This new American metal stuff is funny, isn’t it? Just when you think it can’t get much worse, one of the bands releases an album that takes immaturity to a whole new level. Conversely, once you think metal doesn’t get much better, one of them will write something new that completely raises the artistic bar for the rest of those “NWOAHM” bands. Unfortunately, it’s generally understood that said bands don’t excel in the creativity field of writing. Metalcore bands like As I Lay Dying release the same sets of repetitive riffs and breakdowns, Trivium seems incapable of breaking out of their one-dimensional structures and silly riffs, Shadows Fall has yet to write music that isn’t completely weighed down with godlike riffs and solos (sorry, I had to), and Lamb of God never breaks out of their groove riff style, seemingly a roller coaster of quality. Well – friends and fellow metalheads – it’s safe to say that this one-cell prison of a genre finally has an escaped convict. Lamb of God’s fourth album, Sacrament, is a technical step forward. Worrying about a lack of creativity is now a thing of the past for this Virginia fivesome, as Sacrament is the darkest, most technical, most atmospheric, and most innovative record Lamb of God has to offer.
There’s one trait of the album that can be singled out as the vital point: the atmosphere. Sacrament is an extremely atmospheric album, and a huge adjustment for Lamb of God, whose past work was primarily a raw sound focusing on the more traditional attributes of metal. Full of artificial and instrumental ambiance and atmosphere, their fourth has a feel most unlike any other Lamb of God album. It’s plainly evident on songs such as album opener Walk With Me In Hell, a slower depressive track with a lead guitar riff providing a melancholic tone in the background. Blacken the Cursed Sun, another mid-paced metal journey, features great harmonies from Morton and Adler while Adler #2 adds ominous tapping of the ride symbol with electronic ambiance backing the instrumentation. The album is rich in the faster, heavier hitters such as Descending, a flowing groove song with an intoxicating, chord melody and gloomy lead guitar tones.
Sacrament effectively retains the faithful Lamb of God fans while attracting some of extreme metal’s more scrupulous listeners by honing what comprises Lamb of God unique sound and adding the aforementioned dark feel. Redneck, the album’s first single, is a throwback combination of Ashes of the Wake and old school Pantera, creating a deceptive view of the album. The song sticks out like a sore thumb among the other more thoughtful songs, with it’s southern groove metal riffs and Randy Blythe’s harsh, unyielding screams. That theme is effectively preserved in a more Sacrament style with Foot to the Throat, a track featuring powerful palm muted guitar techniques and more of drummer Chris Adler’s steamrolling rhythms. Again We Will Rise is a lucid combination of the sinister and the brutal styles with its pounding riffs and echoing guitar ambiance, topped with a menacing vocal multi-harmonized chant by Blythe. Beating on Death’s Door couldn’t be a more appropriate conclusion to the album, featuring the most aggressive instrumental work on the album as well as Blythe’s most angry vocal moments. Don’t miss the excellent groove riff 50 seconds into the song.
What makes Sacrament a truly worthwhile experience is how guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler have finally realized their potential as shredders. The riffs are still quite good, the licks and melodies and more present as ever, and they now solo in more songs than they have in their past three albums combined. Maybe it’s Mark Morton’s signature model with the incredible Jackson Guitars, but shredders will love this above all other Lamb of God album. With song like Walk With Me In Hell, Redneck, Requiem, and Pathetic all featuring shredgasmic solos all capable of bringing a tear to Petrucci’s eye, guitarists are likely to have a newfound respect for Lamb of God after Sacrament.
As a whole, Sacrament is a simultaneous step forward and backward for Lamb of God. The dark atmosphere and melodic traits evidently take priority over the brutal, thrashy groove riffs of Ashes of the Wake and As the Palaces Burn, but the power of the music is still very much in full; it simply appears in different ways. With a great flair for instrumental technicality and a unique, thoughtful style, Lamb of God has truly broken the unsophisticated trend of American metal by breaking away and trying something new. While the response of listeners can never be effectively predicted, there shouldn’t be many complaints among metal fans over the innovative sound of Lamb of God’s Sacrament. Enjoy!
– Dark and atmospheric while retaining that distinctive Lamb of God sound
– Riffs are somewhat numbed down in groove in brutality
– Morton and Adler shred often
– Blythe’s voice is somewhat off-putting
– Overall, the sound is more sophisticated than past Lamb of God
– Walk With Me In Hell
– Forgotten (Lost Angels)
– Beating on Death’s Door