I almost never write about mainstream metal on this site. A bit of clarification is in order, I guess. By mainstream metal, I mean bands that have music released by major record labels, therefore having the advantage of great distribution, marketing, promotional opportunities. I don’t ignore those bands because I have anything against them signing on with the majors. If you can get a good deal and you’re comfortable with it, I’m all for it. It’s just that the majors sign such awful metal bands. I hate every single one of them, and I sometimes make fun of their fans. I had to forcibly prevent myself from mocking people over the weekend on a certaon social media site. I’m a jerk that way. I won’t even list any of these bands here, but look at the bulk of the lineup of your average Mayhem fest or turn on a local rock radio station (if you have one) and you know what I mean.
But sometimes the majors get it right. Warner Bros. snapping up Mastodon was a daring move, but it’s been fruitful for both parties. I’ve largely been lukewarm to Mastodon’s WB work, but not because they’re on that label. It’s just their new direction isn’t to my liking. I’m sure they aren’t too worried about me. Perhaps the best marriage of metal and a major label has come with Epic and Lamb of God. Arguably, the band isn’t doings things much differently than they were in their Prosthetic and Metal Blade years, though they’ve added more swampy tendencies and some Pantera-style groove as seasoning and not a personality shift. In return, Lamb of God have done pretty well sales-wise (their last record “Wrath” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts), grabbed big tour slots with bands such as Metallica and have become a rousing success story. If anyone accused the band of “selling out,” I’d say that person is bitter, delusional or both. It also should be pointed these dudes still have a major presence in their home base of Richmond, Va. Frontman Randy Blythe just did some stuff with Cannabis Corpse. You going to tell me Metallica would do that?
People wondered if Lamb of God could survive at Epic since the story is majors only see value in you equal to how much money you draw, but they’re on their fourth record there with “Resolution.” That’s an impressive run that started in 2004, and while not everything they’ve done since landing at Epic has been a home run (“Sacrament” was kind of eh), they’ve more than held their own, refused to change their stripes and still are making pulverizing modern metal. Another important thing about the band is you know it’s them when you hear them. Lamb of God have a style and a personality. That’s so rare, especially among the so-called mainstream metal bands who all sound identical.
On “Resolution” we get more of the same from this massive quintet. I don’t mean it’s a retread record. It’s not at all. But if you like Lamb of God, anticipate their records and go to their shows, you’ll be pleased. It’s nice to know you won’t be let down, and Lamb of God rarely under-deliver for their audience. If you aren’t a fan, this album won’t change your mind. I saw a review elsewhere that suggested this band get more ambitious. Why? I’ve said this many times before, but it bears repeating: Some bands do a great job shape-shifting, while others do really well sticking to a formula, tweaking it slightly and delivering solid material. Lamb of God do the latter masterfully. Also, this record beats the holy shit out of anything put out by the other mainstream metal bands, most of which are as bland as a paper plate. This is where I want to make a Korn joke, but I’ll just let you make one of your own.
“Resolution” rips open with “Straight From the Sun,” a crushing song that draws blood early, sticks its boot in the wound and twists. It leads into two cuts that are tried-true LoG in “Desolation” and “Ghost Walking,” tracks that should have the band’s fans whipped into a frenzy. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler are in command, tearing out some vintage-sounding riffs that remind a bit of their earlier work. “Invictus” simmers in filth a little bit with groove-infested riffs, a pummeling drum work from Chris Adler and a snaking bassline from John Campbell; “Cheated” is a punk-infused explosion that’s looser and more violent than we’ve heard from the band in some time; and “Terminally Unique” borrows a bit musically from prog and thrash, making for a really interesting listen. There are a few songs – “The Undertow,” “The Number Six” — that are on the more melodic side and could demand some radio play, but they don’t sound like they were written specifically for that goal. Closer “King Me” is the one true curveball, with some cleaner guitar work, sweeping synth work, more introspective lyrics, Blythe guiding the listener along with a gravelly monologue and operatic female vocals from Amanda Munton. Of course, shit blows up eventually and we’re off to volcano land, but it’s a cool trip to place this band doesn’t ordinarily take you. There’s your ambition.
Lamb of God may not be embraced by underground metal fans who can’t see beyond their basement walls, but I doubt these guys are sweating that a whole lot. Lamb of God have remained true to themselves and their fans, and they’re the most noteworthy example of an extreme metal band taking their work to a corporate label and excelling. There are a lot of garbage bands headlining hockey sheds who won’t be remembered a decade from now. Lamb of God should be in their places, and even if their star eventually falls with Epic, you know they’ll be in a club somewhere ripping the walls down with the same ferocity.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.lamb-of-god.com/
To buy “Resolution,” go here: http://www.myplaydirect.com/lamb-of-god/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.epicrecords.com/