When you just start getting into a band and they announce a hiatus, it can be a little annoying. Given the circumstances surrounding vocalist Randy Blythe’s incarceration in a Czech jail for manslaughter, it’s very much forgiveable in Lamb of God’s case. There’s no point asking Blythe about his experiences – as a cathartic move, he’s put it all into a book… and into this album. To him, the matter is now in the past. Done, dusted and documented.
I’ve not had the chance to read the book (Dark Days: A Memoir), but I have been giving Sturm und Drang a fair bit of listening since it turned up. It’s not wholly based around the incidents in the Czech Republic, though a couple of songs certainly are lyrically. What it is, though, is a damn fine Lamb of God album and possibly their most varied to date.
A handful of tracks have already been released and do a good job of showing off the still-maturing sound of Virginia’s best known metal export. There’s still that definite Lamb of God overtone – intense heaviness overlaid with groove – but this time round there’s something extra. Partly that’s due to the track that people have been talking about – “Overlord”. It’s Lamb of God as you’ve never heard them before. Acoustic opening, clean vocals… is this their “Nothing Else Matters”? It’s dark, haunting and utterly unexpected, but somehow it still manages to fit onto an otherwise more traditional LoG album. Personally, I’d like to see them try more of this kind of thing.
Disregarding this single oddball track, the rest of the album is pretty much as you’d expect… but better. I’ve really enjoyed Lamb of God’s stuff in the past, but very much in a “dipping into albums” fashion. A track here, a handful there. Sturm und Drang, to me, is the most cohesive and strong album that the band have done to date. There isn’t a bad track on here, and I’m quite picky when it comes to the heavier stuff – I don’t often enjoy a whole album, finding that things can often get quite samey.
Lamb of God have an incredible knack of making music that’s brutal, harsh and – at the same time – has some great hooks. With this album they seem to have perfected that song-writing as well as throwing in some new tricks. You can just tell that a handful have been written with the live show in mind, too. “Erase This”, for example, has a couple of great breaks in it that are perfect for organising pits with some kick-ass choral shouts towards the end to take the last few breaths from your lungs.
Closer “Torches” is another song with a bit of novelty to it, featuring spoken word around heavy riffs and harsh vocals. I can’t see this one working live, but it’s a great atmosphere piece – as well as being typically lyrically intelligent, being the story of a Czech freedom fighter who burned himself to death in protest at the country’s occupation by Russian forces.
It’s been a bit of a wait, but it’s worth it. Sturm und Drang is Lamb of God at the top of their game. Roll on November and the UK tour with Megadeth.
VII Sturm und Drang is out on July 24th through Nuclear Blast everywhere except the US where Epic will be releasing it.