Latest release: VII: Sturm und Drang (Nuclear Blast)
Lamb of God’s latest album is a strikingly effective slab of aggressive frustration and fury that sounds like the turmoil of the band’s past three years – including frontman Randy Blythe’s imprisonment and trial – compacted into musical ferocity. Yet Blythe calmly deflects the idea that VII: Sturm und Drang has much to do with that uncertain period.
“The album has nothing to do with all that stuff,” he says pleasantly. “There are two songs that deal with that situation, and I wrote them both while I was still in prison. They are three years old. I wasn’t frustrated or angry about that situation at all.”
In fact, he says, the way he felt was actually very, very different: “I was very sad. A fan of my band had died. I wasn’t going to scream some ridiculous heavy metal song about that!” he says grimly.
Sturm und Drang comes instead from an 18th Century German movement in the arts that emphasised human emotions, particularly the more difficult ones people experience under “storm and stress”. German-speaking guitarist Mark Morton found the term when the band was struggling to find an appropriate title.
“The title comes from, as I was writing the record, I noticed that it was more about how people in general deal with stress,” the vocalist expalins. “Mark speaks German and we were trying to find a word that encapsulates that and we couldn’t find anything in English for it. We thought maybe the Germans had a word we could use, so he went and found it and it fits perfectly. So that’s how that came about!
Quite philosophically, Randy Blythe accepts that people around the globe are facing far more stressful situations than the one he suffered.
“There’s more stressful things in the world than what I’ve been through,” he says, “and I wrote about some of those things – people immolating themselves, catching themselves on fire as a form of political protest. Now, that’s stressful!”
Blythe has made peace with his incarceration in Prague with a 500-page book, Dark Days, that was released in Australia on July 16. The book was the instrument that allowed him to separate those days from the music he makes with the band, although not completely, and he politely but firmly suggests that everything one wants to know about his trial can be found there.
“We recorded fourteen songs, and there’s only two songs on the album that deal with it, and I wrote those songs in prison… and those are real dark songs, because I was pretty frustrated at the time,” Blythe explains, evenly. “But by the time I get out and it’s time to record the album, I just had this idea to write a 500-page book about the whole situation. So I’m not frustrated anymore, I don’t have anymore to say about that.”
Produced by Josh Wilbur, Lamb of God’s seventh album features them further expanding on their signature groove metal style with guest appearances and an extended metal ballad.
“I quite enjoy the fact that we’ve got Chino Moreno and Greg (Puciato) on there, because they both have killer singing voices. Nobody but Chino sounds like Chino. I was listening to the end of the song he’s on, ‘Embers’, and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I thought it would be a good song for Chino to be on. I came into the rehearsal space one day and we were dealing with it and the producer and Mark looked and me and said, ‘Do you think you could ask Chino to sing on this?’ and I went ‘Perfect!'”
About Greg Puciato’s contribution – on the closing track – Blythe says, “I’ve been close with Greg for a very long time, and he’s just got an amazing singing voice. Outside of the screaming stuff he does with Dillinger, he’s got a great singing voice with a lot to bring to the table. He’s got a project called The Black Queens that’s just amazing, all electronic stuff and he’s just singing on that.”
On ‘Overlord’, Blythe proves himself to be no slacker in the singing department either, with a solid, commanding performance unlike anything he’s attempted with Lamb of God before.
“It’s all right!” he says with a laugh about his singing voice. “I’ve always been able to sing. They just wrote a sing that I could actually sing to this time. It’s the first time they ever did anything like that, so it just came naturally.”
The tracks released from the album so far have all been received very positively by fans and critics alike, and even Blythe says that Sturm und Drang is “my favourite thing we’ve done in quite some while.” He’s fiercely proud of the new release, and just as eager to see how it will be accepted by the fans.
“The real test will come when the fans got a hold of it,” he says. “It’s always nice when the fans and the critics like the record, but we don’t write for the fans and critics. We write for ourselves. And I know that’s a kind of typical thing to say – but we do! If we start writing for other people, real fans would be able to tell, because it’s not true. We’ll see how the fans take it. They’re the ultimate judge.”