LAMB OF GOD
"Lamb Of God"

(Epic)

01. Memento Mori
02. Checkmate
03. Gears
04. Reality Bath
05. New Colossal Hate
06. Resurrection Man
07. Poison Dream (feat. Jamey Jasta)
08. Routes (feat. Chuck Billy)
09. Bloodshot Eyes
10. On The Hook

RATING: 8.5/10

One of metal's biggest bands, LAMB OF GOD have earned their status through a combination of consistency, charisma and, most importantly, monstrous music. Much has been written and said already about how "Lamb Of God" marks a new chapter in the band's history, and it's undoubtedly significant that this is the first record they have made with new drummer Art Cruz. But don't expect radical departures, stylistic detours or even any major surprises: LAMB OF GOD's ninth studio album is all about delivering the goods, as advertised, but with renewed vigor and fresh perspective. On that level alone, it's the finest record the band has made in a while.

Opener "Memento Mori" has already reassured fans that LAMB OF GOD haven't jumped the groove metal shark and veered off on some desperate tangent. Recent hints that Randy Blythe might start crooning on a regular basis have, mercifully, been misleading: instead, metal's most likeable reformed character is simply using more parts of his voice, injecting drama with some growled narration here, some melodic but feral bellowing there. The absence of Chris Adler's trademark skeletal clatter might register for a few seconds, but Art Cruz stamps his authority immediately; his chemistry with the rest of the band, self-evident and exhilarating. "Checkmate" is another slab of prime LOG, with a filthy, low-slung, mid-song drop in tempo and a chorus that will knock your teeth out. Nothing is being reset or redefined here, but LAMB OF GOD are audibly engaged and buzzing with adrenalin throughout. A song like "Gears" could have fit comfortably onto any of the band's previous records, but it slams harder and with more snotty intensity than anything they have released since the very early days: Blythe, in particular, is having the time of his life, spitting out lyrics like broken teeth, eyes glaring at the front row.

More cohesive and dynamically varied than 2015's "VII: Sturm und Drang", "Lamb Of God" has plenty of imaginative and subversive moments, from the slow, grinding menace of "Reality Bath" to the raging, schizophrenic battery of "Routes" (featuring TESTAMENT's Chuck Billy). Meanwhile, "New Colossal Hate" must surely be destined for live favorite status thanks to an obscene amount of swagger and the kind of sledgehammer grooves that make your neck ache before you've even started banging your head. "Poison Dream" (featuring Jamey Jasta) is another obvious highlight, as the HATEBREED rabble-rouser forms a fearsome vocal tag team with Blythe over a warped sprawl of mutant thrash and thuggish, machine-gun breakdowns.

It wasn't broke, so they left it the fuck alone. Here, you can hear how fresh blood can reinvigorate a band and give them a much-needed dose of mid-career confidence. No one does LAMB OF GOD better than LAMB OF GOD, and "Lamb Of God" proves it.

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