VII: Sturm und Drang, which translates from German as ‘Storm and Stress’, is Lamb of God’s seventh studio album* and marks a new chapter for the metal band from Virginia. It is the first new music from the band since vocalist Randy Blythe’s manslaughter court case, which investigated the death of fan Daniel Nosek after he was pushed offstage at a gig in the Czech Republic in 2010. His experiences have heavily influenced the lyrical content of the record, in addition to providing the theme of negative psychological effects that is referred to in the album’s subtitle.
So far three tracks have been released from Sturm und Drang, due July 24th, which I want to review today to give a first impression on the much anticipated record.
Still Echoes begins in monolithic fashion and doesn’t relent. It makes reference to the history of the prison in which Blythe was held, which was known for its guillotine where hundreds of people were sentenced to death by the Nazis. It’s a heavy subject matter that is mirrored in the track’s heaviness; filled with Mark Morton’s signature single-string riffing and Chris Adler’s almost-robotic drumming that passes by at an incredible rate of knots. Sound-wise Still Echoes doesn’t make any departures from that adopted on Wrath and Resolution, but with such strong song writing, it doesn’t need too.
Unlike Still Echoes, 512 does begin to shake up the Lamb of God blueprint, by introducing croaked spoken word passages and a haunting distorted arpeggio riff. However, beyond that, the typical Lamb of God brutality is maintained and is accompanied by a blistering guitar solo to savour. 512 is an impressive track and rewards Lamb of God for trying to weave new ideas into their now tried-and-tested formula.
The final track to be released from the record early achieves its heaviness in an entirely different manner, although it represents a giant risk from the band, as it is their first track to feature Blythe’s clean vocals. His voice sounds surprisingly like Layne Staley’s, with grungy tones and subtle melodies; quite a departure from the cookie-monster screams that listeners are used to. Eventually his screams return towards the end of the song, but it is the first half of the song that really does all the hard work. The intro features a lovely blues lick, before a loose verse rolls in and gives way to a chorus that is powerful, yet restrained. Lamb of God have never written anything this mature and have managed to amalgamate both styles into one song that remains focused and cohesive.
512 and Overlord have shown that Lamb of God are embracing a wider range of influences on Sturm und Drang and if the rest of the record proves to be as successful as the tracks already showcased, then you may just be looking at the best metal album of 2015.
*Not including their debut effort released under the band name Burn the Priest.
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