The party line on Virginia's Lamb of God (formerly known as Burn the Priest) is that it's a true American heavy-metal band. Part of it is the sound -- you can hear that blue-collar work ethic in the jackhammer-strength precision riffing -- and part of it is the attitude. The band's European counterparts incite fear by blast-beating their way through mythical fjords or placate both god and the devil with melodic thrash, but Lamb of God just sounds genuinely pissed off, in the way that only a bunch of disgruntled, beer-swilling Southerners can.
On Sacrament, the band members preach the same breakdown-driven American metal gospel they've cultivated over their last four albums. There are subtle refinements, like the melodic grandiosity that envelops "Walk With Me in Hell" and "Descending," and D. Randall Blythe's ever-improving vocal range. For the most part, though, Sacrament's razor-wire riffs cut, grind and spit with no more or less fury than previous albums.
Consistency ain't a bad thing when the riffs are as well-constructed as Lamb of God's usually are, but by this point in the band's career, it's fair to expect more than just quality chug-fests. The band members seem to know that, and you can hear them stretching for streamlined singles on "Redneck" and "Pathetic." Trouble is, the more they go for the prize, the more they sound like a defanged Pantera. Not a bad target, just that with the exception of Blythe's soot-covered pipes, Sacrament is a little too clean to muster the violent sensuality that was Pantera's trademark.
Part of the problem is the production. Thankfully, producer Machine doesn't spitshine Sacrament to a clinical sheen as he did on 2004's Ashes of the Wake, but he carves the meat off of Mark Morton's and Willie Adler's wrist-snapping guitars, exposing a muscular yet sanitized (and surprisingly un-heavy) sound underneath. What we end up with is a record that sounds safer than it actually is. Lamb of God hasn't given up its seat as the premiere American metal band, but if this is what bucket loads of cash buy for a group of this caliber, let's hope that not too many more heavy metal acts take the major-label plunge.
Label: http://www.epicrecords.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/lambofgod
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