Lamb Of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang (Nuclear Blast)

Genre: Heavy Metal

Given the Teutonic translation (storm and stress) of the album title and frontman Randy Blythe’s well documented recent history, the big shock here is that only two of VII: Sturm Und Drang‘s 10 tracks deal with heavy metal’s trial of the decade.

It just so happens that one of the songs referencing Blythe’s incarceration on a charge of manslaughter – and the subsequent not guilty verdict – is the standout tune on an album that sorely lacks consistency. 512 – the number of the singer’s cell during the dark days in a Prague prison – is simply stunning: pent up frustration, raw emotion and sheer determination pours forth from every fresh note.

Still Echoes is the other composition reflecting a period of inner turmoil and uncertainty but it’s nowhere near as stirring. It’s almost as if Blythe didn’t want the latest Lamb Of God album to deal with the most difficult period in the band’s history at all. It would be wrong to describe 512 and Still Echoes as a token gesture – they’re far more important than that – but neither is a comfortable fit within a record plagued by bizarre contrasts and nagging doubts.

Perhaps VII: Sturm Und Drang is simply a means to an end for Blythe and co. – an opportunity to move on, put a traumatic period to bed and approach the future with a renewed confidence and creative freedom. If not then it’s a worrying time for fans of this modern metal institution.

Too many of the songs here are disturbingly bland. Metal by numbers from a band that can do so much better. Of course such is Lamb Of God’s stature and experience that VII: Sturm Und Drang still compares favourably to much of 2015’s heavier music but it’s hardly the game changer we all wanted.

Engage The Fear Machine is a cumbersome, politicised stab at the mass media and Erase This could have been bettered by a gang of angry teens in their dad’s soundproofed garage. At their best Lamb Of God are a seriously impressive metal machine. This is nowhere near that standard. Simon Rushworth