We've missed the ferocity, groove and aggression of the one-and-only LAMB OF GOD live.
2020 has been a year of firsts; we have been in National lockdowns, Dan Murhpies now delivers and gigs have become virtual, meaning gig reviews are now also virtual.
Reviewing a show online is a completely uncharted territory for me. Seeing as a big part of reviewing is assessing the crowd and their enthusiasm, it feels like such an oddly personal dynamic watching a band isolated on stage in a venue without a crowd. But, the fact that we are given access to these shows at all is truly the light in a dark spot.
Taking the idea of an online show and pushing it further, Lamb of God not only showcased a stellar set of their new self-titled album in its entirety, they also employed support acts and Sirius XM MC Jose Mangin for some enthusiastic and intimate pre-show interviews.
Kicking off the event (streamed on the 19th) was Scottish act Bleed From Within. Opening their set with ‘Night Crossing’, the groups combination of melodic guitars, crushing vocals and tie-in’s of hardcore bounce immediately demanded attention.
With pyrotechnics and an Alex Gray inspired visual setup in tow, the Scots tore through songs like ‘Into Nothing’ and ‘Fracture’ before giving fans a taste of something slightly older with the incorporation of ‘Afterlife’.
Differentiating themselves from contemporaries, Bleed From Within seem to replace moments of cliche with homages. The use of driving riffs and ever changing vocal tones blended with shredding solos gives off quite an old school sound. It’s as if Bleed From Within embodies everything that a modern day metal band ‘should’, but at moments where listeners are expecting crushing breakdowns, they receive 80’s-esque speed metal solos. It’s a unique and unparalleled approach that delivers a sound metalheads from any era could relish.
As Randy admits pre-show, Lamb of God have never played an album in its entirety in a live setting, thus making the whole event even more memorable.
Seeing as the set consisted of the entire self-titled album start to finish, I’ll let you figure out the setlist.
Kicking off with the ominous introduction of ‘Memento Mori’ and the haunting mumble of Randy’s subdued vocals made me question the future direction of the Virginian juggernauts. With their music starting to incorporate moments such as these and other moments of subtle clean vocals, I wonder if other members will adopt similar routes to Mark Morton and release side material.
The shredding rock inspired beginning of ‘Checkmate’ is mesmerizing in the album so it was even more incredible to see in a live setting. As seen throughout other songs in the set, ‘Checkmate’ introduces unique moments of difference between live and an album. For instance, the harmonics used to extend the pre-breakdown build by 15 second or so forges an incredibly powerful effect.
The opening snare roll to ‘Gears’ has such an organised and meticulous manner to it, as do the fast paced isolated hi-hats in the song’s breakdown. That’s why it’s important to mention Art Cruz. Taking a fill in job in a band that is already established can at times be an extremely hard role to fill, especially when you are replacing the unmatched talent of Chris Adler. Whilst Cruz had already earned his stripes behind the kit during his years in ‘Winds of Plague’, the comfortability and precision he has brought to his new role in Lamb of God is nothing short of commendable.
‘Reality Bath’ gives a further glimpse into the melancholic and bleak mumbling approach Randy has honed. With John Campbells impressive bass work blending effortlessly with the guitar sections it is the bridge that really highlights a new approach. Not only highlighting Mark Morton’s versatility, the song’s bridge has much more of a ‘rock n roll’ feel to it. Maybe Lamb of God trying something new? Maybe the influence of some of Morton’s recent collaborations? I don’t know, but it definitely gives a huge amount of excitement to see what direction he heads in for future releases.
According to a lot of online comments ‘Resurrection Man’ was the set’s magnus opus and it’s easy to see why. The childlike xylophone sounding intro is immensely eerie and the riff has a level of grime to match. On top of that, it has such a slower tempo to the rest; as if it is slowly simmering into the epic final breakdown.
‘Routes’ has almost an old-school harcore feel to it. Its focus is more about being in your face aggressive and as a result it strips back the technicaility for a moment. It almost feels like a homage to some of the early bands that I know inspired Randy as a youngster.
The extended trip-hop styled introduction to ‘Bloodshot Eyes’ juxtaposed with certain drum fills, Randy’s mixture of sombre and at times clean vocals gives off a nü metal feel, which is something that wasn’t recognised upon just listening to the album.
By the finishing moments of ‘On The Hook’ the expectation is that the set will be cut off as abruptly as Liam Gallagher was, that’s when Randy subtly smirks and says, “This is a punk-rock song, it’s called Contractor.” If people weren’t already moshing in their living rooms the addition of this ‘Wrath’ classic would certainly have been the catalyst.
Going even further back in the band’s catalogue viewers were there treated to ‘Ruin.’ With Randy inciting “destroy your fucking house” pre-breakdown, it was truly the sets defining moment with many viewers being absolutely ecstatic at the songs inclusion.
Finishing off with ‘The Death Of Us’ from the upcoming ‘Bill and Ted’ soundtrack and ‘512’ a deeply poetic song detailing Randy’s time spent in a Czech Republic prison.
There have been a lot of live-streams during the COVID era, none nearly as personal and professional as this. I truly felt as if I was sitting in on a Lamb of God jam session. If this show was anything to go off, then next week’s ‘Ashes Of The Wake’ anniversary with support from Whitechapel is a guaranteed must-watch.