Back in 1994, in the city of Richmond, Virginia, the heavy metal band Burn The Priest was formed. With a line-up of guitarists Mark Morton and Abe Spear, drummer Chris Adler, bassist John Campbell and singer Randy Blythe, the band released its self-titled debut album in 1999.
Following the album’s release Spear left the band, replaced by drummer Adler’s brother Willie. With this new line-up the band signed a new record deal and changed the band name to Lamb Of God.
Between 2000 and 2012 Lamb Of God released six further studio albums as their profile and popularity gradually increased globally.
The band’s future came under threat during their tour to promote their “Resolution” album when, whilst arriving in the Czech Republic to play a concert in Prague in June 2012, singer Blythe was arrested by local police and charged with manslaughter.
This related to the death of a nineteen year old fan who had tried to clamber onto the stage at a concert the band had performed in Prague in 2010. Blythe had thrown the fan, Daniel Nosek, off the stage and, unbeknownst to Blythe, Nosek had suffered injuries resulting in a coma and then his death. In the subsequent trial Blythe was found not to be criminally liable for Nosek’s death, but morally responsible.
Blythe’s experiences of prison whilst held in the Czech Republic as well as the more general theme of how people react to things under extreme conditions influenced the lyrical direction of the new album (albeit expressed in rather general rather than specific terms), titled “VII : Strum Und Drang”.
For lead single “Still Echoes”, for example, the inspiration was the history of Pankrác Prison, about which Blythe says “there was a guillotine right down the hall from me, from when the Nazis had the prison. From 1943 to 1945 they executed almost 2,000 people by the guillotine, because it was cheaper than shooting and quicker than hanging… I sat there at night, and I’d think about all those dudes that got their heads chopped off – men and women – in that place not too far from me.”
“Anthropoid”, meanwhile, is about the Butcher of Prague, Reinhard Heydrich, and was written as a kind of tribute to the men involved in the assassination of Heydrich – codenamed Operation Anthropoid”.
By contrast “Overlord” looks at how in today’s me, me, me, now, now, now society an increasing number of people are unable to see past their own issues and comparatively trivial problems and take on board the bigger picture.
The record as a whole is, for me, a step up from “Resolution” in quality and consistency. Although he has mixed up his delivery by adding some clean vocals to the usual roar, you can feel anger and anguish seeping through your speakers from Blythe’s vocals and the intensity doesn’t end there.
Chris Adler’s drumming is remarkable in attack and technique and the double guitar attack of Morton and Willie Adler has plenty of groove to go with the heaviness (and let’s not overlook Campbell anchoring everything with his impressive bass playing. Ferocious and yet focussed.
So, which are the best tracks? Well, for me, I would have to at this point go for opener “Still Echoes”, “Footprints”, “Delusion Pandemic”, “Torches”, “Overlord” and “Anthropoid”, but every track is worthy of its inclusion on this superb Lamb Of God record…
“VII : Sturm Und Drang” tracklist:
1. Still Echoes / 2. Erase This / 3. 512 / 4. Embers / 5. Footprints / 6. Overlord / 7. Anthropoid / 8. Engage The Fear Machine / 9. Delusion Pandemic / 10. Torches / 11. Wine And Piss / 12. Nightmare Seeker (The Little Red House)