Now that Chris Adler's had his remarkable if short stint in MEGADETH, he saddles back upon his home stool as LAMB OF GOD prepares to grind out their next major project. In the meantime, they release an introspective EP, "The Duke", inspired by the passing of a LAMB OF GOD megafan, Wayne Alan Ford. Ford fought a long battle with leukemia and lost. This keeping in mind the band lost one of their prior merch girls, Evie Carrano, to cancer as well.
Randy Blythe has faced hell of a different sort and come out of it perhaps a different man. He urges his fans to read Ford's story at LAMB OF GOD's site and consider donating to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and www.bethematch.org in the interest of preserving lives.
Thus it becomes a little unsettling to subject "The Duke" to analysis, given the title track is an homage to Ford. The good news is, "The Duke" gives listeners a couple of gnarly new tracks to sink into, plus a few live cuts from last year's superb "VII: Sturm Und Drang".
The title track is an example of how powerful LAMB OF GOD can be when opting out of their customary munch modes. "The Duke" is a well-written power metal number that's way heavier than any radio-bound proto rock act. Not that LAMB OF GOD has strived for AOR, but "The Duke" is the most accessible track they've ever composed. Given its source, the pulled-back, somber tempo is appropriate. Blythe sticks to mostly a clean palette, barking a few outraged emissions on the rougher spots. The winding groove to "The Duke" is engulfing enough without having to smother the listener flat-out with roaring tones. It's a successful, fresh cut, a building block for LAMB OF GOD's next full-length if they choose to keep exploring in this fashion.
The bludgeoning bedlam is reserved for "Culling", no doubt partially inspired by the horror film of the same name that's gained a cult audience through cable. Here is where LAMB OF GOD's normal bash and crash modes frolic with Adler's superhuman polyrhythm accented by the band's fixated riffing. Set off by the same boogie-metal drops LAMB OF GOD has staked their reps by as early as "Redneck", the thundering groove is plenty to stoke the appetites of fans no doubt screaming for more at song's end.
The live cuts dropped across remainder of the EP are "Still Echoes", "512" and "Engage The Fear Machine". "Still Echoes" from the Rock Am Ring fest in Germany is both a crisp and murky capture with pounding echo giving it a sinister projection. "512", Blythe's haunting recollections of his time in prison, is even more hellish in this live presentation.
Speculation says LAMB OF GOD will be looking to expand their songwriting a smidge, if "The Duke" is any indicator. They should have no fear playing in this dropped-down zone since it freaking rocks. "Culling" being a solid ass-whipper, fans can take heart this band knows where their roots lie. At the heart of this EP, however lies a sad story, and that should take precedence over any prospective musical directions.