Consistency has been the name of the game for Richmond, Virginia's LAMB OF GOD. As one of the undisputed leaders of the American metal movement, expectations have always run high for the band to top its last release and so far LAMB OF GOD has risen to the challenge. Few can argue that 2004's "Ashes of the Wake" was the quintet's best release yet, no small feat considering the fiery explosion of 2003's "As the Palaces Burn". So can LAMB OF GOD outdo itself again on its fourth album, "Sacrament"? The answer is a qualified "no," and that does not come without multiple journeys through what is yet another well written and expertly played LAMB OF GOD disc. The qualifying part of the answer is that "Sacrament" is a damn fine album that is assuredly worthy of accolades, based on a refinement of its patented sound and a consistently strong batch of songs. "Sacrament" is in no way disappointing and will be a contender for many writers' year-end Top 10 lists; it's just that the outstanding "Ashes of the Wake" is awfully hard to top.So about that sound expansion… All that means is that producer Machine and the LOG troupe have given the music a bigger sound utilizing minor accents and some insubstantial studio effects. It has nothing to do with an abandonment of those trademark twin guitar licks from Mark Morton and Will Adler, the syncopation and percussive might of drummer Chris Adler or the unique and vitriolic vocals of Randy Blythe. The style remains in tact. You will hear more guitar solos and more variation in Blythe's delivery, as well as the appearance of studio-treated backing vocals (more like multi-tracked layering) during some of the choruses. Most importantly, "Sacrament" is as metallic as ever. The group has done nothing to lessen the sheer intensity of its attack. Just like "Ashes of the Wake", there are no throwaway tracks here. Several tunes are destined to remain in the act's live set for years to come. "Redneck" is arguably the album highlight. A decidedly southern bent to the riff groove and Blythe's borderline Anselmo-by-way-of-Keenan vocals give the song a monstrous swagger and a opportunity for crowd sing-alongs during the chorus of, "This is a motherfuckin' invitation!" Distinctive vocal patterns with the aforementioned backing vocals on tracks such as "Forgotten (Lost Angels)", the epic arrangement of "Requiem", the anthemic "Again, We Rise", and the memorable "Pathetic" are indicative of the group's continued development. The driving tempo and eerily melodic coating of "Blackened the Cursed Sun" give the song a kind of dark elegance. Lyrically, it is one of several cuts that delves into the realm of personal demons and treacherous sojourns into the bleakest reaches of human nature, part of a conscious effort on the part of the band to move away from the overtly political rants of "Ashes of the Wake". Ending with the album's fastest, most violent song, "Beating on Death's Door", works as a kind of reminder to those who dare question LAMB OF GOD's rightful place at the top of the metal heap. Something tells me that I'll go back to "Sacrament" many times over the course of the next several months and question whether the strides made by the band on this album outweigh the classic status of "Ashes of the Wake". Be that as it may, one thing is for certain: "Sacrament" continues LAMB OF GOD's trend of quality American metal albums.
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