Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lamb of God - Resolution Album Review

Lamb of God, if you count their days as Burn the Priest, have been around since 1990. Of course, Lamb of God proper didn't unleash their first album until 2000 in the form of New American Gospel, which set the groundwork for the rest of the band's popular career. Five albums later, on their sixth full length Resolution, Lamb of God looks to have reached a crucial point in their career that will potentially define where the band heads in the future.

Much like any band that's been around for quite some time and amassed a number of fans, it can be tough to radically change your sound. Look at what happened to Machine Head when they went nu-metal or Megadeth when they went radio rock with Risk. No great or popular band is completely isolated from making a misstep here or there. Both of the aforementioned bands made stellar comebacks after their weakest moments, proving that one error doesn't necessarily end your career.

This brings us to Resolution which, unfortunately, seems to be Lamb of God's St. Anger. I'm sure there are screams proclaiming blasphemy resonating from Lamb of God fans everywhere, but I think this is a very valid comparison, although I would definitely take Resolution over St. Anger any day. In fact, the career arc of Lamb of God closely resembles that of Metallica. Both started out raw, filled with aggression, and fueled by anger. Eventually Metallica softened and indulged in a glossier sound with their black album, much like Lamb of God's Sacrament. Over time both bands tried to dive back into their earlier sound, with Metallica outright failing on St. Anger and Lamb of God showing some promise, as well as significant weakness, on Wrath.

The leak of Resolution that hit the internet a week or so ago was heavily criticized because of the poor sound quality. Fans were sure that it had to be a rip of an unmastered copy of the album, which it most likely was, but even after hearing the mastered retail version, this is the rawest Lamb of God has sounded on any of their albums. Your first thought may be that this is a good thing--they're getting back to their roots--but getting back to your roots is never as easy as everyone assumes. The rawness detracts from the album as much as it adds to it. Yes, the glossy sound of Sacrament may have softened the band, but much like St. Anger this raw sound doesn't come across as the right type of "raw."

Randy Blythe's vocals are hurt the most by the band's choice to strip things down. His yells sound a bit more strained and less authoritative than in the past. His voice is still recognizable for most of the songs, but at times he comes across somewhat generically as he tries to rely less on his previously unique southern metalcore vocal approach. Some songs, such as "The Number Six," really stand out as showing him straining a bit too far away from his strengths.

The rest of the band don't fare too much better, with the drums (most notably the cymbals) seeming to lack punch and the guitars not being as thick as in the past. The band does sound much more "live" than on any of their other albums, and their thrash meets groove meets Pantera sound is as well put together as on Wrath, but this outing simply feels a bit more unfinished than it should.

Lamb of God fans should be ok with where the band is heading, but there might be some seeds of worry planted after hearing this quite lengthy release (it's nearly 60 minutes and could have been pined down to a stronger 45 or so). This feels like a temporary misstep for the band as they reorient themselves and figure out how to best move forward. If they can harness the energy and aggression of this release and also put on just enough polish, their next release can easily be their Death Magnetic or The Blackening or The System Has Failed.

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