Lamb of God - _Sacrament_
(Epic Records, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (9.5 out of 10)
"I know we're a heavy metal band, but we don't sound like Chimaira, Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall. We stand alone and this record will help us do that."

So says Chris Adler, and Lamb of God's bearded drummer couldn't be more spot-on if he tried. When it comes to refreshingly rebellious, balls-out American metal, choice few remain who are able to deliver it with the conviction it deserves. Pantera are sadly no more. Slayer haven't put their name to anything worthwhile in at least fifteen years. With few exceptions, the Viriginian quartet have, across three blisteringly intense efforts, been the ones to set and redefine the standards, delivering their frequently politically-charged message with more intelligence and gusto than most. The clincher is that despite being light years removed from the majority of their MTV-friendly peers, Lamb of God have also managed to build an impressive legion of fans, as _Sacrament_'s first week sales figures attest.

Yet there's no hint of slowing the pace on the band's fourth full-length. Randall Blythe's percussive bark may have been spiced up with the odd bout of thoughtfully executed singing, but a shoe-in for Matt Heafy he most definitely is not. Equally, the band have elected to incorporate a greater number of keyboard lines and samples than ever before, yet all this makes for is an even fuller and more dynamic experience. Simply put: _Sacrament_ provides us with all the aggression and vitriol of 2004's outstanding _Ashes of the Wake_, and much more besides. It's Lamb of God at their most defined and complete.

For highlights, you can take your pick across the record's eleven tracks. Immediately springing to mind is the brooding, mid-tempo crunch of "Walk With Me in Hell": piercing, melodic riffs criss-crossing each other with expert precision, creating a densely-layered wall of sound that demands repetition. Shifting gears slightly on "Redneck", Lamb of God celebrate their influences in a reverent and almost triumphant manner, blending the Texan groove of Dimebag Darrell with the adrenalized thrash of Testament.

It's "Blacken the Cursed Sun" that captures arguably the band's finest hour to date though. A scathing attack by Blythe on the self-loathing brought on by religious dogma, fused to a punishing and atmospheric soundtrack, it confirms what some had begun to suspect two years ago: whatever is next for Lamb of God, two decades from now they will be cited as one of the most important metal bands on our era.

(article published 20/9/2006)

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