In a time long ago, the metal titans known as Lamb Of God used to go by the name of Burn The Priest.
While Burn The Priest laid the groundwork for what Lamb Of God were to become, they were an entirely different beast. Woven with elements found within punk, hardcore, and noise music, the ferocity in their early work captured the grit of underground heavy music. The production of Lamb Of God today and the production of Burn The Priest equally represent the best qualities of the band throughout their history.
While under the Burn The Priest banner, the band only released one self-titled record. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of said record, and to celebrate their history as a band, Lamb Of God have briefly returned to their Burn The Priest roots for a new album entitled Legion: XX, released in May via Epic Records.
Guitarist Mark Morton says that while there the name may have changed, when it comes to creating music, both bands are one in the same. “I think, for us, [Burn The Priest is] not really that outside of Lamb Of God,” he shares. “It’s really part of the timeline. We were Burn The Priest, we changed the name, we were Lamb Of God, but it was the same band, same process. So, with the 20th anniversary of the Burn The Priest album coming up, it felt appropriate and it felt cool to us to acknowledge that and celebrate the fact that we’ve had that kind of longevity, even amongst ourselves.”
However, fans expecting brand-new material from the band are in for a different kind of treat. Given the immense success they have had, Legion: XX is actually a cover album featuring key songs from each member that has in some way inspired them—and the band as a whole.
Morton shares that the decision to make Legion: XX a covers album was a refreshing way to celebrate the band’s history. “Doing covers was something we’ve talked about doing for a long, long time, and [we] just really never had, I guess, the opportunity present itself and make as much sense as it did this time,” he says. “And to [record original tracks] is a different thing. It’s a pretty intense creative process for us. Not that we couldn’t have done it; it just seemed a little more appropriate—and in the spirit of the project—to do some covers, pay some homage to some of the bands that influenced us, and sort of reference that timeframe for us.”
“That said, this being a cover project, that’s different, because the songs were already written,” he adds. “So, it was just trying to find the balance of doing these great songs justice but also making it sound like us. That part kind of came naturally, because it’s us, so it sounds like us. Again, we haven’t done a real cover project before, so that part was different. And I think, just in general, we just had a lot of fun doin’ it.”
Throughout Legion: XX, there’s a diverse collection of music from iconic bands. There’s everything from “Inherit the Earth” by The Accused to “Honey Bucket” by Melvins to “I Against I” by Bad Brains to “One Voice” by Agnostic Front and many more. Morton says that everyone in the band got to pick out songs to cover, and each of these tracks represents something important to each of them. He also notes that for Burn The Priest, their local Richmond, Virginia, scene played a pivotal role in inspiring their music.
“One [song] that comes immediately to mind is called ‘Axis Rot’ on the album, and it’s by a band called Sliang Laos. That [track], probably 95 percent of the people or more who are gonna hear this have never heard of that band, because they were a local Richmond band. When Burn The Priest got together, the bands we emulated, the bands we aspired to be like, were from the local scene; they weren’t national bands or international bands, or even necessarily signed bands—I mean, we had some influences there as well. But really, the bands we were looking up to were people we knew and people who were just kind of more ahead of us in terms of the local scene. Sliang Laos was one of those bands. So, that one was really important to me to have on the track list. It was real special to me that we were able to do that and to show them a little bit of shine, a little bit of love, because they were a big influence on me personally and I think for us as a band as well.”
“Basically, all five of us band members pitched in maybe eight or 10 songs a piece,” Morton continues, sharing how the song selection took place for Legion: XX. “Originally, we were gonna each pick two songs, and that’s what we were gonna do. There was gonna be 10 songs, [but it] didn’t really work out like that. It became more like everyone pitched in six or eight song ideas, maybe 10, and then, we started weeding through that list and collectively decided on a track list together. And you know, [we] made concessions: some people wanted this song, some people wanted this song. We’d agree to do a song by this band, and then, we’d talk about which song we’ll do by that band. It was just kind of a group effort.”
Shortly before the release of Legion: XX, Lamb Of God embarked on a massive summer tour, taking the stage with other acts like Behemoth, Napalm Death, Anthrax, and participating in Slayer’s farewell tour. Lamb Of God’s history has been nothing short of inspiring. As a small band from Richmond, they’ve climbed their way to the top as one of metal’s most prominent bands. Releasing Legion: XX celebrates that history and is a testament to all their hard work.
Morton shares that his focus is on Lamb of God moving forward, but don’t count Burn The Priest out just yet. “I mean, I don’t know,” he admits. “This is the first Burn The Priest release we’ve done in 20 years. We are definitely going back to being Lamb Of God; that’s the band we are, and we are focused on the future of Lamb Of God. But I’m not gonna tell you there will never be anything from Burn The Priest again. Just right now, this is what it is.”