Lamb of God have been kicking around since 1990 when they went by the far more inflammatory title of Burn the Priest (excuse the pun). These were the days when Pantera exploded onto the scene with Cowboys From Hell, a metal groove so infectious it caused a worldwide pandemic of unstoppable head banging. Lamb of God got hit by this bug hard and are still showing symptoms to this very day. But if you’re going to be hit by a heavy metal disease it may as well be Panteraitis. It’s a lot better than coming down with a case of The Motley Flu (dear God, did I really just write that?).
Later in the decade Burn the Priest changed their name in a display of atrocious commercialism because they had the audacity to want to play some gigs and release some CD’s, the fucking sell outs. Lamb of God was a far more family friendly (and all together misleading) name for this group of die hard thrash metal enthusiasts, and with this change in name as well as an Album entitled New American Gospel, Lamb of God began to carve out a groove of their own into the mainstream metal scene.
This groove evolved into a fully formed canyon in 2006 when they released Sacrament, a tour de force of old-skool American metal that finally brought their influences together with their own unique sound to create the kind of tracks that their followers always knew they were capable of creating. Walk With Me Through Hell was a warped epic that took us on a journey through a sadistic romance while Redneck was a summary of everything the band stood for both politically and musically, all the while giving the 21st century a much needed and all too rare iconic modern guitar riff.
Resolution however, is not Sacrament. Sacrament was work of such quality and craftsmanship that it was easy to overlook the usual inaccessible features that come with heavy metal. Resolution on the other hand isn’t. While it’s still a very good album it couldn’t achieve that universal level of acceptance, that extra special something that helps a piece of work break beyond its usual genre appeal.
One of the reasons for this perhaps is that Lamb of God have fallen for one of the worst and most deceptive metal clichés out there: that every album must be heavier and faster than the last. It’s a plague upon the true progression and evolution of the genre. All of the greats realize the fallacy of this claim, sometimes they scale back, other times they hit the mix just right and decide not to mess with it (just look at Slayer’s South of Heaven or Machine head’s Through the Ashes of Empires). In the last few years Lamb of God seemed to have learnt this lesson. But with Resolution it seems they have forgotten it again.
The album rushes you though one outburst of extreme riffage and catapults you straight into another. Eventually it gets to a point all too common in modern metal albums where you can’t tell where one song ends and another begins. Moments of acoustics feel too little, too late to truly give the album variety or depth, it’s still too relentless to be a truly great piece of work, there’s no room to breath, no time to reflect upon the ideas expressed or the music played.
The first track starts with a generic, meaningless scream, signalling the bands devolution like a doomsayer yelling that the end is nigh. It’s only when the intro ends on a great drum solo linking track one to track two that you breathe a sigh of relief. You start to think that they can still produce sophistication and that the album may yet hold the brilliance seen in the past two.
It then goes on to produce a groove metal riff that opens your body up to the rhythm of the guitars. But the hope soon fades as the steady grip they have over their music starts to slip. It’s as if the riff is trying to get away from them. One of the pleasures to be had from metal is listening to the constant struggle of the musician trying to tame the music like a wild horse all the while trying to maintain its ferocity. It’s not so much of a pleasure to listen to the band lose that struggle and get thrown off their own beat.
I feel I’m being overly harsh. It is a good album with good guitars, excellent drumming and strong tracks throughout. But after a run of great albums Resolution merely achieves good. They were on the brink of becoming stars, not just of their own little world but of music in general. I hesitate to say the next Slayer, but the way they were going it wouldn’t have been far off. They were stepping away from the crowd, standing out from a sea of generic imitators and now it seems they’re stepping back in and accepting anonymity. Perhaps the cold light of day was too bright for their darker instincts and they sought the sanctuary of their own confines, the music that had made them, the audience who had nurtured them. Whatever the reason it will be hard for them to regain the greatness they once possessed, but I’d love to see them try.