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Lamb of God
You can play. We get it. Lamb of God, the Richmond, Va., institution of absurdly technical, death-metal-tinged thrash, has released four albums in fewer than six years (not including 2005’s Burn the Priest reissue, which was originally released in 1998), and Sacrament takes the production and prowess to the edge of the cliff without falling off into nü metal or becoming a self-parody of the band’s cold and polished style—yet. The album’s components do sound as if they were recorded in separate rooms with no bandmember communication and then neatly assembled into a completed metal puzzle via ProTools. Upon its release, Sacrament debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, and sold around 634,000 copies in the first week despite being leaked through file sharing for the majority of the previous month. Not bad for a band that has remained fairly uncompromising and still has more in common with the death- and thrash-metal underground of the late ’80s/early ’90s than adolescent meathead favorites such as Slipknot or Disturbed. Vocalist Randy Blythe has a range within the context of extreme metal that inspires awe, meaning he does everything but sing: whisper to scream to death-growl and back again, usually within 30 seconds. The heavily pushed single, “Redneck,” is a shot at further commercial success with Blythe’s obvious vocal homage to Rob Zombie’s more brash moments, but like most of the tracks on Sacrament, some sonic miracles will be needed to mask its discernible variations on the word “fuck.” Riff savants Mark Morton and Willie Adler expound upon the twin-guitar legacy of Carcass’ Bill Steer and Michael Amott—two guitarists who made it OK to dig melody in extreme metal in the early ’90s. “Blacken the Cursed Sun,” “Pathetic,” and “Descending” have riffs so stunning they push ahead of the vocals to showcase what this band is really good at. When you’re humming riffs all day, having forgotten the rest of the music that surrounds them, you can be sure that there are a couple of very special craftsmen to thank. Sacrament marks Lamb of God’s fork in the road. While still an extreme and true metal band in a game filled with metalcore and emo-metal, their popularity (not their fault) and insistence on gross technical proficiency (their fault) could result in a very different band for the next go-around: a neutered “breakthrough” headlining at Oz Fest. —Andrew Earles