As a quick disclaimer, Burn The Priest is the previous incarnation of Lamb Of God before changing their name shortly after the release of their self-titled debut in 1999. Same members, same everything but with a slightly altered sound, transitioning steadily over time from the scratchy extreme punk of their 1999 release for a more straight-forward metal approach in Lamb Of God. Usually at the beginning of a review you might find a few lines saying a certain reviewer is particularly fond of a certain band. I, for one, think Lamb Of God are without a doubt one of the best metal bands to have ever walked the planet and I think the Burn The Priest record has some awesome moments and an undeniably visceral vibe to it. Legion: XX, however, is unrecognisably different from both the first Burn The Priest album and the sound Lamb Of God have perfected over their nearly 20 year career.
When the first single “Inherit The Earth” (The Accused) initially landed, I along with many others were cautiously optimistic. Something that has been lacking in the last two Lamb Of God albums is the pace that drove their early work. That pace appears all across this record, particularly on “Inherit The Earth” to the point where it’ll be interesting to see the whether the urgency of this album leaks into their day job in Lamb Of God. The last few albums have definitely taken on a slower, more anthemic style, matching the length of their career. That’s not to say they haven’t aged well as a band because they certainly have with 2015’s Sturm Und Drang, it’s just great to hear that propulsion coming from those musicians in a way we haven’t heard all that much recently. The next track released, “Kerosene” (Big Black) has a suffocatingly dark atmosphere to it but beyond that, it’s certainly not a standout within the context of the rest of the record.
That brings us to the latest single “I Against I” (Bad Brains) which is absolutely one of the best cuts on the album. It’s moments like this across the record that suggest a lot of fun went into its creation. This isn’t to say that Legion: XX is more of an album for the band because from a listener’s perspective, cover albums are always great in getting a deeper appreciation of the gene pool of a certain band. However, in compiling a tracklist ranging from Bad Brains to Ministry to Melvins, this definitely sounds like a refreshing project for a group of musicians whose day job is keeping one of the greatest metal bands ever on top of their game.
As for the rest of the record, like with most cover albums, there are some hits and misses – the perfect cover album doesn’t exist. On Legion: XX there’s a good few tracks that wouldn’t go amiss in the live setting like “Inherit The Earth” or “Kill Yourself” (S.O.D), the latter of which would be incredible on the upcoming UK tour with Slayer provided they bring out a certain Anthrax axe-man (wink wink).
On the other hand, there are some bizarre choices on this album that are still taking time to digest. The appropriately pimped-up version of Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod” is an odd choice, to say the least. Few songs have that effect on you where you’ll be listening to it and thinking “What a crazy-ass world we’re living in”. This is ridiculous… but I kinda like it. And then there are a few tracks that make little impression and that few people are likely to return to such as “Axis Rot” (Sling Laos), the brilliantly titled “Dine Alone” (Quicksand) or “Kerosene” (Big Black).
Overall, Legion: XX is an odd album, bearing little resemblance to neither Burn The Priest nor Lamb Of God. There are some really great moments, there are some daft choices and there’s some filler but what makes the album a worthwhile one is hearing these musicians fired up, being a bit left-of-centre and having some fun. As a massive fan of Lamb Of God myself, Legion: XX leaves me with the feeling that at least they’re doing something. And, if they’re going to be doing anything other than a new Lamb Of God album, at least they’re doing this and having fun with it. Every band should do a covers album at some point in their career and with this, it sounds like more of a labour of love than a conventional album. This is far from the best work of their career (a high feat to pass with one of the best careers in modern metal), but I doubt there’ll ever be a time when music from these five guys won’t be welcomed.
Legion: XX is out on 18th May