend and basically wasn’t expecting anything more than just two or three good songs.

Luckily, going in with lowered expectations has lead me to being pleasantly surprised. This is a fine album, even Kirk Hammett & Scott Ian have taken to social media to say so. This is certainly no disappointment of an album. In fact it is the band very much righting the ship, getting back to the quality we’ve come to expect.

I think the success of this record is that it doesn’t mess about and it knows exactly what it wants to be; there are no intros, no experiments, no filler, just 10 medium length songs that sound like Lamb Of God, and crucially, do that well.

Perhaps they’ve been relatively re-energised by the injection of new blood. New drummer Art Cruz really fits the band well in a way you couldn’t expect if you’ve been loving Chris Adler all these years, he does the impossible by both replicating Adler’s style closely at times and also finding a style of his own the rest of the time. (Kind of like Jay Weinberg managed on the new Slipknot album).

The other talking point on this album is the guest appearances. Hatebreed’s Jamie Jasta and Testament’s Chuck Billy both make an appearance on a track each. This is nothing new for the band, who have had appearances from the likes of Megadeth’s Chris Poland, Deftones’ Chino Moreno and Today Is The Day’s Steve Austin and multi-project artist Devin Townsend, among others over the years. The Chuck Billy performance works really well here, showcasing his more melodic voice to make a kind of hypnotic verse.

Highlights include opener ‘Memento Mori,’ mid-paced but catchy ‘New Colossal Hate’ and the surprisingly melodic and mainstream ‘Bloodshot Eyes.’

Overall; this is a strong album from Lamb Of God that sees the band getting back from ‘good’ and heading towards ‘very good’ and shows immense promise for the future. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was all the way back already and get your hopes up too high, its not quite as good as Palaces or Sacrament for example, but its definitely a strong effort.  

Lamb Of God Albums Ranked

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

DAY 4 – LAMB OF GOD:

01. Wrath (2009) – Ok, ok, I know I should be subjective, but its hard to because I love this album so much. It was my first LoG album which may well have something to do with it, but I reckon its more than that. There’s just so many memorable songs. There’s so little filler. There’s shedloads of personality. Its full of character and non-stop entertaining throughout. From the guitar hero opener to the moody album closer, and all the way betwixt the two via the great run of distinct songs that don’t really sound like each other or the band’s back catalogue.

Best songs: ‘Set To Fail,’ ‘Broken Hands’, ‘Grace’ & ‘Contractor.’

.

.

02. Sacrament (2006) – Wrath is my personal favourite, but I feel like the history books and most fans will go for Sacrament, Ashes’ or Palaces.’ Of those three, Sacrament gets my highest ranking because it is the most consistent all the way through, because of my fond memories of the Sacrament-loaded Live At Download Festival feature on their Walk With Me In Hell DVD, and because it has the single best song they’ve ever written (‘Redneck.’)  It also has one of the best mixtures of Thrash and Groove in their career, I think they get the ratio just right.  If you need to choose a first Lamb Of God album, I reckon this is your go-to first draft pick.  

Side note: There was a good 3-4 years where I would sleep most nights in a sacrament T-shirt (I accidentally bought one way too large and it only worked as pyjamas).

Best songs: ‘Beating On Death’s Door,’ ‘More Time To Kill,’ ‘Pathetic’ and the aforementioned ‘Redneck.’

.

.

03. As The Palaces Burn (2003) – This is the album when Lamb Of God really found themselves. It has three of their best songs to date, it’s a lot more adventurous than the debut and it introduces the groove that defines so much of the band’s work. Its faster, harder, nastier and darker than the albums which would follow, but not so abrasive and unpleasant as the debut. What else is cool is there is a guest appearance here from Chris Poland who played guitar on Megadeth’s early albums, and Lamb Of God’s drummer Chris Adler later went on to play drums on the latest Megadeth album. The only real flaw with the record is the production (by Devin Townsend, who you would expect more from) but luckily there was a 10th anniversary reissue where Josh Wilbur and Brad Blackwood remixed and remastered it, and if you are coming to this album for the first time I heartily recommend you get that edition, as it sounds a hundred times better. (Like, its not just a little bit better and only an audiophile would tell the difference, it is a huge honking goose suddenly in the front room kind of difference).

Best songs: ‘Vigil,’ ‘11th Hour’ & ‘Ruin’

.

.

04. Resolution (2012) –  Lamb Of God got a bit of stick in the press for this one at the time, as it was the first time they didn’t really reinvent themselves (Kind of like Tool with 10,000 Days). There’s only so much you can reinvent yourselves though, and for me, this album is giving me exactly what I want. There’s a moody closer, there’s a few tracks that sound a bit like ‘Redneck’ again, there’s some fast tracks all about attitude and there’s enough new ideas that it doesn’t just feel repetitive and by the numbers the whole way through. It’s the perfect balance of giving the fans what they want and not just repeating yourself too much (well, they repeated ‘Redneck’ a bit, but that’s a good thing, and to never explore that sound again would be utter madness!).

Best songs: ‘Desolation,’ ‘To The End,’ ‘Ghost Walking’ & ‘King Me.’

.

.

05. Ashes Of The Wake (2004) – It feels criminal having this album so low on the list, but I guess that’s just a testament to how good the albums above it are. In many circles this is considered a classic, its definitely a fan favourite and it has many of their hits on it. The production is a huge step up from the first two albums, the lyrics are very interesting, the vocals are more dynamic than the early days and the sound is less abrasive and nasty, choosing instead to be crunchy and satisfying. Its heavy, but it’s a more pleasant type of heavy. Also, just to up the Thrash credentials, on the title track there is a guest guitar solo from both Chris Poland of Megadeth and also Alex Skolnick of Testament.

Best songs: ‘Omerta,’ ‘Hourglass’ & ‘Laid To Rest.’  

.

.

06. VII Strum Und Drang (2015) – At time of writing, this is their newest album (although their new self-titled album is about to drop). It is their last album to feature drummer Chris Adler who has since been replaced by Art Cruz. It has some guest vocal appearances by Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato and Deftones’ Chino Moreno, it is the first Lamb Of God album with clean singing, but the biggest thing it will be remembered for is the story prior to its release. If you don’t know, long story short their singer was accused of killing a fan in a stage diving accident and spent time behind bars while the trial was being arranged and going on, it was a real big deal in the metal news for several years, people wore ‘free Randy Blythe’ t-shirts, it was a whole thing. There is a great documentary about it called ‘As The Palaces Burn’ (not to be confused with the album of the same name) which if you live in the UK is available to stream for free on Amazon prime, or otherwise you can check it out on DVD.

Anyway much like this article, the conversation about the record is much overshadowed by those events. The album itself is ok. It’s a bit samey at times, and it doesn’t really have that many stand out tunes that can really go toe to toe with material from earlier albums. Its one of those albums were everything is fine and nothing is egretiously wrong with it, but it just doesn’t pop, it doesn’t excite, there’s no wow factor, no huge anthems and no ‘’holy shit’’ moments. I saw them live with Slayer recently, and the songs from this album were the songs I enjoyed least (although the crowd seemed to love ‘em, so its not like the album is a car crash).  

Best songs: ‘Delusion Pandemic,’ ‘Overlord’ & ‘Footprints.’

.

.

07. New American Gospel (2000) – I seem to be developing a theme here, but at bottom place on the list is the pre-breakthrough debut album. The production and vocals are so much harsher and more abrasive than on their later works. The general sound is more violent and at times angular. Its probably their only record where you can see some Dillinger Escape Plan similarities (not many, but its technical and abrasive and there is a lot of hardcore in the sound). I remember the first day I heard it, I was listening to it on headphones and the kick drum production and panning literally gave me a headache. Of all their albums this one took the most amount of effort for me to get into, and I’ve listened to it the least. That all being said, it does have some great tunes. Some of which they were playing for 2-3 album cycles afterwards (one of which was their set closer for most of their career). So once again, its not without merit, and if you like things rawer, heavier and more hardcore influenced then you’ll enjoy it more, but for the average listener, don’t make this your first choice, even if it does open with a track that has been made iconic live.

Best songs: ‘The Subtle Arts of Murder & Persuasion,’ ‘Terror & Hubris In The House Of Frank Pollard’ and ‘Black Label.’  

.

.

Megadeth – Dystopia Review

MegadethDystopia.pngWell, for those fans looking forward to a blistering ‘holy cow’ return-to-form story, there may be some disappointment. Despite the interesting new band line-up with Angra’s Kiko Loureiro and Lamb of God’s excellent drummer Chris Adler; Dystopia, Megadeth’s fifteenth full-length studio album is not necessarily the career highlight that hype and wishful thinking may have lead us all to believe.

The new lineup is great and not gimmicky, but its still the Mustaine show here on Dystopia. Band-leader Mustaine still writes a huge percentage of the music, so despite the line-up, it doesn’t suddenly sound much like Angra or Lamb Of God either, although you can definitely pick up on their involvement during breakdowns or solos if you’re paying attention.

With that out of the way, Dystopia is a good album. Of course it is. It’s a Megadeth album that isn’t Risk, of course it’s a good album. Its more or less the same Megadeth album that the last four ones have been, with about the same level of similarity and difference as each of the last four have had with each other. Its slightly heavier than 2013’s Supercollider, its slightly more consistent than 2011’s Thirteen and slightly thrashier than 2007’s United Abominations, but when all is said and done, its relatively similar to them all, especially the less famous mid-album stuff. 2009’s Endgame is arguably the closest record to this stylistically in the Medageth catalogue; thrashy yet modern, ‘fast’ on paper but still varied and with plenty of mid-tempo moments, energetic and revitalized but not necessarily earth-shattering. They’re arguably quite similar in quality too, as well as stylistically.

If you’ve enjoyed Megadeth’s recent output, this is good. Its good for me, I’ve been really keen on all the recent albums personally. If you only like a particular period such as the ‘80s or ‘90s however, I’d give up now because despite the hype there’s not that much difference here to anything the band have turned-in since the millennium.

There are a few interesting moments here and there, such as a touch of piano and spoken-word at the end of ‘Poison Shadow’ or some Spanish guitar at the beginning of the instrumental ‘Conquer Or Die’ but again, nothing you haven’t heard before from a band with such a long and storied career as Megadeth …who have covered a lot of ground already in their time. Apart from having a cover of Fear’s ‘Foreign Policy’ at the end, which admittedly fits in well thematically with the majority of the rest of the record’s tone anyway, the album doesn’t particularly have any stand out moments or obvious hits, it isn’t an album of highlights and filler, it feels very consistent, and benefits from being absorbed in a single listening session rather than picked and chosen from. That’s a good thing though, this is a good album that works well as an album, that is good all the way through and that feels like a complete ‘whole.’

With all of that being said, its then understandably hard choose favourite tracks from Dystopia; for me ‘Lying In State’ is one of the strongest, a track which sounds very close to the style of the faster stuff on 2004’s The System Has Failed, and has lead guitar lines that don’t sound much like any previous Megadeth material. Another noteworthy track would be the fun, bouncy ‘The Emperor’ which feels like the better Thirteen material and would sit rather nicely beside ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway?’ in concert.

Overall; Dystopia is another post millennial Megadeth album of strong quality that satisfies on every level, but that probably won’t go down in the history books. The guitars are sharper, the vocals have more snarl and the lyrics are a bit more politicized than Supercollider for example, but I think ‘business as usual’ is a fairer summation of the record than ‘best album since…’ because, for me at least, Megadeth have been dishing out high quality, enjoyable, entertaining albums of this quality all along.

Lamb Of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang

Lamb Of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang

Lamb Of God were in an interesting and dark place prior to making 2015’s VII: Sturm & Drang album; there’s been a book and a documentary released about the time and countless better writers than the likes of me have summarized it online. It permeates the album quite a lot, the atmosphere, the title, and even some of the lyrics (‘512’ and ‘Still Echoes’ for example). Its not so much a concept album about what happened to Randy or anything as formal as that, but that era certainly cast a noticeable shadow over this, their seventh full-length record as Lamb Of God.

Musically, the album takes a split approach between covering new ground and keeping it familiar. It isn’t different enough for example from their previous two albums that you could say it’s a break from the norm, but there are certainly moments on it you haven’t heard before. The band are no strangers to slow thoughtful intros or bigger scale album closers, but even at that this album contains more melody, slow parts and subtlety than some of their previous work. It also isn’t the first time they’ve had guest stars, (just ask Chris Poland, Steve Austin and Devin Townsend), but Deftones’ Chino Morino and Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato both appear on this record and deliver nifty performances than breath fresh new life into proceedings (and luckily on two of the already best tracks of the record). As you can see, its new ground but simultaneously very familiar.

‘Overlord’ is an interesting one, because it isn’t the kind of final epic closer like ‘King Me’ or ‘Reclamation’ from previous records where you’d expect more pronounced dynamics and a few less-heavy vocals. It’s a mid-album track with a lot of melody from Blythe and no orchestration or drama to justify it to the die-hard “I Only Like Brutal Music” section of the crowd. I could see a portion of the fanbase call it a bit of a sell-out… well, apart from the thrashy fast paced end of the song that is just about the best part of the whole record that is.

The bulk of the album, the ‘normal’ Lamb Of God songs, are all exactly what you want from the band. You get aggressive, angry 3-4 minute songs with Thrash and Groove roots, modern sensibilities, and a technical but not showy approach, all topped off with furious barking. Its good. It Lamb Of God doing what they do. If you want more of that, get this album, don’t worry that its turned into something you don’t want, or that its become a cheesy guest-spot fest with every man and his dog clogging up the runtime making it feel disjointed or not like a proper album.

The interesting backstory, the excellent guest-spots and the few innovations do make this an album that you can tell future fans to check out when they get into the band and wonder what to look at first, and the album is a good album in and of itself… but one thing I would say is that just purely in terms of songwriting, there was nothing that jumped out at me on first listen and made me feel “well that’s going straight into a greatest hits playlist right now,” nor anything that made me say “I can’t wait to see them play THAT ONE live” and nothing that made me want to listen to it six times in a row. There was no super special song like the first time I heard ‘Contractor’ or ‘To The End’ or ‘Ruin’ where I just got blown away. Its all very good, don’t get me wrong, but even after a long while of getting into the album and letting it sit with me, I haven’t got a new favourite Lamb Of God song contender. The band are maintaining their high standard, but they aren’t necessarily improving or blowing minds this time (and to be fair it is an impossible task for a band who’ve did it so many times already).

In summary; this is a good Lamb Of God album, arguably not their very best ever, but rock solid and certainly a worthy addition to your collection that gives you what you want stylistically but with enough unique selling points to not make you feel like you’ve heard it all before.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 1 Day 7 (Part 2)

Now that I’ve covered the spend/temptation/distraction aspects of Get (Into) What You Paid For, its time to cover the titular aspect, by which I mean I’m getting back to reevaluating old purchases which I overlook, and try to get my money’s worth out of them.

S- AHiG

In honour of the return of Slipknot, I’ll kick things off by re-listening to their fourth real album, 2008’s All Hope Is Gone.

It opens with “.execute.” Their first two albums had clearly “intro” intros, and on their third they essentially made a proper song instead but acted like it was an intro. Here, they take the route Lamb Of God took on Resolution and confusingly stick the drum-introduction to a song (track 2, “Gematria (The Killing Name)”) in a previous track (track 1, “.execute.”) while simultaneously sort of re-doing the intro to “Pulse Of The Maggots.”

A few thoughts…. I wonder if Craig titled this intro? Why not just have this be part of “Gematria (The Killing Name)” like they did with “Pulse Of The Maggots”? When they play “Gematria (The Killing Name)” live, do they actually play that drum intro, or play that bit over the speakers and start where the CD cuts the two tracks?

[Quick side note – In my iTunes, “Pulse Of The Maggots” is now split into two different tracks, “Pulse Of The Maggots” preceded by “Intro Of The Maggots” which separates the speech into a separate skippable track, because… song.

Also, I do the same with Slayer’s “Hell Awaits.” The intro is “Awaiting Hell.”]

Anyway… The song opens nicely, with a sort of complex intro like they liked to do so much on Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses. I like all the pinch harmonics. I think the quick d-beat bit is really out of place. I remember my brother really hating the lyric about “cigarette ash.” Listening to the song now, apart from the vague idea that it is pretending to be heavier than it is, I like this song. I like the fact that it has guitar solos. I like the DJ scratches. I like the catchy bits and the heavy bits. I like the big groove around 3.40. It might better (tighter) if it ended after that instead of continuing, but I think it’s a good song nonetheless.

Next up comes “Sulpher” which was never off music TV when this album came out. I remember being so sick of this song due to how overplayed it became. Now? Nice Death influenced intro. Brilliant main verse. The radio chorus, despite y’know…being a radio chorus… is awesome! I forgot that. I remember it being a sort of two-faced light/shade affair, but I didn’t remember that both sides were good. Nice guitar solo too, and the part under it is neat. Again, the Machine Head influenced big groove (which actually IS the ending this time) is awesome.

OK. Another good song. Call that the first two songs and it’s a 100% success rate so far. I’d easily put both of these in a “Best Of Slipknot” tracklist.

How about track four? “Psychosocial.” I remember thinking that this was trying a bit too hard to replicate the success of Duality. The main riff is actually kind of Ministry or Rob Zombie flavoured if you pay attention. The chorus, hmmm…. Its delicious but so out of place. Oh well, I like it. Who am I trying to please here? Some Blabbermouth troll in an Obituary t-shirt or MY EARS?

More lead-guitar goodness. Hoorah. The midsection with all the snares is cool. A bit “Hey, people enjoy The Blister Exists, what else can we do?” but hey, its cool. Get over it My Brain!

Also luckily, now, its been so long since I’ve watched music TV that its no-longer overplayed AND I’ve forgotten the viral video where its mashed-up with Justin Beiber. So its just a song. A good song.

Next up is “Dead Memories.” “Dead Memories” is awesome. Really nice drums. Some of the best Corey clean vocals in this band. Even though I struggle to accept this song as Slipknot and not Stone Sour and have a sort of principle thing against it, this song is excellent and I love it. Also…boy, oh boy was this thing overplayed at the time.

Wow. I’m really enjoying this record actually. I always think of it as their worst. The career nadir. Its not that bad, and I’ve just listened to the “one with the stupid lyrics” and the three overplayed ones. Now come the deep-cuts!

First up – “Vendetta.” Swirly, death-influenced intro riffs. Stompy feel. Kicks into a great main verse. It could do with having heavier vocals, I remember that being a discussion point against it at the time. I remember the first time I listened to it, in a cramped, smelly room. I remember thinking the band have lost their heaviness.

I think the song also takes a bit too long to get to the chorus. I like the chorus though. Could do with better lyrics… but whatever. I really enjoy this song. I don’t ever remember that this one is called “Vendetta” but I do remember every second of music. I like 80% of said music. This is a good track. The worst thing I could think about it at all is that some of the segments change jarringly, but even that’s stretching it.

“Butcher’s Hook” comes next. The first “weird one.” The Skunkworks one. All Slipknot albums have a few “weird ones.” Going right back to the demos, there was always a love of creepy, off tracks. Every album has a “Tattered And Torn” or “Skin Ticket” or “The Virus Of Life.” The ironic weird thing about this weird track is that it weirdly has a commercial chorus of sorts and despite its clear and obvious weirdness, it is somehow a normal song. If you follow. Its either deceptively digestible despite its progressive nature, or only weird in a token check-box way but actually a normal song. Either way, every part of it is good. I like it. I think of it as this album’s “The Shape.” “The Shape” was weird as balls but could fool you if you weren’t paying attention. But then I guess that’s this band. If you don’t concentrate, you miss the depth and subtleties of a nine-member band who hate conventional song structure and sneak in odd time-sigs without boasting about it.

“Gehenna” is next. It is a slow, creepy one. The lyrics feel like a sequel to the track “Iowa” but the music sounds like a sequel to “Vermillion” with a bit of “Virus Of Life” style synth in there too. The slow, drony verses have a Sci-Fi feel. That one bit where they keep throwing in the heavy snare rolls but going back to the slow dirge is cool. Then it does its own version of a clean chorus (kind of) and becomes a normal song. It kind of steals the song’s weirdness. But the vocal specifics and the part which follow it make me think its trying to be like Antichrist Superstar’s pained outcast artist vibe, and that its all a bit “Minute Of Decay” and we’re unfairly treating it as “Everlong”

Who is we? … cripes, I’m going a bit crazy here! You know what I mean right? I think on the one hand it seems deceptively commercial, but on the other hand it isn’t, its just clean prog not noisy prog. There! I’m not crazy, I’m just dorky! (And trying to please an imaginary, disapproving, super-nerd by protesting too much… totally a normal thing to do!)

Anyway, that song is fine. Not great, but not worth cutting either.

“This Cold Black” follows. This seems like a nice “Metabolic” or “Deluded” or “Welcome.” The good Slipknot. The deep cuts. The “this is Slipknot at their most Slipknot” Slipknot. That Slipknot.

I like this song a lot. The variety in the vocals is cool. I wonder if its Clown or Chris doing the backups, or just Corey putting on a funny voice? The chorus is a bit odd. Sort of jagged, and out of nowhere, and yet its catchy, and when it leaves it makes the next bit sound cooler by contrast. That and the build up with the broken key lyrics over it is cool. A build-up that doesn’t build up? Nice one!

Also, hooray for guitar solos and fast parts! Then that staccato part is nice. And the deathy transition riff doesn’t feel forced either. Definitely one of the better songs on the record. Shame it won’t get played a lot live.

“Wherein Lies Continue” comes. Comes like creepy mutant. Well, not that creepy actually. Pseudo-creepy. This is oddly tame, but still clearly another Skunkworks type thing. Its quite “Virus Of Life.” The heaviest of the three, its like Tattered And Torn if that wasn’t creepy. It does that clean chorus trick the previous ones did. The clean chorus is good though, so what’s the problem brain-jerk? The bit that follows that chorus is awesome. I love those multi-percussion bits in Slipknot. Then, wham! Another Machine Head influenced groove ending! Its not the ending…but, y’know it should be. And then it is, later, when it comes back…because OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE. Also some trippy robot-duck guitar hidden in there too, because layering.

“Snuff” follows. It is awesome. It has always been since first listen my favourite song on the album. Interestingly, for someone with so much difficulty accepting the clean vocals and commercial leanings of the album, my unashamed, un-ironic, honest favourite thing on the whole record is a ballad. A brilliant, powerful, non-cheesy and totally dramatic cinematic ballad. It is awesome. A masterpiece. Well done for writing it Slipknot! No matter what score you’d award this album, it is hugely boosted by this gem. There is more brilliance here than on the full rest of the record combined…. Kind of like how Motely Crue themselves think about Home Sweet Home/Theater Of Pain.

Then to close up the album, comes the final track, the Title Track, “All Hope Is Gone.” It has one of those Vol. 3 complex intros. It has speed. It has DJ scratches. It has noisy blast beats and death influenced riffs in the verses. The chorus is strangely a weird rolling post-chorus. Its quite impressive actually. Oh, that’s why, because its not the chorus, because there’s a groove, with a clean vocal instead. The whole bit before and under (during) the guitar solo is awesome, even if the solo itself isn’t amazing. Then a bit that is so massively Slipknot that it defies further comparison. What did Slipknot add to music that wasn’t there before, you ask? That! This bit!

OK. That song is decent too. This third and final time the chorus comes in its actually cool. I wonder would the song be better if that was the only time it was there though? Oh who cares…stop being so picky, jerkwad. This is a good song. This is a good album. Its still their worst. But now only by a hair instead of by a considerable margin. Jerk off, jerky jerk-impression! Your false memories, prejudice against Corey’s clean singing and sickness at the overplaying of the singles is now not how this album is. How this album is, is good!

PS. Oh yeah, and the bonus track, “Child Of Burning Time” which is pretty much Vermillion again. Only better. Maybe this should’ve been on it instead of “Gehenna” and also should’ve been a single? Considering that enjoying money is a thing…

Also, the decision to put a remix of a song from a track from a previous album in-between two proper songs from this album’s sessions is insane and so I’ve disallowed this madness from my iTunes. That song is put on the end of Vol. 3. The next song here is “Til We Die” because that makes much more sense.

“Til We Die” starts out like a creepy-ass sea-side song, in an alcoholic’s memories. Then suddenly turns into a powerful, real-song version of the intro from Vol. 3. (More real, I mean). It is awesome. This, the previous one, Dead Memories and Snuff are the best material here. They are better than all the ones that actually sound like Slipknot. Maybe they should’ve sold out harder…not tried to hide it with blast beats and death riffs.

[Or maybe it’s a good balance you knee-jerk reacting jerkhole. Maybe they aren’t “covering it up” but rather just mixing two things they enjoy.]

STOP HITTING YOURSELF, NUTCASE!

E – BbB

Next, from something with lots of derision to something with universal credibility in our world; Think 1985… Exodus’ Bonded By Blood.

At the time, even in the deepest throes of my Thrash-passion, from my first days of Thrash Obsession, I always felt that this album was poor. The title track was one of the best songs ever written by anyone and then the rest of the album was dull repetitive cack and the band were much better off on the fantastic next two records, Pleasure Of The Flesh & Fabulous Disaster.

Well; one listen and yup, the Title Track is fantastic. Perfect. No further comments, your honour. The defense rests.

The next song, the song actually called “Exodus,” opens up with a riff that kind of sounds like Dave Mustaine. The vocals are weirdly produced, painfully too-loud and kind of in a metal box. Not Metal. Just metal. That Mustainey riff is fun. The bit of the chorus with the “Get In The Way…” is catchy and sort of punky. I also like the little Iron Maiden-esque jangle before “…and Exodus attack.”

The song has a great guitar solo too. If the vocals were produced normally this would be a pretty perfect Thrash song. The deh-neh-nay-ne-neh thing sounds like early Overkill, which is a bonus. And some of the drum fills here are absolutely bad ass. The song only seems dull and repetitive but all the little touches really make it.

Then there’s the nuclear-themed “And Then There Were None” which opens up with a nice chugging riff augmented by a Tom pattern that I’m sure turns up on Nirvana’s Bleach album somewhere. Love Buzz, maybe? This is perfect mid-paced Thrash. It would be good DVD menu music. Or good under-the-narrator in a Thrash Documentary music.

Its kind of weird that the backing vocals just sing the melody. Like at an Iron Maiden concert…but in the studio. “AAAAAH, ah-ahhh-ah-ah-a-a.”

The whole adventurous mid-section and the fast bit which follows are excellent. I love it during the solo. This is a good song. I remember always wanting to turn the record off afterward though. I think it has that problem of the last few Exodus records that the song is just slightly too long. Of all Exodus records. Sometimes they have a song that’s just too long. They’re awesome, but sometimes they need an editor. Only sometimes.

Next comes one of the band’s then-signature songs (the other being “Piranha”) if my memory of various magazine articles from the time I bought this holds up, “A Lesson In Violence.” I remember resenting this song as a teenager for not being as awesome as it should be given how fond the band seemed to be of it. Interestingly, looking back now, these two are the two shortest and presumably therefor tightest tracks on the album. Free from that too-long thing then!

Oh yes, and the chorus is catchy and awesome. I remember hating the lyrics at first impression (essentially rhyming “lesson in violence” with “lesson in violence”) but now that I’m used to it for years and years, its just music, and that music is good. Also, I like the riffs, the speed and the solos. This is a good song. Bonded by Blood is better but this is still a deserving signature track. Consider me converted. Its great not being 14 anymore, isn’t it? 12 years in the future is a beautiful thing, ey?

Next comes “Metal Command” which I remember thinking sounding dodgy, but now it is charming and NWOBHMy and a sort of missing-link moment like early Overkill. Also the production on the solo is awesome and the brief little neoclassical noodle at the very end of the solo is neat. This song just got stars in my iTunes.

The aforementioned “Piranha” makes its appearance next. This song’s opening riff is kind of Slayer/Sodom/Kreator. It is for the mean-Thrash crowd. The people who don’t necessarily like Anthrax as much as they might. Then it kicks into a more bouncy part. The chorus is catchy. There are way too many effects on the vocals, but that’s a very minor complaint. Also, nice solo. The H-team always were awesome at guitar solos. This album in general is way better than my first impression of it was. I wonder if it was just the whole line-up changes thing messing my brain around with Exodus, causing side-choosing.

[Side note: Ohhh, ooooh. Remember that whole intro thing, like “Awaiting Hell”? etc. I do that with Exodus’ “Deranged” because…that intro makes me skip the whole of Deranged when really I should only skip the intro.]

Next up, a nice bit of variety. “No Love” opens up with a nice, fancy, tasteful Spanish Guitar, clean intro. That was a big thing on Thrash openers wasn’t it? – Sometimes separate tracks, sometimes not. – Pleasure To Kill, Alice In Hell, Ride The Lightning etc… they all have that. A little bit of Spanish guitar before the Thrash. I wonder why they didn’t make this the first track then?

Maybe they did, and then they realized that the title track was so absolutely fantastic that nobody had time to wait for it, and so that just HAD TO be the first track?

Anyway, once the Metal-bit starts, it’s a bit more midpaced again. In a slightly off time-sig that reminds me of a specific Dream Theater moment on Awake which I can’t remember right now. Also, the way he say’s “The Darkness Is My Lover” is clearly influenced by Accept. I would have never noticed that before. Also it sounds like he says “Leather” and not “Lover.”

Oh, there’s a neat NWOBHMy bit around 2.40. Then a neat solo. This song is full of surprises. And some bad-ass fills once it slows down around that next set of solos. This song is what we in the Thrash fan world call a mini-epic, and I never even realized. Shame. I wish I realized how good it was at the time I got it. Oh well. I know now.

Next up is “Deliver Us To Evil” which by its two-minutes-longer duration might actually be a mini-epic. It has some nice little touches. With its stop-start bit, and bouncy drums. It also has slightly choppy, but proggy complexity, which at the time I mistook for “not playing properly.” Woops. I guess my brain wasn’t developed enough when I got this initially.

It has a really fun Maideny/Priesty bit underneath the solos around the four-minute-mark. Some really fun riffs!

Lastly, the fast one. Back in the day, instead on ending on the obvious closer… they would usually end on a super fast, shorter song. That happens here. This speedy track could easily be described as a “teeth kicker.” This is pure Thrash. Absolutely pure. Almost too pure? I remember thinking this was too simplistic at the time. I was WRONG at the time. Good song, good album, good band. Good subgenre.

Oh yeah, and here’s a TOP 5s thing for Thrash:

Exodus :
1. Bonded By Blood
2. Fabulous Disaster
3. Brain Dead
4. Chemi-Kill
5. Seeds Of Hate

Testament :
1. The Preacher
2. Souls Of Black
3. Into The Pit
4. Practice What You Preach
5. Apocalyptic City

Metallica :
1. Blackened
2. Creeping Death
3. Master Of Puppets
4. Eye Of The Beholder
5. Ride The Lightning

Forbidden :
1. March Into Fire
2. Forbidden Evil
3. Twisted Into Form
4. Hypnotized By The Rhythm
5. Infinite

Kreator :
1. People Of The Lie
2. Coma Of Souls
3. Terrible Certainty
4. Stream Of Consciousness
5. Pleasure To Kill

Annihilator :
1. Alice In Hell
2. Road To Ruin
3. W.T.Y.D
4. Stonewall
5. I Am In Command

Anthrax :
1. I Am The Law
2. A.I.R
3. One Man Stands
4. Lone Justice
5. Death Rider

Megadeth :
1. Rust In Peace (Polaris)
2. Set The World Afire
3. Hook In Mouth
4. Peace Sells
5. Mechanix

Slayer :
1. Postmortem
2. Raining Blood
3. Blood Red
4. South Of Heaven
5. Crionics

Nuclear Assault :
1. Survive
2. Brainwashed
3. Critical Mass
4. Nuclear War
5. Game Over

Overkill :
1. Overkill
2. I Hate
3. Elimination
4. In Union We Stand
5. Feel The Fire

As for the bands who I don’t feel I can make a Top 5 for, my favourtie Sacred Reich song is “Whos To Blame.” My favourtie Death Angel song is “Veil Of Deception.” My favourtie Vio-lence song is “World Within A World.” My favourtie Exhorder song is “Un-born Again.” My favourtie Heathen song is “Pray For Death.” My favourtie Onslaught song is “Thrash Till The Death.” My favourtie Sepultura thrash-era song is “Beneath The Remains.” My Sodom song is “Agent Orange.” My favourtie Voivod song is “Tribal Convictions.”

I Went To See Lamb Of God Play Live Last Night:

I went to go see Lamb Of God live last night. For the first time since moving to Manchester I had a friend to go to the gig with. Oh wait, second time, the other one was that Korpiklaani gig I spontaneously went to because people I’d been in a band with years ago were going, and all I said to them was one sentence and then never saw them again. This was the first one that I actually cared about beforehand. He talked me into drinking beer. Normally I don’t drink at gigs because I both dislike drinking and don’t want to have to go to the toilet and miss anything.

We thought it was just Lamb Of God and Decapitated on the bill, but when we got there, it turned out someone called Huntress were supporting. I hadn’t actually heard of them before.

First impressions weren’t great, but I’m a diplomatic sort of person and usually find it extremely difficult to call any band bad and usually just feel that art is all subjective and that I’d probably enjoy it with more exposure and if I was in a better mood and all that business.

Huntress’ singer made me dislike her midway through the set when she announced that Lemmy co-wrote a song with them, then when she announced that he called it ‘I Wanna Fuck You To Death’ – she followed it up by saying “he’s so romantic” in a Dani Filth voice, for laughs. It wasn’t funny. She also kept pointing out people in the crowd and dedicating the titular sentence to them. It was shameless. She started doing it to a fifteen year old kid and then told him to call her in a year. Might as well have got her tits out while she was at it. Or at least that was what flashed through my head in a fleeting moment of displeasure.

Then I realized… “don’t hate the playa, hate the game” or whatever. Of course she’d say that. Of course she’d do that. People like that. Some people expect that. Get over it and stop being judgmental. If Jamey Jasta did the same thing with a motivational song title you’d like it.

Anyway, the band’s music wasn’t engrossing. It was Thrash Revival stuff. Sort of more like Evile than Gamma Bomb. More in the Slayer end of Thrash Revival than the Nuclear Assault end. A lot of riffs reminded me of South Of Heaven, Among The Living and Extreme Aggression… except in order to sound similar but not be a cover, they had to be changed slightly, and something of the magic was lost in that changing.

It made another fleeting thought go through my head. Which was “I don’t care if the music industry dies and no new bands get signed. So few bands have anything good to offer.” Furthermore, it made me think “there’s so much music already that I won’t get around to listening to it all by the time I’m dead. I won’t even be able to afford all the good music, so I really don’t need to waste my time with bad music.”

But then I remembered that bands like Tesseract can come out and make new music seem like a good thing. So. I guess I won’t burn down all the recording studios and concert venues just yet.

To be fair to it, there was nothing wrong with Huntress or their music, but I didn’t like it, it didn’t grab me and it was just boring to me, personally. Maybe they should’ve called it “I’m Going To Bore You To Death” – says hypothetical sneery 1990s music journalist. I probably wasn’t in the mood anyway, I was looking resentfully at the crowd who were enthusiastic, happy looking people who were actually having fun. It made me genuinely consider what to write in my suicide note.

I read a Ricky Gervais quote (he probably took it from someone else, like Jesus, or Ghandi to be fair) on facebook earlier that day, that said “Jealously is self-harm.” If that’s the case, I think I was hash-tag-suicide-risk at that gig, because I was harming the fuck out’ve myself with all the jealously I was feeling for these happy seeming people. Why are all these people so easily-made-happy? Why are all these couples here having a good time? Why do people feel ok with being topless in the pit even when they aren’t by-media-standards-attractive? Why can all these people walk around looking like this without fearing for their safety from muggers on the way home? Why can they all drink without feeling shitty about themselves? How comes my eyes have turned green? Why do I have to be such a boring joyless dick?

Oh well, at least this time I had a friend with me to talk to. Any other time I’ve been at a disappointing concert, feeling out of place in a sea of happiness and enthusiasm, all I can do is sit there in silence, like a grumpy out of place lemon.

“What did you think of them?” – Disapproving face – “I thought so too.”
“Looking forward to Decapitated?” – Disapproving face – “I thought not.”

Also, on a separate note. Lamb Of God have the tallest fans. I’ve been to a lot of concerts in Manchester, but I’ve never seen a higher concentration of tall people at one gig. I’m six foot and don’t usually feel short. But I’m not exaggerating when I say I saw at least three people who were pushing eight feet tall and at least thirty who were definitely seven. It wasn’t so noticeable when I came in and the venue hadn’t filled yet, but as more and more people came into the hall, a disproportionately high number of them were unusually tall.

Is that actually worth noticing? Why am I so interested in the crowd anyway? Am I utterly depressed and in need of help, or, were Huntress just boring me to distraction.

We’ll let a panel of Mental Health experts be the judge of that one, but all I’m saying is, I didn’t rush out and buy their album online as soon as I got home, didn’t walk out of there wearing a Huntress t-shirt, and I don’t think if Huntress played on their own I’d jump at the chance to buy tickets to go see them.

Anyway; when they were over, my friend took me to get another beer and it was about twenty minutes until Decapitated came on next. Before they came on, there was a soundcheck in which they played about the first two minutes of Pantera’s ‘Walk’ and even got the crowd to sing along. From where I was at I couldn’t tell if it was the band having fun or roadies taking liberties. When Decapitated started their proper set I didn’t recognize any of their songs (even though I listened to Nihility and Winds Of Plague again around Christmas), the sound wasn’t good either which didn’t help, the material was a bit boring, and I went to the toilet towards the end of their set, I missed “Spheres Of Madness,” which I actually might have enjoyed. See what I mean about not drinking at gigs?

So. Decapitated live. Not much fun to be had there then.

I started to actually feel drunk after only two beers, mostly because I haven’t drank more than ten times in the last four years rather than any actually quality of the unpleasant watery beer. That made me have all sorts of unpleasant nostalgia-style mental flashbacks to all the times I drank and had a bad time, and no memories of fun or anything positive. Once that kicked in it made everything even worse. I was ready to walk home. What a waste of money this night was. I don’t like concerts anymore.

I walked back in. That was a positive step, at least I didn’t go home. Mostly it was because my friend had my coat though. Ok. I’ll sit through this rubbish a bit longer so that I have a coat for the cold January walk home. I was going to stay at the back behind the land of giants and see nothing behind the sea of tall, tall fans since I wouldn’t enjoy myself anyway. My friend eventually found me before Lamb Of God started, and wanted to go closer to the front, so we did. We got all the way up to about three people-from-the-front. What good progress. Sometimes at gigs the competition for space is really unpleasant. Nope. We just strolled on up without upsetting anyone, or getting in anyone’s way or asking anyone to move. That made me feel some positivity at least. The lack of negativity or rudeness made me feel something positive. Also, being able to see the band would at least make it a bit interesting.

I scanned the crowd a couple of thousand more times; that made the glimmer of positivity die. I found myself deciding that not only did I not like concerts any more, or metal fans, but that I was genuinely incapable of ever having fun again. I was completley convinced that I, in fact, had medical anhedonia and was literally unable to feel happiness. I came to a firm and complete conclusion that life was no-longer worth living.

Then Lamb Of God hit the stage. It opened with the drum solo that’s between ‘Straight For The Sun’ and ‘Desolation’ on the Resoltuion album. It sounded good live. It looked good too, with flashing lights and a big Resolution artwork banner behind the kit, and all you could see was Chris until the first riff kicked in. ‘Desolation’ and ‘Ghost Walking’ were played pretty early on. Bouncy, big, and what’s this? Fun! Holy shit, I’m actually having fun. I didn’t think that it was a medical possibility.

They dropped ‘Walk With Me In Hell’ ‘Laid To Rest’ ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’ and I was actually singing along. Me. I could barely believe it.

When they played ‘Vigil’ and ‘Omerta’ I was actually jumping around, I actually did raise my hands/fists/horns whenever they asked, probably the first time since moving to England. I was actually getting into it.

When ‘Ruin’ came on, I sang every word. Every one. I was properly into it for the first time in what feels like forever.

When I had went to see The Fratellis live before Christmas, some punk-ass fifteen year old girl took exception to the fact that I was just stood there with my arms folded watching the band, and started mocking me for being ‘no fun.’ If only she could see me now.

There were a few interesting things during the bulk of the concert worth pointing out too. Randy had a joke about the Smiths and fake-dedicated a song to Morrisy. Mark Morten was off for family reasons and Between The Buried And Me’s guitarist filled in. Randy had grown a beard and looked like the villain from a crime movie. They played ‘Undertow’ off of Resolution, which I never thought was a noteworthy song before, and it absolutely smashed live. It got a really good audience response too. I think that’ll stay in the set even when new albums come out. Chris broke a drum before ‘Omerta’ and had to replace it. Willy shouted the ‘woo’ during ‘Black Label’ like he did on the live Download Festival DVD. I didn’t realize that was a tradition, I just assumed it was a one off on the night of filming. When Randy was doing the traditional make-the-audience-appreciate-the-support-bands bit that a headliner always says, Decapitated got a gigantic cheer (like, a distinctly bigger cheer than any band I’ve heard in the last two years in the same scenario…including Orange Goblin and Napalm Death).

I was pretty transfixed on Campbell for a lot of the night. I had been listening to a lot of the Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave podcast this week, and in my mind Campbell was (pod host) Brian Johnson. Why on earth was Brian Johnson playing bass for Lamb Of God?

They ended the night with ‘Redneck’ and ‘Black Label’ as you would expect (Since I became a fan of the band, which is only about five years ago now, I always thought they should swap that around now. I know ending with ‘Black Label’ is tradition, since it was the most fun song off their first album, but ‘Redneck’ is way more popular, way easier to sing along to and would make a way better ending).

Anyway, when they Played ‘Redneck’ live, it was incredible. The feeling I got during ‘Redneck’ was even better than with ‘Ruin.’ I felt like somebody give me a shot of pure concentrated happiness. I’d been in a terrible mood all week, flickering in and out of one all month and ‘Redneck’ cleared it away.

They should use ‘Redneck’ as a medical treatment. People should be given Lamb Of God tickets by the government to increase productivity and reduce depression in the population. I sang along to every single word, jumped about and had genuine actual fun. I was in a very good mood.

Then ‘Black Label’ came on.

Then it was over. My friend even caught one of the plectrums that they threw into the crowd at the end. One had hit me, and got caught between my arm and chest, but when I moved to get it, it feel to the ground and some teenager picked it up. Fair dos, the one that had hit me was from the Between The Buried And Me guy anyway, and I don’t play the guitar, so I wasn’t particularly interested. Makes sense that someone enthusiastic get the souvenir. (Had it have been a drumstick, I wonder whether I’d have tried to keep it. I honestly don’t know.)

I walked home without incident. No weird students proposed odd philosophical points to me, no clearly-not-homeless chancers tried to get money off me, no elderly men stopped me for a cigarette and found the idea that someone ‘doesn’t smoke’ to be the most ludicrous notion they’ve ever heard, no streakers got arrested by the police in front of a crowd of Rugby lads dressed as giant vegetables (which happened when I went to see Down live at this same venue, about a year and a half ago), or anything else like that as would usually happen on the way back from the gigs I’ve been to in Manchester.

Overall; It had a shaky start, but it actually turned out to be a worthwhile evening. Lamb Of God themselves had a great performance, a great setlist, good sound and the audience loved them. I loved them. I had a good time. It made me happy.

I even woke up this morning with a big grin on my face. I think I’m going to go and stick ‘Redneck’ on the stereo. G’bye.