New American Gospel
Metal Blade Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/27/2000
In the world of heavy metal, it always seems like there's a game of one-upmanship when it comes to releasing the most aggressive, loudest, fastest form of music ever to walk the planet. Sometimes, a band gets it right, and is able to shred my eardrums before I can even get the shrinkwrap off of the CD case. Other times, a band nails things on one aspect, but falters in everything else, such as songwriting or musicianship.
In the case of Lamb Of God (formerly known as Burn The Priest), they do something which is interesting in the whole scene. They focus strictly on the intensity of their music, and if speed or volume happen to come with it, all the better. On their debut disc, New American Gospel, they prove that they have the aggression down perfectly, even if the listener occasionally wishes there were a little more to the music than that.
The band - vocalist D. Randall Blythe, guitarists Will Adler and Duane (no last name is given), bassist John Campbell and drummer Chris Adler - take a simple approach to their songwriting and playing: pour every single emotion you feel into your performance, and see what happens. The end result is surprisingly good, though I will admit that things started to sound the same the more the disc progressed. (Memo to Chris Adler: Sorry I didn't get a chance to hook up with you in Chicago. Next time you come through, I'll be there with two bags of Fritos Scoops.)
There is only one drawback I can see to Lamb Of God's aggressive style: I wasn't able to decipher a single word that Blythe screamed into his microphone. Sometimes, I kind of wished that I knew what was going on lyrically, if only to further intensify the raw, unpolished emotion that Blythe and his bandmates were pouring into each track.
Still, it's hard to fault the band, as tracks such as "Black Label," "Letter To The Unborn," "Pariah" and "The Black Dahlia" all grab the listener and pound them into submission for the better part of 45 minutes. Musically, the band is powerful and tight, though sometimes I did find myself wishing that either Will Adler or Duane would cut loose with a blistering guitar solo.
As powerful as New American Gospel is, it also is tough to keep such a level of intensity up for the length of an album, and while tracks like "Confessional" and "O.D.H.G.A.B.F.E." (don't ask me what it stands for, I don't know) are hardly light-weight when it comes to power, they follow in the same mold as the bulk of this disc, and a little bit of the intensity is lost in the translation. Still, for a first effort, I'm not complaining at all.
New American Gospel is the kind of disc you will want to put on when you want to release all sorts of pent-up anger and depression. In the end, this disc serves as a musical purge for both the band members and the listeners - and, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't a terrible path to walk.