Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: July 24th, 2015, via Epic Records
Sturm Und Drang: a German literary movement characterised by the works ability to evoke a strong emotional response, often involving one’s internal revolt against authority. When translated into English, it directly means “storm and urge”. A fitting title for Lamb Of God’s newest record. Since the release of their previous album, Resolution, frontman Randy Blythe has gone through a living hell after being charged with manslaughter for an accidental incident at a concert in the Czech Republic and a subsequent stint in prison. Blythe has recently documented it all in his new book, Dark Days: A Memoir. The lasting effects of Blythe’s trial have obviously had an impact on the album, but VII: Sturm Und Drang is not a “prison album”, as Blythe commented it is written more “about things that affect me very deeply” which has allowed for different political and social themes to shape the record.
There is no gentle lead in, nor a slight build up to it. From the opening notes of “Still Echoes”, Lamb Of God has begun their bombastic sonic assault on the airwaves. I can’t help but crank the volume up to an obnoxious level. This simply isn’t made to be listened to quietly, or without even mildly head banging, even as I write this at my desk. “Erase This” features two guitar solos, one, a slower, more melodic passage played through a distorted wah petal, and the other, a very cleanly played, shredding solo. Both contrasted nicely with the heavy textures of “Erase This”, adding a different dimension to the song. The ever so haunting “512” is likely the song most directly correlated to Blythe’s man slaughter trial as cell 512 was where he was placed. It was there he started writing “512”, which lyrically, examines Blythe’s mental shift and diminishing future through the bars of a Czech Republic prison.
“Embers” is a song which I would claim to be one of the best VII: Sturm Und Drang has to offer. The song features slightly cleaner screams and a catchy chorus. The chorus raises the song to a higher level of intensity, which is amplified when Deftones frontman, Chino Moreno, comes in during the bridge section, singing in a semi call and response fashion with Blythe. “Overlord” is certainly another highlight and the biggest sign of evolution in Lamb Of God’s traditional sound. “Overlord” is the first song to feature nearly completely clean vocals from Blythe, allowing for the song to take on a more melodic, melancholy feel. This softer side, while not quite metal (except for the explosive bridge section) is still heavy enough to be considered hard rock, something I think they should experiment much further. Blythe has stated he doesn’t wish to continue only screaming, claiming “We just do what we do. I give absolutely zero thought to whether what I’m doing is going to piss off fans. And I think our fans respect us because of that”. This is Lamb Of God making music for their own desire rather than for that of their audience, and often when band’s do that, it leads to beautiful things, in this case, “Overlord”.
I’m not quite sure what it is, but there has always been something about Lamb Of God’s work that has stood out to me. I normally don’t listen to metal bands like this, where the emphasis is often placed more on creating a thick wave of distortion and screaming at pitches and volumes which create a raspy, deathly howl, but Lamb Of God has always been an exception to this. On paper, I shouldn’t like them, but their music captures a certain state of vulnerability and overall rawness, and the intelligence of Blythe’s lyrics and overall musicality of the band make for a metal experience I can enjoy. VII: Sturm Und Drang is no different from that. It is difficult to resist the sheer relentlessness found in songs like “Still Echoes”, “Torches” (which features The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato) , and “Engage The Fear Machine” along with examples of such sophisticated metal as heard in “Embers” and “Overlord”. The record demonstrates the band can still pump out heavy, hard hitting thrashers, while also showing signs of evolution by including more melodic compositions. The fusion of the two elements is often something neglected in the likes of this style of metal, but Lamb Of God do it so damn well, that it leaves me excited for what future direction they embark on when it comes to writing their next album. VII: Sturm Und Drang is a modern day metal masterpiece, worthy of equal praise to classic metal records by artists of iconic status of the likes of Black Sabbath, Pantera, and Metallica.
1: Still Echoes
2: Erase This
4: Embers (Featuring Chino Moreno)
8: Engage The Fear Machine
9: Delusion Pandemic
10: Torches (Featuring Greg Puciato)