Does Lamb of God's ‘VII: Sturm Und Drang’ Scratch The Itch?
Lamb of God are back after a difficult 3 year break. ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’ sees the 5 piece take a walk down a darker path.
No discussion of the latest release from Lamb of God would be complete without referencing the recent tumultuous past of frontman Randy Blythe and his time spent incarcerated in Prague. It would be expected (quite fairly) to inform artistic releases from anyone who had experienced such a unique situation. Blythe comments, “It’s been a stressful f---ing time for my band, the last few years, and it’s come out. Hard times make for good metal, I suppose.” They certainly do.
Sturm und Drang translates conventionally as storm and stress, the name of a late 18th Century German literary movement. It was chosen because of the general theme; the psychology of the way people behave under extreme conditions. Blythe says, “I was like, ‘Maybe the Germans have something,’ because they’re great at cramming complex concepts into, like, one word, like ‘schadenfreude’ and ‘zeitgeist’”.
Lamb of God’s characteristic groove and chunky riffage is present in spades. Chris Adler has been pulling double duty recently in an underground band called Megadeth, which gives us ample opportunity to appreciate how incredible his drum playing is. Here it drives the rhythm relentlessly and kicks you straight in the chest when needed. Heroically supported by John Campbell’s bass attack, the groove is as infectious as always. However, there is just something not quite on the money.
It’s full of brilliant songs, that much is certain. “Still Echoes”, the opening track, focuses on the prison in which Blythe was held in Pankrác. Straight away, it’s obvious that this sonic output has a darker tone than is typical for Lamb of God. “Erase This” and “Footprints” are real stormers boasting a superb dual guitar rhythmic assault from Willie Adler and Mark Morton, and “512” features a well implemented Bon Jovi-esque talk box effect.
Song writing is broadened stylistically, each track boasting several distinct passages. But the pacing seems a little off and I’m left feeling a bit frustrated at times. Most disappointing is the song “Embers” featuring Chino Moreno, vocalist of Deftones. While it’s not bad, his presence fails to add anything of worth to the track.
The darker tone and atmosphere of ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’ is definitely appreciated, but the album doesn’t come across as particularly cohesive. It sounds like an album of parts. High quality parts, but not ones that fit together well. If you’re a fan of Lamb of God, it’s going to scratch the itch. A worthy return, but not as good as hoped.
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Words by Adam Dernie.