It is not an exaggeration to say that VII: Sturm Und Drang is by far the most important album of Lamb of God's career. Richmond, Virgina's favourite metal export have had an incredibly tumultuous last couple of years thanks to Randy Blythe's well documented imprisonment in the Czech Republic's Pankrác Prison and subsequent acquittal. Copious amounts of both time and money were lost to the band as a result of those events, but what it has provided are life experiences and a tremendous amount of varying emotions for the band, and as a result plenty of source material for Sturm Und Drang.
Across the album there is a palpable sense that this is an album that the band couldn't wait to unleash to the world. The opening track, Still Echoes, is Randy Blythe at his lyrical best as he reflects on the place of his incarceration while the riffs soar and Chris Adler thunders away behind the drum kit with his usual metronomic precision. Erase This packs the impact of a cyclone, while 512 takes us back to the world of Pankrác. Named after Randy's cell number, it's foreboding guitar tone expresses a dark undercurrent throughout, capturing the mood of it's subject matter perfectly.
The guest turns on Sturm Und Drang will be well received, in particular Deftones' Chino Moreno who's cameo interlaces wonderfully with Randy's harsher vocals on Embers. The closing track, Torches has the album's second guest, The Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato, and with an Iron Maidenesque opening the song sees Lamb of God experimenting with their sound to great effect. Meanwhile, back in more traditional Lamb of God territory, Footprints is a song that metaphorically grabs you by the throat and throws you against the wall with it's cries of "How the f*** did you think this would end?!"
The highlight (difficult to pick on an album bursting with quality throughout) is the controversial Overlord. Some Lamb of God fans will be aghast at the mere thought of Randy Blythe using clean vocals. But here they are used to great understated effect, building to the second half of the track where Lamb of God let rip as they rarely have before (the breakdown in Wrath's "Contractor" is perhaps the closest comparison).
The title of this album literally translates to "Storm and Stress". It's hard to find a more fitting short summary to describe the most recent period of Lamb of God's history, but they have endured and this album is the start of the next chapter. It's arguably the most consistent album of the band's career to date. Every member is at the very top of their game, with even Chris Adler seemingly reaching a new height in his already legendary standards of playing. When it comes to music being a catharsis for life's events, they don't come any better than this. This is THE must have metal album of 2015 so far.
Lamb of God's VII: Sturm Und Drang is out on Friday 24th of July through Nuclear Blast Records in the UK.
You can see Lamb of God in the flesh in the UK this November on their co-headlining theatre and arena tour with Megadeth (Chris Adler will be doing double duty for both bands).