It’s been both exciting and heartening to watch Lamb of God‘s steep rise to international fame. Not since Pantera nearly 20 years ago have a band achieved such acclaim without compromising any of their integrity or trademark brutality in order to get there. Heavy airplay of singles ‘Laid To Rest’ and ‘Redneck’, along with incredibly consistent albums have lifted the band high above their contemporaries and onto the next level of success, including a Grammy nomination in 2008. Having knocked it out of the park with opus Wrath, many felt that the volatile Virginians were one step away from something huge. December marked the announcement of Resolution, the band’s 6th album under their current name, and with Randy Blythe sober and the sharpest he’s been, the anticipation was huge.
Resolution opens with a fist to the jaw in the form of ‘Straight To The Sun’, a pure doom song that rumbles with malevolence under Randy’s scabrous vocals. A shot from left-field from the guys, and the first of a good few middle fingers in the face of those who claim the band are one-dimensional. Building speed into the Chris Adler-led ‘Desolation’, Lamb of God take off the brakes and let the riffs fly. We’ve all heard ‘Ghost Walking’ by now, and though it bears a passing resemblance to mega-hit ‘Redneck’, the countrified intro and neck snapping groove set it apart from anything on Sacrament. I’ll not be the first or the last to say it, but Randy Blythe sounds almost inhuman over the entirety of Resolution. From the opening scream right the way to the end of the album, the growls are deeper, the highs are ear splitting, and the cleans (!) on ‘Insurrection’ are perfectly placed. Some argue that sobriety can spoil an artist’s creativity, but a spate of clean living has given a new lease of life to one of metal’s most aggressive sounding vocalists.
A great vocalist alone does not a great album make however, and the rhythm section is integral to the success of the band’s sound. Guitarists Wille Adler and Mark Morton have a great symbiosis in that it’s impossible to tell who wrote their signature fret-burning licks, and Chris Adler is one of a rare breed of drummers that you can recognise from their style. Though it’s been a gradual progression, bassist John Campbell has really asserted himself over the last few albums, and Resolution is most certainly his opus. Adding layers of sound underneath the complex brooding of ‘The Number Six’, and powering along the bass-heavy ‘Invictus’, Campbell has really asserted himself here. A fantastic first half is rounded off by ‘Cheated’, where Lamb of God nod to their hardcore influences. Starting with a “One, two, fuck you!” and snarling through the chorus of “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”, a tip of the hat to the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten, it’s a pure adrenaline ride.
But it’s following this that the sheen comes off Resolution. Perhaps it’s the quality of the songs that preceded them, but the next 4 tracks leading up to ‘King Me’ just seem to be lacking something that we know LoG can provide. On multiple listens, the tracks have the misfortune of just blending into one another. Though ‘Visitation’ has to be the strongest of the four, when you compare it to monsters like ‘The Undertow’, you can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
Until, that is, you are blessed with ‘King Me’. Building with malignant, evil clean guitars and Randy’s grizzled, gravelly spoken-word vocals into a spectacular orchestral arrangement that is as dramatic as anything any orchestra has put their name to. It’s an epic, glorious ending track that is most definitely one of the best tracks the band have ever put their name to, despite it being a real risk in terms of their sound.
It has to be said that this is genuinely a great album. Had this been a debut or perhaps released in the place of 2009′s Wrath, I feel I would have been much more enamoured with it. However, what I was expecting was Lamb of God ‘s own The Blackening, a record that took everything that they’ve done and pushed it to the next level. Instead, Resolution continues their trend of really solid albums that don’t quite ascend into that upper echelons of albums that will be remembered forever.