All Access Rating: A-
|Lamb Of God - VII: Sturm Und Drang|
Blythe talked about taking a good, long break and wrote a book about his experience, but just two years after his acquittal, the Richmond, Va., thrash-metal juggernaut emerged from a self-imposed exile with VII: Sturm Und Drang, the raging follow-up to 2012's rather toothless and uninspired Resolution. Where its predecessor quickly ran out of fresh ideas and energy, VII: Sturm Und Drang offers both in abundance.
Frenzied, propulsive stampedes "Embers," "Footprints" and "Delusion Pandemic" attack with focused precision and furious speed, while "Erase This" is a circle pit of nimble moves, with some surprising guitar effects thrown in for good measure. Fast, chugging riffs heighten the seething tension of "Anthropoid," and when Blythe lets out a roar as opener "Still Echoes" explodes as if it stepped on a land mine, it's a primal scream of relief that sends shivers down the spine. Containing lyrics Blythe wrote while jailed in Eastern Europe, the spiritual darkness he encountered while incarcerated hangs over VII: Sturm Und Drang like angry clouds – the contemplative, melodic gloom of "Overload" laden with heavy choruses before transforming into a volcanic eruption of crazed riffage and the mysterious and unsettling "512," Blythe's cell number, overcome by waves of powerful emotions and riffs.
Fears that Blythe had abandoned his trademark guttural screams and growls in favor of clean vocals can be put to rest. In contrast to comments that he was no longer interested in such exaggerations, VII: Sturm Und Drang finds Blythe as animalistic as ever. What's even more satisfying is that Lamb Of God's seventh album – eighth if you count Burn The Priest – is visceral and exciting, its changing tempos, searing guitar work and tenacious hooks grabbing hold in tracks like "Engage The Fear Machine," even as these veterans of metal savagery occasionally happen upon spacious pockets of decayed beauty. A product of production that perfectly harnesses Lamb Of God's intensity and renewed vigor, VII: Sturm Und Drang is a surprising return to form, a throwback to their classic ethos. The old tricks still amaze, even if learning new ones might bring them to even greater heights. Just be glad that Blythe is still around to remind us how precious freedom is.
– Peter Lindblad