The mighty Lamb of God have just released their latest offering, an EP entitled The Duke. It's refreshing to see the return of the EP single, with just five tracks comprised of two new songs and three live cut tracks from their recent album VII: Sturm und Drang. The title track sums it up really: The Duke is a tribute to Lamb of God’s late fan Wayne Ford, recently lost to leukaemia. More than a tribute, this EP release is accompanied by an auction of desirable Lamb of God merchandise and memorabilia, the proceeds of which are destined for the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society. As well a tying over Lamb of God fans ‘til the next full album release, The Duke is designed to raise awareness of blood cancers and contribute to research into treatment and support for those enduring these excruciating conditions. So, this is an EP that gives twice.
It’s not really fitting to compare The Duke as a release to the standard Lamb of God catalogue. It is clearly a very personal, heartfelt gesture from the band, and a bit isolated in the greater scheme of albums and in my opinion this needs to be respected. That said, only the title track could be considered any kind of deviation from the standard lead-heavy Lamb of God sound. The Duke, however, is far from mellow or ‘soft’. And I don’t think it’s a permanent ‘new direction’. Rather, it’s a glimpse into the murky emotional journey of reconciling death as perceived by vocalist Randy Blythe through his friendship with Ford, and the sombre cousin to the tempests of ‘sturm und drang’.
The Duke is lyrically driven to communicate Blythe’s message and showcases some of Blythe’s guttural-to-clean vocal range, musically supported by solemn mid paced drums and the strong, chunky guitars of one of metal’s heaviest duos, Mark Morton and Willie Adler. The good old Lamb of God heavy fury returns in the second new track Culling. Blythe’s guttural vocals are packed with power and some sweet soloing by Morton make this an exciting new track. Not super fast but heavy as lead and a great mosh rhythm.
The final three tracks of this tight little EP consist of three live tracks taken from VII: Sturm und Drang. These are a powerful selection of tracks that follow the theme of the dark journey, facing death. Still Echoes; a live track from 2015’s Rock am Ring, Germany, comes out firing with the extraordinary drums of Chris Adler and beautifully haunting low sections in an exploration of the brutal history of Pankrać Prison where Blythe was held in 2012. Then two 2016 live tracks from Bonnaroo (Tennessee) round up The Duke, including one of my favourite tracks from VII, the dark and sinister song 512, named after Blythe’s cell number at Pankrać, and the classic anthem on panic propaganda and media distortion, Engage the Fear Machine. The energy of the live concert is captured well making these solid versions of the VII studio tracks.
<!--EndFragment-->The Duke is a deep and profound moment in Lamb of God’s impressive discography, and clearly something candid that the band wants to share with their fans. The Duke is out now on CD, and on vinyl on November 25, and is an important addition to any Lamb of God fan’s collection.