Appealing to the history of an 18th century German literary movement via its title, translated as ‘storm and stress’, the record perfectly encapsulates the last few years for Lamb of God. Even cave-dwelling aphids are aware of the elephant in the recording studio, but that’s not to say the band haven’t addressed the emotional spectrum brought to attention ever since. Human action and reaction under extreme conditions are the focal point of this seventh opus, yet surprisingly ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’ does not unleash unbridled fury and point fingers, although it would have been justified to do so. Instead, there’s a lesson learned by Lamb Of God and it buries itself much further than skin deep.
Vocalist Randy Blythe is undoubtedly back on form, accompanying abrasive riffs with torturous screams throughout opener ‘Still Echoes’ and ‘Erase This’. Leading single ‘512’ embraces Blythe’s newfound fondness for the emotional strength owed to clean vocals, as if the grand master of versatility. “You’re not welcome here again, how the fuck did you think this would end?” chokes ‘Footprints’, not-so-subtly reminding that Blythe’s loyalties truly lie in his guttural growls.
Opening with sticksman Chris Adler raising his signature hell, it’s perfectly evident only ‘Embers’ remain of the Lamb of God once known, with a beautifully appropriate guest slot by Deftones frontman Chino Moreno heralding a new era of accessible cleans and subtly melodic riffs. In the name of progress and evolution, ‘Overlord’ emerges as the missing link, subdued and foreboding, conveying a whole new tempo for the thrashers. It’s not long before their trademark chaos takes hold, however, but Blythe’s clean vocals are an exciting change – Jonathan Davis had better watch his back.
Their incendiary trademark attitude bursts back on track with ‘Anthropoid’, with crushingly heavy drums and a riff equally as turbulent. A naturally brutal anthem to the sky falling down, ‘Engage The Fear Machine’ asserts the record’s general theme of apocalyptic, cataclysmic change, with devastating riffs leading their destructive course through every note.
“It does not matter one tiny fucking bit how unfair you think the world is. It’s only what you do right here, right now, right this fucking instant that matters,” spits Blythe through ‘Delusion Pandemic’, an unexpected yet more than welcome philosophical interlude. A fitting close, ‘Torches’ not only speaks for ‘Sturm Und Drang’, but for their future as an outfit – this isn’t the last we’ll hear from them, there’s plenty of life in the hellhound just yet.
Petrous and tempestuous, ‘VII: Sturm Und Drang’ will quite possibly become their defining album. There was a fear that we’d never witness the same relentless conviction from them, abandoned in a cell in Pankrác Prison, but perhaps Lamb Of God themselves are the most grateful for its return.
‘VII: Sturm Und Drang’ by Lamb Of God is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.
Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)