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Lamb Of God interview

| January 30, 2009

Lamb Of God
Grrrs On Film


Anthrax? Check. Slayer? Check. Megadeth? Checkaroonie. That’s three of thrash metal’s iconic “Big Four,” and Lamb Of God has traveled with each on separate occasions – three heroes turned tourmates.

Appearing: Friday, May 1st at Congress Theatre in Chicago.

It goes without saying there’s one big name missing, though. The biggest, in fact.

“We weren’t going to tour at all [last] year, and we said we won’t go unless Metallica comes calling,” frontman Randy Blythe says from his Virginia home, fresh from visiting the dentist and the Department Of Motor Vehicles. “And they came. At first there was a schedule conflict because we had to finish our record, so we said we couldn’t do it. Then things got rearranged, and they were gracious enough to fit us in.”

With that, Lamb Of God, modern-day thrash/speed metal flag bearer, did a two-and-a-half-week direct-support stint for Metallica, the genre’s bellwether, and completed the Circle Of The Big Four, so to speak.

“It’s fucking amazing to us,” Blythe raves.

The biggest surprise of the Metallica tour for Blythe? James, Lars, Kirk, and Rob’s just-one-of-the-guys personalities. “They come by and are like, ‘Is it cool if we hang out with you guys for a little bit?’ ‘No! Get the fuck out; leave us alone,'” he jokes. “They’re just totally regular dudes. We’ve toured with bands that weren’t as big as them, and there was more ego involved. These guys were totally, totally down to earth, totally mellow, and it was a real pleasure to be out on the road with them.”

“That went really well,” bassist John Campbell says while his dog, apparently fending off a package-delivery person, yaps in the background. “Those guys are really, really nice, friendly dudes. We’ve toured with a lot of bands over the years, they’re definitely the biggest band we’ve ever played shows with, and they were real available and friendly and stickin’ their heads in our dressing room and sayin’, ‘Hey, what’s up’ and goin’ out for drinks after the show or dinner and whatnot.”

The bassist and the frontman admit it wouldn’t take much persuading for Lamb Of God (completed by drummer Chris Adler and guitarists Mark Morton and Adler’s brother, Willie) to hit the road with any one of those bands again (“I’d love to go back for more,” Campbell says), but it’s tough to imagine the (mostly) Richmond, Virginia-based quintet opening for anyone anytime soon after Wrath, its sixth full-length (third for Epic), is released February 24th.

There’s a moment during Lamb Of God’s 2008 Walk With Me In Hell DVD (more on the band’s fascinating film career later) where Chris Adler, knowingly or not, provides a nearly perfect summarization of his band’s career trajectory to that point.

“We’re no longer that kind of underdog metal band that everyone roots for,” he says as the two-disc, five-hour documentary kicks off. “We’re now the target. It’s almost . . . we’ve set ourselves up for people almost wanting us to fail.”

Before 2006’s Sacrament, Lamb Of God was a proven metal commodity, a known name capable of headlining club tours and landing choice spots on arena jaunts with acts like Slipknot. Its first two records under the LOG moniker (it released a self-titled, self-released album as Burn The Priest in 1998), the Steve Austin-produced New American Gospel (Metal Blade) and the Devin Townsend-helmed As The Palaces Burn (Prosthetic), earned enough critical acclaim and scene buzz to make the majors pay notice, and hardly more than a year after Palaces, Lamb Of God released its Epic debut, Ashes Of The Wake. In a time when the closest things to real-life heavy metal major labels offered were nu-metal survivors like Disturbed or weightroom hard rock such as Godsmack, Ashes was a cluster bomb dumped on the industry – heavier, faster, louder, and scarier than anything else.

Yet, somehow this piece of sharp, smoldering scrap metal debuted at Number 27 on the Billboard chart, paving the way for LOG’s big – Billboard top 10 – breakthrough with Sacrament. Just two years prior to that, the group was the third from last band on Ozzfest’s second stage; a year after Sacrament was released it played the main stage – right before Ozzy. Suddenly it, along with peers Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage, was being called the savior of U.S. metal. The term New Wave Of American Heavy Metal was coined, and Lamb Of God was deemed its leader. It was a position Chris Adler neither accepted nor denied when he spoke to Illinois Entertainer in 2006.

“I think it’s extremely flattering that we’re in the position we’re in,” he said. “We make the music we like; we don’t necessarily make music we think is going to sell to everyone in the U.S. We’re not trying to break down every wall and barrier for this kind of music.”

Sacrament hardly broke barriers, but it definitely proved Lamb Of God is capable of making great records. The New Wave Of American Heavy Metal ended up being a short-lived, media-invented movement (Killswitch Engage turned out to be merely a slightly better-than-average metalcore band, and Shadows Fall released merely a slightly below-average major-label debut in ’07), but LOG was legit. Blythe, Campbell, Morton, and the Adlers streamlined arrangements, tightened songwriting, and created accessible material without sacrificing the blunt heaviness and frantic speed that defined them. Songs like “Again We Rise,” “Redneck,” and “Forgotten (Lost Angels”) had real-life, honest-to-goodness choruses, not because Blythe “sold out” and started singing, but because he honed his instrument. Before Sacrament, Blythe was an additional piece of percussion, barking in syncopation with the drums, but that album featured a newfound skill to pitch his screams and subsequently create memorable vocal lines.

On Walk With Me In Hell‘s “Making Of Sacrament” extra, Campbell had no quarrels calling the album the best Lamb Of God had recorded. Because there isn’t a “Making Of Wrath,” we just flat out asked Campbell if he would say the same thing about the newest addition to the band’s catalog.

“I definitely would,” he answers immediately. “The studio work we did, we strove to be a band in the studio and not get heavy on the production. We wanted it to sound raw, but not flimsy. I think we have managed to keep our score good with putting out a record that tops what we put out previous.”

Blythe, it seems, doesn’t spend much time comparing and contrasting the group’s work, and, no offense to his bassist (we think), won’t use “best.” “I hesitate to make that statement because I’m just so fucking sick of hearing bands say it,” he claims. “I’m over it. Every release, of course you’re going to say that, but I really don’t give a fuck. It’s like, that’s just such a pat answer, and it’s the easy answer, and I don’t like the easy way.

“I don’t know, it’s weird: I don’t sit around and analyze our music. I never ever fucking listen to it, ever. I hate listening to our music. I’ll listen to it, maybe the whole record, maybe once, in my career,” he says with a chuckle.

He does, however, agree with Campbell’s assessment of the album’s production.

“I think with Sacrament, one thing that really gave it sort of an accessibility was the production value. That was a pretty heavily produced record. This one is a little bit more immediate – a little bit more in-your-face. There’s more of a human element to the record, I believe. All the takes aren’t completely run through . . . ” he pauses. “Everything was run through Protools, but not everything was taken to pieces. There’s a lot more complete takes in there.”

— Trevor Fisher

For the rest of the story, grab the February issue of Illinois Entertainer, available for free throughout Chicagoland.


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