CD Review: ‘VII: Strum Und Drang’ by Lamb of God

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Lamb of God couldn’t have come up with a more apt title for its seventh album. Lead singer Randy Blythe’s incarceration following the death of a fan in Czechoslovakia (as detailed in the noteworthy documentary “As the Palace Burns”) and the extended hiatus that followed caused dark clouds to surround the band. Fans speculated whether Lamb of God had reached the end. Luckily, the band has resurrected. But while a murder wrap and inner turmoil have all the makings of metal legend, or at least the back drop for a solid album, the band’s new release sadly follows the same steady trend toward mediocrity as its previous two LPs.

“Strum Und Drang” has the shiny veneer of overproduction. All of the rough edges of the band’s defining southern metal have been carefully ironed out. One would think that time in a Czech prison would have inspired some fear and anger, maybe a little angst, but the songs found here are disappointingly tame. The album is brimming with mechanical blast beats and cookie-cutter riffs. Experiments with clean vocals on tracks like “Overlord” and “Torches” are cringe-worthy and reminiscent of the cheesy soullessness of bands like Staind. There are glimmers of the band that once was on tracks like “Engage the Fear Machine” and “Delusion Pandemic,” but it isn’t enough to salvage the album. “Strum Und Drang” brings all of the band’s worst qualities to the forefront and even guest appearances by Chino Moreno and Greg Puciato are squandered by poor employment.

Something has soured in the Lamb of God makeup. The band feels hell bent on moving away from the sound that built its fan base and toward radio-friendly banality. Maybe with a little luck and prayer the band will still manage to right itself. But considering Blythe’s recent comments about no longer wishing to scream and wanting to take a break from the band, it looks like the end times are upon us.