Lamb of God are one of the few metal bands today that garner commercial and critical acclaim in equal measure. They are also one of the few modern thrash bands (a debatable classification at best, but then they are so hard to classify) that excite me. So it was with bated breath that I waited for their eighth studio album, VII: Sturm Und Drang, released on 23rd July, 2015 via Epic Records in North America and through Nuclear Blast outside of it.
The years between the release of their seventh and eighth album were tumultuous ones for the band as they dealt with vocalist Randy Blythe’s arrest and later acquittal in a manslaughter case in Czech Republic and went on a brief hiatus. Blythe had told fans that the album wouldn’t be a “prison record” but nevertheless there are quite a few songs in the album that cater to the theme. The album’s title literally translates to “Storm and Stress,” referring to the “proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s to the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements.” That’s according to Wikipedia, I don’t know a thing about proto-Romantic movements in German literature and music. However the title is quite appropriate as you can see Blythe wrestling with the extreme emotions that he felt while in prison. The album’s opener and also it’s first single, “Still Echoes” is a short, fast, typical Lamb of God song (typical in a good way). The song starts off with a fast riff over blast beats and goes into a very metalcore chorus, something that the band has been doing more and more in recent years. The main riff is catchy and aggressive. The outro features a short random solo that doesn’t add much to the song.
Early on in the album it becomes apparent that the production isn’t as good as it has been on their previous albums. In all their previous albums, you could feel the heaviness and a certain bounce in the chuggs and riffs. The guitars would sound massive and this was one of the hallmarks of their previous albums. However this fullness in sound is gone from this album. The raw aggression of previous albums is lost and the guitars and drums don’t feel as aggressive and this in turn affects the atmosphere that the album tries to create. Along with the lyrical themes, this gives the album a very somber and subdued. “512” and “Wine and Piss” are decent tracks, however I found them to be two of the weaker tracks on the album because there’s nothing in them that we haven’t heard the band do (and do better) before.
On the plus side, the band shows a versatility that he have only seen glimpses of previously. “Overlord” is one of the best tracks on the album and features surprisingly well done clean vocals by Blythe. It is a slow yet heavy song about the dangers of self-obsession in modern times. Randy should definitely think of doing more clean singing in the their future albums as it adds another dimension to the band’s sound. The solo in it is flashy yet melodious and suits the song. The song does pick up the pace with a very vintage old school riff about two-thirds into the song. “Erase This,” another single, starts off sounding a lot like “Walk with me in Hell” and is a mid paced song where Blythe growls about his experiences in cell number 512 in Pankrac Prison in Czech Republic. The song features a very cool talkbox/auto wah solo that is one if the highlights of the album. “Delusion Pandemic” starts off with a super aggressive riff and the band never lets the aggression drop for the rest of the song. This song features things that Lamb of God do well and have done a lot of times previously, and some new things that the band have picked up. More songs of this kind and this album could have been so much better.
Overall, this is a decent album by one of the modern legends of metal that sometimes underwhelms and fails to deliver. A lot of the track feel standard and boring and the new things that the band have tried out in this album cannot make up for them. The album does feel much more cohesive than the previous ones with a common theme throughout all the songs but band loses their raw aggression due to this.