This year marks Lamb of God’s 18th birthday – counting their fledgling days as Burn The Priest – and the band’s nothing if not persistent, earning their massive fan-base the old-fashioned way: by absolutely refusing to play anything but eardrum-pounding, southern-fried Groove Metal. Not to say the band hasn’t evolved, but by this point they know exactly what their fans want, and how to subtly tweak the formula with each subsequent release. Shedding even 2009 release Wrath’s more melodic ambitions, Resolution takes Lamb of God to heavier planes without sacrificing listenability or their trademark grooving stomp and, as they clearly intend, effectively bolts another layer on top of their established reputation. They certainly aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here (though singer Randy Blythe apparently wants to reinvent America), but what results is rock-solid, comfortable Lamb of God that proves as accessible an entry point for neophyte fans as it does a new idol for their legions of followers to worship.
Resolution isn’t a concept work, it isn’t Lamb of God’s exciting new progressive album, and it certainly isn’t paying Christian Metal any accidental homage when it exclaims “I’ve held the hand of God and I’ve sung the Devil’s song” (“To The End”). It’s mostly unpretentious, mildly political, and generally misanthropic towards those people it feels to be disingenuous or socially parasitic; in other words, it’s a Lamb Of God album. “Straight For The Sun” kicks the album off with a pair of vocal cannon-volleys courtesy of Randy Blythe while sludging guitars meander underneath, and stomps slower than anything to follow (save intermission/breathing break “Barabarosa” halfway through). “Shoot me straight for the sun/I wanna be the only one left/Misdiagnosed condition/Burnt beyond recognition” Blythe screams in a voice like a white-noise battering ram, and Resolution holds the fort, stylistically and sonically, from there. “Desolation” follows and doubles the opener’s tempo, lashing out at double-speak when it screeches “Spoken sideways and indirect/Without a single word left unchecked” – it’s hard not to get caught up in the energy when they roar “All that for nothing what a fucking waste of time” (the first of many punky chants that pass for choruses on Resolution). “Ghost Walking” has a really neat acoustic opener, and then crushing technical drumming and riffage (and a wild music video). “Guilty” is structured like a hardcore punk track (as is “Cheated”) with added crushing technical drumming and riffage. “The Number Six” actually has a sung chorus, which ought to remind you of Mastodon, but can’t help feeling a bit cheap after all the brutality of the other tracks (especially when “Terminally Unique”, which also has a chorus, bounces bass-guitar off the walls so nicely)… however, of course, it too features crushing technical drumming and riffage, rescuing the track.
So, yes, it all sounds pretty similar – thankfully, that doesn’t result in sheer repetition, which is what Resolution could very easily have done had it not insisted upon subtle stylistic oscillation between tracks. “Ghost Walking”’s acoustic opener works, it’s a 5-second oasis from all the double-kicks. “The Number Six”’s sung chorus isn’t doing it for me, but the spoken-word sections that mute the rest of the band work really well. Even the album’s progressive(!), bizarre, and self-attacking closer “King Me” proves a brief foil to the rest of the album, incorporating everything from female choral vocals (!!) to, apparently, a string orchestra (?!). Amazingly, those all work, though it gets a tad self-indulgent during the spoken word sections – which is exactly why Lamb of God has the good sense to cut them short, stomping the monologue out with a surprise riff-drop. It works and it’s surprising, and of course it doesn’t hurt that their collective metal virtuosity is always going to trump whatever stylistic decisions don’t quite stick.
Resolution is clearly designed for a particular listener in mind, and that listener likely already owns Lamb of God albums. Resolution sprawls, and non-metal listeners will most definitely have issues picking out each track’s eccentricities; it feels overlong and could stand to lose a couple of those back seven tracks. “King Me”’s general oddness could have been expanded to great effect (at the expense of Resolution’s focus), and the ‘big three’ stylistic tracks that form the album’s core (“Guilty”, “The Undertow” and “The Number Six”) may not necessarily stick for you – I know they didn’t overly impress me (which is why “Ghost Walking” and “Terminally Unique” exist). That said, “Invictus” has a hell of a guitar solo, Lamb of God know exactly what their fans want, and they’ve delivered a cleanly-produced, punishing product, no frills attached. Do you like crushing American metal with a heavy groove and shout/mosh-along choruses? You’re in good hands.
Published right here, January 2012