Not plaque good.
Lamb of God’s seventh album was a long time coming, what with frontman Randy Blythe’s arrest and all that followed. But I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about Sturm und Drang, and whether it’s worth your hard earned money and time.
The opening track, Still Echoes immediately tells you two things about the album – firstly, it definitely rocks an old-school Lamb of God sound, with Blythe’s vocals not sounding quite as “clean” as it did in Resolution. Secondly, you notice that the mix of the record isn’t all too great. The whole album carries with it a muffled sound, definitely benefiting from a slightly louder setup than you’re otherwise used to with other albums. It doesn’t sound bad, but it does make the album lose some of its power compared to their other work – especially at lower volumes.
Despite the small issue of the mix though, does the songwriting hold up? Yes and no. The opening three tracks, Still Echoes, Erase This and 512 are all of classic Lamb of God ilk, with a catchy, heavy sound that all fans of the band should know and love. Generally, however, Sturm und Drang carries more emotional baggage than older Lamb of God records, and this comes through with the album’s darker, more serious subject matters and lyrics. It’s a subtle shift in songwriting from the band that works, although if you’re hoping for a track like Redneck, then you better move along.
It is clear that Blythe was effected by what happened to him, and for the most part, Sturm und Drang deals with this. You get a sense when listening to it, that perhaps the band wants to be taken just a little more seriously, but this is as true for Sturm und Drang as it was for Resolution, the band is getting older, and perhaps just a little more mature. I don’t mind it, and I appreciate that maintaining whilst developing a sound for a band can be tricky. But why did they have to introduce clean singing into the mix?
Earlier in the year, August Burns Red incorporated clean singing into their sound for the first time, to quite good effect, I thought. However, clean vocals didn’t make the jump to Lamb of God’s sound anywhere near as successfully. Thankfully, there are only three tracks in the record that contain clean vocals, Embers, Overlord and Torches. Both Embers and Overlord are spoilt by the clean vocals, ruining what could otherwise have been great songs. Chino Moreno (of Deftones fame) comes in at the end of Embers to ruin it. Overlord however, is the worst offender, standing at 6:28, it is the longest track on the album, and in my opinion, the worst the band has ever released.
Again, I appreciate that they wanted to try something different, but Blythe just does not have a good singing voice. He sounds bored and lifeless, and when he tries to go a bit heavier with his voice, it just sounds silly. Unfortunately, around half-way into the track, it turns particularly heavy, and actually rather good. It’s like they got two tracks and meshed them into one, ungodly whole. It winds me up, to think that there could have been a good track in its place. I know some people will likely love the track, and really commend the band for trying something new and out of the ordinary, but I think it is poorly thought out and performed track for the most part. It’s definitely one to be skipped.
After Overlord, we have Anthropoid, Engage the Fear Machine and Delusion Pandemic, which are all quality tracks, but none of them will become classics for the band like 512, Still Echoes, Erase This and Footprints could. Sturm und Drang, in my opinion, suffers from inconsistency and quality in depth. For the most part, Sturm und Drang is a quality record, but it suffers from a general lack of groove found in older Lamb of God albums. Indeed, Sturm und Drang is perhaps a little thrashier than previous albums. I like the album, but I don’t think I could ever love it.
VII: Sturm und Drang is perhaps Lamb of God’s most “grown-up” and darkest record to date, mixing a more classic style with some new ideas. Unfortunately however, the new ideas don’t work, with clean vocals spoiling the party in particular. While there are some brilliant tracks on here, there are two that annoy me and a small selection that are just a tad forgettable. However, Sturm und Drang is still heavy, unforgiving and it is still definitely Lamb of God, just not one of my favourites.
VII: Sturm und Drang still comes with a recommendation from me, just not a glowing endorsement.