Lamb of God - VII: Sturm und Drang (Nuclear Blast)

Rather splendid...
Release Date: 
23 Jul 2015 - 11:30pm

Ah, the ol’ Sn’D… If you ask me, bands are always treading dodgy ground when they start trying to associate themselves with ‘proper’ literary or musical movements. Especially well known ones like the German proto-romantic Sturm und Drang, for which American metallists Lamb of God have named their seventh album.

However, Sturm und Drang (or – and you can take your pick of translations here – ‘Storm and Stress’ or ‘Storm and Urge’), which essentially dealt as a theme with man’s struggle to cope with difficult emotions, and the violent exposition of those same emotions, would, symbolically at least, appear to be an extremely apposite title indeed for this exhilarating piece of heavy metal thunder. There's a lot of violence and emotion on show.

Sturm… as an album is perhaps Lamb of God’s most consistently satisfying work to date; There is absolutely not an ounce of flab or filler to be encountered throughout the record, with vocalist Randy Blythe in particular reaching into himself to give an utterly match winning performance. He’s at his most varied here too, never flinching from toning down the usual angsty roar to get his point across; His whisper-to-a-scream performance on closing track Torches (with a little, um diligent help from this year’s guest collaborator of choice, Greg Puciato) is an absolute barnstormer.

Other highlights are the ripping opener Still Echoes, which is just utterly skin-flaying in delivery and effect, whilst the contemplative 512 – which I’m sure you’ll all be aware was the number of the cell in which Blythe was incarcerated in the Czech Republic a few years ago- manages to both batter you senseless and give cause for thought at the same time. This song also features a marvellous, bobbing main riff in which guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler and bassist John Campbell lock together with machinelike efficiency, backed by a titanic slab of drummeing from the other Adler, Chris, who also puts in some of the best work I’ve heard from him throughout this album. 

Chino Moreno brings his croon to the sombre Embers – you know exactly what his contribution to this otherwise metal as fuck track will be, right? - and the combination of two disparate vocal approaches works surprisingly well, Blythe’s tortured howl at the end of the track adding a violent counterpoint to Moreno’s serenely honeyed tones, the sum of which really is one of the high water marks of the album. But we don’t generally come to Lamb of God records for this sort of listening experience, and I have to say following track Footprints, with its vituperative lyrics (Blythe bellows ‘Jesus Christ, you make me sick!’ with frankly worrying commitment) restores the expected equilibrium in happy fashion – this track is the out-and-out heavy metal highlight of a gratifyingly heavy metal record.

It’s hard to actually single out anything here for criticism - slightly pretentious title notwithstanding – and I’m almost surprising myself by giving VII... an unreserved recommendation. Surprised? How the fuck did you think this review would end?