Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lamb of God - Resolution

A self fulfilling prophecy

"This is the resolution / The end of all progress"

So speaketh Randall Blythe, nine years prior to the release of 2012's Resolution.  I note this because not only is that one of the better moments of one of the better songs ("Ruin") on that particular album (As the Palaces Burn), but it also wound up being hauntingly prophetic.  I understand that not every band can be Sigh, not everybody can reinvent themselves with every album, but I also understand that not every band can be Vader either, and just pump out album after album with almost no deviation from their set formula or  experimentation apart from the odd foible once per album.  Lamb of God churned out six eh-to-good albums if you include the album released under their old name, Burn the Priest.  Each of these albums was distinct from one another, and showed the band continually growing and learning and branching out and solidifying the sound they'd become so infamous for.  Burn the Priest was raw and primal, a very rough outing from a young, hungry band, New American Gospel was dirtier, and one of the most genuine albums that the metalcore genre had ever given us, with the visceral frustration shining through with a tragic, one-of-a-kind vocal performance, As the Palaces Burn saw the band present a more song oriented album, Ashes of the Wake saw the technicality bumped up a massive amount and the sound cleaned up considerably from the intentionally harsh and sloppy production of the early albums, Sacrament marked the point where the band almost entirely dropped the concept of breakdowns and instead focused on more melodic lines and straightforward Pantera-esque groove, and lastly Wrath presented us with a renewed youth, as it was the angriest and harshest effort the band produced in nearly ten years, with Blythe's deteriorating voice showcasing more high screams and semi-clean yells.

That was a long history lesson that you didn't care about, I get that, but the point of that was to illustrate that, despite how much shit the band gets among the underground metal community, I can still point out how they had grown and evolved from each album to the next.  Resolution marks "the end of all progress" for Lamb of God.  This is the first album where I can honestly say that it sounds like they're out of ideas.  They've had the same five members since the name change, quite an admirable feat, but I can't help but feel like they've stopped pooling their different ideas from different tastes and backgrounds when it comes time to write the songs, and instead just decided "yeah this is what we sound like, let's just do that again, we can't tour in support of Wrath forever".  And so they trudged their way into the studio, with a handful of songs each member had written (since songwriting isn't as much of a collaborative effort with the band as it is just each dude writes a few songs and that's it), and in a stunning display of professionalism, decided not to cull it down to the choicest cuts and instead just recorded all four-fucking-teen of them.

Yeah, despite "only" being 50 minutes long, Resolution is a marathon listen if only by virtue of the fact that there are so many songs with so few ideas between them that you have to sit through.  From the painfully dull attempt at sounding doomy with "Straight for the Sun" to the painfully dull attempt at sounding epic with "King Me", everything about this album is painfully dull.  I know I just harped on how safe and predictable this album is and then used "doomy" and "epic" to try to describe the bookends of the album, but trust me everything else in between is a dull attempt at sounding like themselves.  The Pantera influence that became their primary outside source of inspiration around 2006 smacks you in the pie hole harder than ever here, except with Pantera's Southern edge, we're treated to the signature Lamb of God scale.  I know fuck all about theory so I can't tell you what mode it's in or what scale they rape all the time, but if you've ever heard a Lamb of God song before, you know what that particular sound is.  "The Undertow" here is based on a riff that I could swear was featured on at least three different songs on Ashes of the Wake

The saddest part about that is that "The Undertow" is one of the better songs off the album.  Lamb of God has always kind of been a "hit single" type band, with each album having a few obvious standouts that become singles and live staples, while the rest of the album will feel rushed and partially uninspired.  I like every previous release by the band, and I can still acknowledge this obvious problem in their career.  Resolution is no exception, it's front loaded with all of the good songs ("Desolation", "Guilty", and "The Undertow") in the first third while the rest of the album is left to flop around helplessly like a fish out of water as it tries desperately to repeat the past success they once so easily reaped.  "The Number Six" and "Insurrection" mess around with these awful nu-metally passages that had absolutely no chance of succeeding within the confines of the songs, so those stand out in a negative way, as does literally every other song I haven't already mentioned by name.  The first time I heard the advance single, "Ghost Walking", I immediately declared the album dead on arrival, as I knew the band had a knack for promoting their best songs, and if this was the best their longest album to date had to offer, I knew for sure it wouldn't be worth an established fan's time.  That song alone is indicative of almost the entire album.  Chris Adler (the one member of the band that even detractors can usually freely admit is stellar) just baps away at his drumset with almost no creativity, no interesting fills or patters, he just goes through the motions along with the riffs, which are also completely phoned in groove metal riffsets taken straight off the shelf.  "Invictus", "Cheated", "Visitation", "To the End", all of these songs can be described exactly the same way.  It's the sound of a band getting older and more robotic and just going through the motions.  There's almost no fire left anymore.

The key word in there is "almost", as those three good songs I mentioned are all fiery as hell and rock like nobody's business.  "Desolation" is easily the choicest cut on the album, being strongly reminiscent of the band's most tragically underappreciated track, "Beating on Death's Door".  It's a fast paced, semi-thrashy track that takes the element of groove and speeds it up far faster than it should logically be grooving.  "Guilty" and "The Undertow" are more in line with their heavy grooves and catchiness being blended with exhilarating intensity and a blistering drum performance.  Lamb of God has always been known for their simplistic straightforwardness (as misleading as that is, really), but I felt the band was always at their best when kicking up the tempo past the easily digestible mark.  I love "Laid to Rest" and "Hourglass" as much as any other fan should, but there's an inimitable charm to their over-the-top fast songs like "Forgotten", "Purified" or of course, "Beating on Death's Door".  These three songs fit into that category of the specific substyle of LoG song that I adore so much, and for that reason alone, Resolution isn't a complete embarrassment.

But it's pretty close to complete.  It's clear to me and to many others that the band was pretty much sapped at this point, just phoning in a new album to give them an excuse to hit the road again.  Perhaps the recent arrest of Randy Blythe could spark a new flame within the band to reignite their passion that Resolution so blatantly lacks.  As it stands, this could be either the death knell for their career or the unfortunate stinker in their discography.  I'd prefer it to be the latter, but with the constant in-fighting and tension within the band (each new album since 2006 has been coupled with me proclaiming my surprise that they managed to not break up yet) I suspect that Lamb of God's reign on mainstream metal may soon be coming to a close.  Easily skippable, if not for "Desolation" at the very least.

RATING - 36%

1 comment:

  1. It's disappointing to me that after five solid-to-great albums, this is what #6 sounds like. I guess they're not going to top "Ashes of the Wake" after all.