As one of the original initiators of every mosher’s beloved “wall of death,” Lamb Of God is considered a heavyweight in the world of new wave American metal. This band has seen and done so many things since their original incarnation as Burn The Priest, yet remain consistent with a gritty brutality that is virtually a staple in current heavy rock music fields. Consistency unfortunately has its drawbacks, however strong the force might be. In the case of Wrath, we can say this album kicks ass but it certainly could have been better.
The Virginia outfit’s fifth studio album starts with a melodic two minute introductory entitled, “The Passing”, which feels appropriate in the sense that you could probably play this song at the funeral of someone who died in the mosh. It’s soft at the beginning and gradually becomes infused with mild electricity, where it lingers on this plateau for the remainder of its run time. Immediately after, we get a polished …And Justice For All nostalgic moment with the first thirty seconds of “In Your Words” before the track slams down some heavy double-bass. This stands beside Randy Blythe’s growling lyrics, “A sacred cash cow/with sickly tits/dripping temptation for hypocrites,” again channeling mid-’80s Metallica with a more graphic spin.
Herein lies the problem with consistency, as Lamb Of God has generally stuck to this subject matter well into its nineteen year lifespan. Is it commendable? Most definitely, as it seems there is no killing this monstrous creature in any way. Is it a tad stayed? Let us consider how drummer Chris Adler labeled this particular release via one interview:
“We are excited to be changing things up this time and working with Josh. We’ve never stayed in one place too long, and the Band’s evolution continues. There is an aggressive shift in the material and our approach. The bar has been raised.”
If the bar was raised, then Lamb Of God is for all intents and purposes still teetering atop it like an undead Tweety Bird. Take this record’s first official single and video, “Set To Fail”. In retrospect, it feels like true Lamb Of God, but during the chorus I almost mistook Blythe for Chad Gray. Not a slight against Mudvayne’s vocalist, but seeing as how that band’s latest release (The New Game) felt rather diluted, one would not think Lamb Of God wise to mimic that.
Thankfully, songs on Wrath that still drip with real devastation such as “Contractor” and “Grace” among others bring such rabid ferocity that any headbanger would be hard pressed to resist a concussion. Sadly, there is again no change in lyrical development and no sense that Wrath is really any better than its predecessors as Lamb Of God would have had you believe. In fact, some listeners could claim Wrath is practically identical to Sacrament, while “Set To Fail” could be held up as a Grammy contender relative to “Redneck”. It’s not necessarily bad to continue what works for you, but never under any circumstances claim one thing then dispense another.
Songs like “Broken Hands” and “Dead Seeds” continue fierce vocal rumblings and killer drums with the former being a true album highlight, while some songs start off somber before kicking into high gear. Tracks on this record are in perfect suitable order and nothing feels out of place or short of truly insane, and I could bet anything that Lamb Of God will have a great time throwing half this record onto a live set list to accompany Sacrament’s “revenge of the punching bag” rhetoric.
Wrath is not Lamb Of God’s best work, and it certainly does not live up to the “non-hype” claimed prior to its release. On the same note, it’s by far a practical and madness-provoking piece of modern metal mayhem deserving of a place in my home stereo. Crank the volume to eleven and rock out!