Feature: Lamb of God Weather The Storm And Emerge with ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’

Interview with guitarist Willie Adler | By James Alvarez

Lamb Of God are no strangers to the spotlight. Over the past 15 years, the Richmond, Va., quintet have conquered the underground metal scene, ascended the Billboard charts, invaded movie theaters, and lately, they’ve made headlines thanks to their members’ extracurricular activities: drummer Chris Adler’s recent partnership with Megadeth, and frontman Randy Blythe’s new roles as both a published author and photographer. Also, there’s the matter of Blythe’s much publicized 2013 manslaughter trial, stemming from a fan’s tragic death at a 2010 Lamb Of God concert in the Czech Republic. Blythe was eventually cleared of all charges in the case, but the trial and the grueling hiatus period that followed left the band and their legions of fans in a state of limbo… Until now. Lamb Of God have released VII: Sturm und Drang—the band’s seventh full-length album—on Epic Records. German for “storm and stress,” the new album’s title is a fitting moniker, considering the hell ride the Lamb Of God team has weathered over the past three years.

“This record allowed me and [guitarist] Mark [Morton] to open up to each other like we hadn’t in a while,” guitarist Willie Adler reveals. “It’s hadn’t happened in a few records where we really collaborated like we did on this last one. We were rolling that way, both together, before technology took ahold of us and we were able to make our own demos. Spending hours writing songs, demoing our own shit, and bringing it in; the ease of music production software enabled us to do [that]. Before all that, we were just all in each other’s faces with riffs, but we hadn’t done that in a while. With this record, we came in with our own songs again, but it kind of reverted to, ‘I got this idea, man, but I hit a wall with it…’” Morton and Adler worked in tandem to fill in the blanks of the songs they outlined independently during the band’s unexpected break. “I inundated myself with writing music when we were on forced hiatus for a bit,” Adler recalls. “It was a good year and a half of stuff being written by Mark and myself. When we finally did come together, we had amassed so much stuff that it was really hard to wrap our heads around. That may have been another reason why we came together and made a bit more of a collaborative effort.”

Speaking of successful collaborations, VII: Sturm und Drang marks yet another team up between Lamb Of God and longtime producer Josh Wilbur. “He’s got a great ear,” Adler explains. “He can latch onto someone’s vision, and go where we want to take the project.” Wilbur has been the man behind the helm of the band’s last two albums, and is responsible for Lamb Of God’s high definition, pristinely aggressive sound. “We always get an incredible result, but it doesn’t in any way shape or form sound like we did on the previous record, even though it’s the same six dudes in the room,” Adler says. After a few spins, it’s obvious that VII: Sturm und Drang yields more than just positive results from the band’s seventh trek to the studio. The album feels tightknit and cohesive, yet features a jaw dropping amount of diversity from these New Wave of American Heavy Metal kingpins.

VII: Sturm und Drang features some of Lamb Of God’s mightiest riffs and most intimate, thought-provoking recordings to date. “It took me back man,” Adler says fondly. “Some of the songs that came together, I thought ‘Goddamn, we could have put this on Ashes or Palaces,’ it has that vibe.” Tracks like “Footprints,” “Delusion Pandemic,” and the album’s first single “Still Echoes” are some of the wildest songs in Lamb Of God’s fabled repertoire. They’re thrash-y, fist pumpers that would rest comfortably alongside any of the band’s old school releases. The hyper aggressive traditional jams gel perfectly with eye-opening new material like “Overlords,” a slow-building melodic rocker which, to the surprise of many, features Lamb Of God’s resident screamer actually singing. “It was just as big of a shock to me, what he accomplished,” Adler says of Blythe’s surprising songbird talents. “I was like, ‘Holy shit, dude! I had no idea that you had that in you.’” Longtime fans might recall the heated debates that took place within the Lamb Of God camp over the inclusion of the band’s first true melodic anthem, “Descending,” on their 2006 album Sacrament. “Those fights still exist man, especially when ‘Overlords’ was introduced,” Adler shares. “Like ‘I don’t know, dude,’” he says mockingly. “It wasn’t like we went into this thinking we got to get a song for the radio. It was just this riff that I had laying around for like two years. I just could not get this riff out of my head and it turned out to be awesome.”

With VII: Strum und Drang, Lamb Of God find themselves back atop of the metal world, yet eager to explore bold new directions. Daring songs like “512” provide insight into Blythe’s time incarcerated in Prague, while contemplative numbers like “Embers” and “Torches” feature stunning guest vocals from luminaries like Chino Moreno of Deftones and Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan. That leaves us with perhaps the most shocking element of Lamb Of God’s new record, the hereto unforeseen Peter Frampton and Bon Jovi influence on “Erase This.” “The talk box man!” Adler laughs, referring to the talk box guitar effect that enhances the song’s foot stomping guitar solo. “Everyone’s calling it ‘The Bon Jovi,’ I love it. I knew it would hit some listeners like, ‘What?’ but it really suits the part after listening to it for a while. And who is putting a talk box on their record these days? Nobody!”

With seven albums, a feature film, a million concerts, and a bonafide international incident under their belts, it looks as though the fellas in Lamb Of God have no interest in slowing down or relinquishing their reign of the metal realm anytime soon. “The growth never stops,” Adler says optimistically. “We never stop being artists or doing what we want to do creatively. That’s the best part of what we do, is being able to create and produce stuff to fall in love with. To create stuff that gives us goosebumps and give each other high fives.”

Pick up VII: Sturm und  Drang here.

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