Overall Score: 10/10 Songwriting: 10/10 Production: 10/10 Musicianship: 10/10 Pros: A welcome return to vicious form from one of metal's most beloved bands. Blythe is at his lyrical and performance best. Cons: N/A.
As fans of extreme music, we’ve been well and truly blessed by the new wave of American heavy metal. No nonsense riffs packed to the gills with a dirty finesse. Sitting atop this mountain of exceedingly good bands is LAMB OF GOD. Since their inception in 1994, they have been the ones to aim for. With the release of Omens fast approaching, LAMB OF GOD once again establish themselves as the standard bearer among their metal brethren.
The quintet wastes no time displaying their vitriol toward the words we currently reside in. Nevermore’s chug from Mark Morton and Willie Adler set the tone for a ravenous track. Low spoken vocals ooze from Randy Blythe, spitting “liberty or death” before slipping into his trademark scream. Art Cruz’s double kick slogs us in the gut for a punishing chorus. We’re quick to pick up the improvement between 2020’s eponymous and this. The groove metal elements feel tight and close, allowing Blythe to truly soar with ethereal cleans and swipe at us with vicious growls.
Making the move from typical yet sterile recording to creating Omens live in the room was a stroke of genius from producer Josh Wilbur as Vanishing explodes into its massive chorus. “A shining path beckons me” has Blythe playing the Pied Piper, leading our merry dance to Morton’s flirtations with a guitar solo. These groove metal minstrels usher us to our doom with following To The Grave. “The only thing to fear remains in sanity” nestles atop perhaps typical LAMB OF GOD riffs, but this newfound energy between the band radiates through the filth. A track alluding to never escaping life’s negativity, To The Grave embodies that introspective foreboding.
Distorted guitars shift Ditch’s perspective from us to the world around us. As this guitar rings out, we’re left vulnerable to the obliterating roar of “I don’t give a god damn about your demons”. A venomous track taking aim at those who hide behind their cowardice pulls no punches. Cruz more than earning his place among the LAMB OF GOD ranks as his drums hold court within the swirling mass of hatred of those who “demand a life you haven’t earned”. While Ditch confronts the “home of the brave and the terrified”, the title track throws caution to the wind with “fuck it all, ignore the omens”. Already becoming a fan favourite in the live arena, the title track takes its time to form. The slower groove cements Morton’s riff machine status, fermenting within the negative connotations which come from the title. This fusion causes the choruses to hit harder. This title track was a glorious welcome into the new LAMB OF GOD era as we are served with a no bullshit slab of pure metal and we could not have been more delighted.
As Omens winds on, the recording process isn’t the only thing LAMB OF GOD experimented with. Middle Eastern fantasies wind through out mind with the intro of Gomorrah, a city destroyed by God for its wicked ways. What’s left behind is a hellscape for the band to stretch their musical talents yet bring us all together in a call to arms. Meanwhile Ill Designs brings the party back down to Earth. Spiralling guitars sit beneath Blythe’s militant delivery, but these instrumentals are somewhat minimal compared to the material before it. This pulls our attention. Demands we listen. “Reap the rotten fruits of your labor” by comparison moves with the grace of C4 explosion. What comes after is perhaps the most ambitious guitar solo of the record – each note dictating the conversation about cause and effect, feeding us with enough adrenaline to punch a dent in a wall.
Where Omens’ subject has mainly been frustration and displeasure towards the outside world, Grayscale follows the path of To The Grave in its reflection. “I’m turning inside out” muses Blythe amid elements of dual guitar tones. Though this is no slow dance with your intended. Far from it. Grayscale calls LAMB OF GOD toward their hardcore roots. A desire which is sated in a track’s time but the fast pace and in-your-face delivery doesn’t veer from the plan too much. Screeches of guitars lace the second chorus, ushering in a chug to breed a beatdown in its purest form. As we are told to “live through dark days” as we have done so before, the ominous nature of Grayscale doesn’t completely admonish us of aggression as the last chorus packs a delicious punch. This aggression leaks into Denial Mechanism, read as LAMB OF GOD gone hardcore. Denial is in full flow with this speedy chaotic number. We almost feel Blythe’s spittle on our face as he proclaims, “Witness Armageddon”. It’s here we hear John Campbell’s basslines dominate for a thick and uncomfortably warm spiral towards the mid-way point of the track. If a relentless LAMB OF GOD record is what is desired, put down Sacrament (2006), leave Wrath (2009) to rest, Omens will gladly take up the reins.
Which leads us to closing September Song. At six minutes in total, we wonder what we’re about to be fed. We take our place at the dining table for dark, saddened acoustic guitars. A world of reflection is created before our very eyes with flickers of quickening guitars beneath the ringing melody. Do not let this intricate description fool anyone. September Song is indeed crushing but for all together different reasons. Yes, it becomes fast and aggressive as it unfolds, but the dark tones and lilts of strings pave the way for our bard Blythe to spell out “this game of Russian Roulette” modern life has become. Though a fan of personal interpretation, there is no denying Blythe is confronting the fractured nature of society as he addresses us as “divided we stand”. Yet LAMB OF GOD compels us to come together, rise above the hatred and indifference as after all, we are all “bleeding here together”.
The trouble comes with surmising Omens into a succinct, snappy paragraph. Omens is a staggering return to form for the Richmond collective. Each moment of this album serves a purpose, and that purpose is to confront the realities of the world around us. It isn’t a protestation record by any means. It is a not-so-subtle order to the listener to reflect upon their own circumstances and feel something other than apathy towards it. To that end, Omens is the most insidious and vicious LAMB OF GOD have been since Wrath. A welcome return of one of the world’s best metal bands.
Omens is set for release on October 7 via Nuclear Blast Records.
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