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  • After establishing themselves as one of heavy music’s best and most promising and talented active bands with their first three albums, Lamb Of God knew the time was right to expand their sound. The band members have said in interviews that they can’t keep making the same records over and over, or they’d get bored and retire sooner than many want them to. Plus, a great band will always try to top their past albums, even if though it would be extremely hard to outdo 2003’s great “As The Palaces Burn” and `04’s wonderful “Ashes Of The Wake.”

    There is no doubt that “Sacrament,” LOG’s fourth studio release, takes several musical strides and new directions. Probably the first thing you’ll notice is that the sound is a lot more restrained. The riffs aren’t nearly as meaty or constant and the Chris Adler’s machine gun double bass drumming only occasionally sprouts up.

    The next thing you’ll notice is that “Sacrament” has a greater black metal influence. The overall sound is a lot darker, and frontman Randy Blythe’s vocals sound more wicked because he shrieks more than usual (at least once in every song).

    The listener will be fairly uncertain of “Sacrament” after listening to the first track, “Walk With Me In Hell.” It does feature bursts of stop-start double kick drums and a chilling whisper of the title phrase, but it’s still a very different sound than what we’re used to. It’s also highlighted by a cool, winding/mazey guitar solo. Following that song is “Again We Rise,” which is a bit more muscular and propulsive due to its punching riffs, but it’s still only so heavy. “Redneck” (the lead single) is so surprising and daring it’s almost startling. Its southern groove and almost rock `n’ roll-esque vocal style makes it sound like LOG are covering a Rebel Meets Rebel song (the project with Pantera and country singer David Alan Coe).

    Think of “Sacrament” as Lamb Of God’s version of Slayer’s 1988 release “South Of Heaven” (please note I didn’t say Metallica’s “Black Album”). The band’s at a time when the stakes are very high for them, so instead of trying to out-heavy themselves, they dabble in slower songs and even a bit of melody and harmony (i.e. the thumping blast beat on “Descending” is held down by semi-tuneful guitar parts). It will most likely be a controversial release among fans, but it’s still a success. (If a band is going to change their sound, this is how they should do it–Dissection should take notes.)

    Granted, it is a little less inspiring, exhilarating, and instantly satisfying (partially due to the lack of Randy’s famous political lyrics), and it probably won’t translate as well in Lamb Of God’s live show, so it does not upstage “Ashes Of The Wake.” But it is still very inspired and all-around great. One could even argue it’s even more memorable, because “Sacrament” takes substantial leaps in the creative, diverse (darn near every song offers something new), unique, daring, and innovation departments.

    And this isn’t a complete abandonment of LOG’s core sound. For one, the songs are still plenty catchy. “Blacken The Cursed Sun” ends with great, skipping guitar hooks; “Forgotten (Lost Angels)” is superbly catchy and includes a fantastic vocal build-up and climax; “Requiem” follows suit with an awesome, snowballing rhythm; and “More Time To Kill” sports an irresistibly rhythmic, toe-tapping beat. Plus, there are still several heavy tracks. “Pathetic” is backed by pounding drums, a catchy, churning, guitar-driven rhythm, and another wailing solo; “Foot To The Throat” has thrashy riffs which make it kind of have an “Ashes Of The Wake” vibe; and “Beating On Deaths Door,” is probably the album’s harshest, fastest and angriest moment. LOG’s past two records have ended with a song which has an unexpectedly soft intro consisting of acoustic strumming, but that isn’t the case here. Props to the band for keeping things interesting and unpredictable.

    It will be interesting to see how “Sacrament” ages and what kind of response it will get from fans. Many (including this reviewer) will applaud this new musical direction, but it’s probably safe to say it will, overall, receive a fairly mixed reaction. One thing is for certain, though: whether it’s because you enjoy “Sacrament,” or you want to absorb it more, or because you can’t believe your ears, it definitely warrants repeated listens and you will return to it many times in the future.

    Posted on December 14, 2009