Musically, the album takes a split approach between covering new ground and keeping it familiar. It isn’t different enough for example from their previous two albums that you could say it’s a break from the norm, but there are certainly moments on it you haven’t heard before. The band are no strangers to slow thoughtful intros or bigger scale album closers, but even at that this album contains more melody, slow parts and subtlety than some of their previous work. It also isn’t the first time they’ve had guest stars, (just ask Chris Poland, Steve Austin and Devin Townsend), but Deftones’ Chino Morino and Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato both appear on this record and deliver nifty performances than breath fresh new life into proceedings (and luckily on two of the already best tracks of the record). As you can see, its new ground but simultaneously very familiar.
‘Overlord’ is an interesting one, because it isn’t the kind of final epic closer like ‘King Me’ or ‘Reclamation’ from previous records where you’d expect more pronounced dynamics and a few less-heavy vocals. It’s a mid-album track with a lot of melody from Blythe and no orchestration or drama to justify it to the die-hard “I Only Like Brutal Music” section of the crowd. I could see a portion of the fanbase call it a bit of a sell-out… well, apart from the thrashy fast paced end of the song that is just about the best part of the whole record that is.
The bulk of the album, the ‘normal’ Lamb Of God songs, are all exactly what you want from the band. You get aggressive, angry 3-4 minute songs with Thrash and Groove roots, modern sensibilities, and a technical but not showy approach, all topped off with furious barking. Its good. It Lamb Of God doing what they do. If you want more of that, get this album, don’t worry that its turned into something you don’t want, or that its become a cheesy guest-spot fest with every man and his dog clogging up the runtime making it feel disjointed or not like a proper album.
The interesting backstory, the excellent guest-spots and the few innovations do make this an album that you can tell future fans to check out when they get into the band and wonder what to look at first, and the album is a good album in and of itself… but one thing I would say is that just purely in terms of songwriting, there was nothing that jumped out at me on first listen and made me feel “well that’s going straight into a greatest hits playlist right now,” nor anything that made me say “I can’t wait to see them play THAT ONE live” and nothing that made me want to listen to it six times in a row. There was no super special song like the first time I heard ‘Contractor’ or ‘To The End’ or ‘Ruin’ where I just got blown away. Its all very good, don’t get me wrong, but even after a long while of getting into the album and letting it sit with me, I haven’t got a new favourite Lamb Of God song contender. The band are maintaining their high standard, but they aren’t necessarily improving or blowing minds this time (and to be fair it is an impossible task for a band who’ve did it so many times already).
In summary; this is a good Lamb Of God album, arguably not their very best ever, but rock solid and certainly a worthy addition to your collection that gives you what you want stylistically but with enough unique selling points to not make you feel like you’ve heard it all before.