It takes a few listens of Sacrament to fully understand the band's approach to music. There are a lot of tempo changes in the music, a lot of double bass from Modern Drummer magazine's award-winning drummer Chris Adler, dizzying guitar riffs from Willie Adler and Mark Morton, a bottom-line groove from John Campbell and vocalist D. Randall Blythe, who likes to toggle between regular vocals and a death metal screech a la Cradle Of Filth.
When Blythe is not screeching, his Phil Anselmo-style gutteral growl would fit nicely into Pantera's The Great Southern Trendkill. The lyrics Blythe sings are at least as confrontational: "So goddamn easy to write this / you make it spill on the page / so drunk on your self, self-righteous / the laughing stock of your own fucking stage," Blythe declares on "Rednecks," peppering the song with the angst and hostility of betrayal.
In "Forgotten (Lost Angels)," Blythe declares war on the forces in life that assault his drive to succeed and confronts his internal demons, with lines like "better to die quick fighting on your feet / then to live forever begging on your knees." In "Blacken The Cursed Sun," he declares with conviction that "I will kill this part of myself that I hate / and that I see in you / it was always mine anyway / there's some things you can't take away."
What appeals to me the most about Lamb Of God is the lack of filler. From "Walk with Me in Hell" through "Beating on Death's Door," the lame tracks and wimpy experimentation that clutter some metal albums (Metallica's "Mama Said," anyone?) are not here. Each song offers a unique element of music to keep the listener interested, but all have that one hook: an outstanding Adler drum fill, a strong message, a solid groove that waits until you're comfortable and then switches up without warning. "Descending" does this with ease as it goes from an opening onslaught to a half-time feel before accelerating the tempo with rumbling double bass and the snare on an odd beat.
Lamb Of God is a true metal band, a welcome addition to the metal genre because, at its core, it provokes confrontation from you and demands a reaction. The band rips through its material without yielding a ballad or anything approaching radio-friendly pablum. In a sense, they are the modern-day Slayer, building a following with constant touring and a musical vision that is both aggressive and thought-provoking. And the band rarely gives in to outside pressure; its one compromise was changing its name from Burn the Priest.
While the debut New American Gospel was an all-out raw and brutal display of intensity, the follow-up Ashes At The Wake expanded the band's style to include more mature and sophisticated material. This third album delivers even better. While the Adler brothers will not become a household name like Van Halen, it doesn't really matter. With Sacrament, the band has created its best material yet.