This week’s pick is going to turn 17 later this year, which is just screwed if you ask me. Pardon me for a moment while I tend to my joint pain.
Lamb Of God – Sacrament
Released August 22, 2006 via Epic Records
My Favorite Tracks – Walk With Me In Hell, Redneck, Descending
Lamb Of God were riding a high after the splendid reception to their 2004 landmark Ashes Of The Wake. (that Album of the Week post can be found here). Heavy metal as a whole was well on the rise in the mid 2000’s and Lamb Of God were becoming a huge part of the resurgence.
The only real way to go was up, and the band would do just that with their fifth album. Lamb Of God were breaking out of the metal underground and becoming a familiar name across the music landscape as a whole. The album today is 11 songs in 46 minutes so let’s get at it.
Walk With Me In Hell
The opener leaps out with a massive riff and the sense that something beyond just a song is going on here. Guitarist Mark Morton wrote the track knowing he was on to something more and was able to work the chorus into a dedication to his girlfriend, who would later become his wife.
One of the album’s three singles, Walk With Me In Hell exploded out of the gate and became an instant classic. It remains today as one of the band’s signature songs.
Again We Rise
The song is bordering on death metal territory with its insane guitar work and pace. Lyrically it deals with the issue of “modern” US Confederates, or people who praise the losing side of the American Civil War eons after the war ended. This is not a flattering portrayal of that crowd. And the issue would only increase in scope after 2006.
The lead single slams in both musically and lyrically. It’s a thunderous groove metal masterclass and a pointed confrontation song. This quickly became a crowd favorite and today sits behind only Laid To Rest as the band’s most recognized song.
While Lamb Of God is often dark and dreary, Redneck is a pretty fun song. The music video is an absolute laugh riot, with the band being booked to play a kid’s birthday party and the hi-jinx that ensue.
Another twisted riff from Mark Morton and some great drumming from Chris Adler shape this next track, which thematically is Randy Blythe screaming at someone who sucks. It’s kind of a connecting theme of this album. Lamb Of God played this song live on Conan O’Brien’s show in early 2007, and it became far more common to see metal acts on the late-night shows after that.
Foot To The Throat
A political track this time, as the band takes aim at politicians and other “powers that be” keeping the rank and file citizens down. The music is as unrelenting as everything else on the album.
Another brutal track nearly in death metal territory, the song has lyrics purporting to reflect the duality and contradiction of religion, yet unverified sources indicate that the song is really about alcoholism. Either way it’s an album highlight.
Blacken The Cursed Sun
This was the album’s third and final single. The song is a very dark and dreary affair about being at the end of your rope and going out with one final push. There’s a bit of a call and response anti-sermon kind of thing at the end that’s pretty cool.
Forgotten (Lost Angels)
A short but slamming track that is chock full of Morton riffs and takes aim at Los Angeles and the fake and plastic culture. It was reportedly inspired by shady music industry execs. Taking aim at Los Angeles has been a favorite pastime of heavier bands but LoG pull it off in pretty convincing fashion here. This is also a song that invites comparisons to the prior kings of groove metal, that being Pantera.
Don’t be fooled by the title – this song is not a requiem from the punishment the album delivers. It’s another song with some religious symbolism and being down and out and trying to go for it one more time after being completely broken. It has a spoken word portion that’s hard to make out in the middle before a bit of soloing. It’s another track where Chris Adler is pounding the piss out of the drums too.
More Time To Kill
This one’s a pretty evil track aimed at someone who is dying but was on the wrong side of the ledger with the narrator. It’s another confrontation, go get bent kind of song. No clue what the story might be behind this one but it’s very hard feelings and not for the faint of heart. Also a bit of black metal style vocals from Randy Blythe here, pretty neat little part.
Beating On Death’s Door
The closing track keeps with the “fuck you” theme, this time it’s about a woman of ill repute who apparently pissed some people off. The song is more aimed at the unlucky sap this woman ended up with. A fittingly brutal end to a brutal album.
Sacrament was a huge success for Lamb Of God. It joined Ashes Of The Wake with a US gold certification for more than 500,000 copies sold. It peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200 and even higher on several other US subgenre charts. Redneck was nominated for a Grammy in 2007, an award that went to Slayer. Several metal publications had this at or near the top of their year-end lists for 2006, back when print media was still a thing.
While it was the prior album that truly broke Lamb Of God into a wider audience, it felt like Sacrament was their true superstar turn. The band had previously been a part of the wider “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” movement, but by this time had broken free and far wider than the more underground sensibilities of that designation.
And the inevitable comparisons continued for LoG – both fans and detractors noted the “new Pantera” vibe to Lamb Of God, something not really present in their more extreme early days. And on this album those comparisons seemed at least somewhat valid, even if LoG were still their own distinct entity. It’s probably fair to call them the spiritual successors to Pantera’s crown, but LoG are far from a pale imitator of a past revered act.
With Sacrament, Lamb Of God solidified their place on the top of the metal mountain, or maybe scrap heap is more appropriate. They are still going all these years later, through some kind of crazy drama and all the changes in the times. A lot of riffs and a bit of cussing can take you pretty far sometimes.