Well outside of what one may expect

Albums stacked with guests anchored by one musician are nothing new, but one by Lamb Of God’s Mark Morton are definitely unexpected. With no real signs until its release announcement a couple of months back, he has managed to assemble a varied cast of musicians and vocalists, including most notably Chester Bennington’s last recorded vocal performance.

Opening with ‘Cross Off’ with Bennington on vocals gets that performance out of the way early, and what performance it is. Easily his best since the early days of his band Linkin Park, a great mix of his rock, metal and rap vocals showing how much he had left in him. Even though I have never been a big fan of Linkin Park to see show much potential taken away is indeed a sad thing.

Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach is the next to come along with another rock/nu-metal track ‘Sworn Apart’, again pointing to more potential than he is putting out with his day job and showing that Mark Morton is capable of writing in many varied styles.  ‘Axis’ changes direction completely in a country rock vein as Mark Lanegan’s (Screaming Trees) smoky vocals float over acoustic guitar early as the song works its way towards an early solo highpoint.

‘The Never’ is the first track on the album that sounds like it is something left over from a Lamb Of God writing session, although with vocals performed by Chuck Billy and Jake Oni ensure it pumps along nicely, but these vanity style projects are generally to show a different side of the musician who is the focus and this song just doesn’t carry any large difference outside of his day job.

Myles Kennedy puts in a very typical performance on ‘Save Defiance’ that because of his rather respectable and recognisable rock voice just sounds like it has come straight off a Slash or Alter Bridge album. Mark Morales brings a bit of fresh air with him on the grunge styled ‘Blur’ that continues the rock vibe of its predecessor but feels more individual and original.

Josh Todd from Buckcherry has his fair share of detractors, but for my money he has one of the best voices in modern hard rock and on ‘Back From the Dead’ he shows one hell of an individual performance that makes this track a highlight, his distinctive vocal style locking in with Morton and his band perfectly. It hits in all the right places.

‘Reveal’ is another highlight as Morton shows how far he is willing to stretch his musical wings, the angelic vocals of Naeemah Maddox soar over some superbly played blues and pop that slowly builds towards an alternative hypnotic sway. Proving that nothing is out of bounds Morton gets behind the microphone on ‘Imaginary Days’ and shows that he has a decent of pipes on him. His vocal approach is more rock than metal, and mixes in well when Mark Morales comes in to beef up the vocals in the chorus without missing a trick.

Finally, the moment for the Lamb Of God fans who bought the album has arrived. LOG vocalist Randy Blythe combines with Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz on ‘The Truth is Dead’. Here they both get to experiment with their respective vocal approaches more than usual, with dreamy vocals from Alissa over lush instruments before Randy comes in on full lunatic mode, before he settles into a clean vocal behind her.  This is switched on the second have of the track when Randy’s clean vocals play off against Alissa in full demon mode.  This would not fit anywhere else but on an album full of experiments like this.

Overall this album is well outside of what one may expect of a guitarist from Lamb Of God, but do not go in expecting something as filling and exciting as Dave Grohl’s Probot project.  A great listen, but maybe not one that you will keep going back too for repeated listens all the way through.

70%

  1. Cross Off
  2. Sworn Apart
  3. Axis
  4. The Never
  5. Save Defiance
  6. Blur
  7. Back From the Dead
  8. Reveal
  9. Imaginary Days
  10. The Truth is Dead