Have you ever been punched in the mouth? If not, hit play on the new Lamb Of God single to get a pretty good idea of what that’s like. Checkmate is the first taste of the metal giants’ eighth studio record, which is self-titled and expected to windmill its way into the world this spring. “Putting only our name on it is a statement,” says frontman Randy Blythe, and you’d be wise to take his word for it.
The album was recorded with returning producer Josh Wilbur, who in addition to helming every Lamb Of God release in the past decade has also collaborated with other heavyweights including Korn, Megadeth, Gojira, and Trivium. “The new Lamb sounds very modern to me,” guitarist Mark Morton tells us. “I think lyrically it’s very topical. It’s very current in terms of what it’s addressing. It sounds very contemporary.”
Work on Lamb Of God, which also features contributions from Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta and thrash royalty in Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, arrived at a busy time for Morton, who has also recorded, released and toured a solo album, Anesthetic, and an accompanying acoustic EP in the past 18 months. Discussing his playing on the record, which as ever was completed in tandem with fellow axeman Willie Adler, he quickly situated it within a greater Lamb Of God tradition.
“My goal with riffs has always been groove for my parts,” Morton says. “Willie and I play very differently, and I think it [complements] each other very well, but I’m almost always just trying to make your head bob with that very immediate, visceral reaction to the groove of the riffs. And it’s really just been a constant, 20-year search on my part to find the ultimate groove-thrash metal riff. I’m still on that quest, but I’m getting closer.”
Checkmate immediately highlights the refined interplay between the band’s two guitarists, with Adler laying down its serrated riff and Morton putting his Jackson Dominion to work on a lead line that stops just short of full shred. Once everything crashes in, meanwhile, we get a glimpse of the big change that has occurred in the Lamb Of God ranks since the release of VII: Sturm und Drang five years ago.
Art Cruz’s punishing double kick drum thunders into view, signalling his arrival as a recording member of the band after replacing long-time sticksman Chris Adler. On this evidence, working with a retooled rhythm section – bassist John Campbell is still on board – doesn’t appear to have sapped any of Morton and Adler’s mojo.
“Art’s been playing with us for almost two years, but this is the first release we’re doing with him,” Morton says. “When Art learned to play drums growing up, Lamb Of God was one of his favourite bands, he’s a fair amount younger than the rest of us.
“Stylistically he was very much a good fit because he’s familiar with the signature Lamb of God drum sound. But he also brings some new technical ability to the table, and just a new energy, I think, among the band members. It’s a very updated version of Lamb Of God without sounding reworked.”
Prior to the release of Lamb Of God the band will hit the road for a European tour alongside Kreator and Power Trip, including UK dates that will wind up at London’s Brixton Academy. “We feel like we’re beginning a new chapter,” Morton says. “We feel like we have a lot of momentum, and we also have a lot of fresh takes on things and we’re really excited about the new material we have.”
Lamb Of God is out on May 8 through Nuclear Blast. Find out more and preorder here.