Music: In Lamb of God We Trust

Popular Metal act lets up on Bush, but still thinks "the human race is a disease on this planet"

 
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Lamb of God members went to the Grammys this year and though they didn't take home a statue (thanks to Slayer), they did get to meet "Weird Al."



Although acclaimed Metal act Lamb of God was nominated for a Grammy Award this year, you'd never know it from observing or listening to vocalist Randy Blythe. He was conspicuously absent from the red-carpet interview with MTV veteran John Norris.

"I didn't go," Blythe says by telephone from a hotel in North Dakota. "I didn't care. I know it's supposed to be an honor, but it's not part of my reality."

LOG ultimately lost out to Slayer and, whatever your opinion of the Grammys, those of us who sat around listening to Reign in Blood circa 1987 couldn't help but shake our heads in wonderment. Blythe, momentarily becoming the wry genre historian, remarks, "I guess it's better than Jethro Tull."

According to Blythe, the only positives his bandmates reported from the experience were that guitarist Willie Adler got to meet "Weird Al" Yankovic and that Christina Aguilera looks pretty hot in person, too.

None of this is surprising, of course. Although Lamb of God was nominated for Best Metal Performance for the song "Redneck," a single off their latest album, Sacrament, fans know that writing radio-friendly jigs isn't generally LOG's forte.

The band's virtues are usually subtler, often coming through only after multiple listenings, and what one eventually appreciates is not the build-and-release of a conventional verse-chorus pattern but little moments such as a rhythmic pulse here or an additional vocal layering there.

Indeed, from a vocal standpoint, Blythe is both demonic and intelligible, surviving even the coarsest scrutiny of the metalhead's mortal enemy — the U2 fan.

" 'Redneck' is the most rocking song, with a classic songwriting pattern," Blythe agrees. "I like bands that take a while to embed a pattern into somebody's head. It's kind of a schizophrenic process, where you argue with yourself until you establish the song's identity. It's like nanotechnology on drugs. We don't really make a point to go for any specific style or sound. Every record comes out as it comes out."

According to many fans and critics, Sacrament represents a departure for LOG musically and thematically. It's certainly more raw and less polished than their previous effort, the highly regarded Ashes of the Wake. Whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on whether you prioritize technical refinement or primal roars in your Metal.

Naturally, Blythe's perspective is somewhat different. But one thing he does concur with his listeners on is, despite a good deal of second-person lyrical hostility that suggests otherwise, there are no songs directed at President Bush.

"We wrote two highly politicized records before this one," he says. "I still won't be inviting (Bush) over for dinner. But we didn't write a song about him (this time)."

This isn't to say, however, that Blythe's antipathy for his fellow humans has lessened one iota.

"The human race is a disease on this planet," he says. "It's a race that does nothing historically except fuck up. It consistently creates things that's a detriment to our environment. Everything else in nature lives in harmony. You don't see a monkey building a nuclear bomb because they're pissed off at the other tribe of orangutans."

Occasionally, though, Blythe's targets are more specific, as on the Sacrament track "Forgotten (Lost Angels)," where he blasts the record-industry culture of L.A.

When asked what traumas he endured on the West Coast to inspire the tune, his initial, incredulous response is, "Have you been there?"

Then he elaborates: "It's full of muckety-mucks, these record execs and publicists or whatever they do ... actually, I'm confused about what they do. A lot of people out there get paid a lot of money for indeterminate actions, just a lot of self-important people glad-handing. The record industry got fat on its own hubris and now it's imploding, and that's why people are downloading (illegally)."

LOG has been on Epic Records for the last few albums, and the paradox isn't quite lost on Blythe.

"It's a necessary evil," he says.

Yet despite his withering criticisms of American politics and culture, Blythe doesn't consider himself to be a menace to society, as he probably would've been had he emerged 20 years ago when the Metal singer was considered Public Enemy No. 1 by the Religious Right and icons of rebellion for their children.

The reasons why things have changed are numerous: genre implosion, increased public jadedness, the ability of folks like Jerry Falwell to pick their battles a bit more wisely and Blythe's individual persona, which has spent many years fighting the stereotype that being the repressed son of a preacher is what catapulted him into the Metal world in the first place.

"It's small-minded and a super pain in the ass," he says. "(That preacher's son stereotype) compartmentalizes you, suggests that you have no choice in the matter, that you're a product of genetics, which is a scary thought. I'd be what I am no matter where I came from."

And regarding any subversive standing he might or might not enjoy (the band was banned a few years ago from playing a Los Angeles arena owned by a prominent religious organization), Blythe says he really has little interest in walking the path beaten down by the likes of Alice Cooper and others. Despite all the talk about Rock's and Metal's identity crises, Blythe jokes that the only trouble he's had is the occasional sensation that he's Leonard Nimoy.

"Depending on how well-versed you are in Scripture, there's a lot of beautiful metaphors to steal from the Bible, but we don't really write about religion," he says. "And we don't have a problem with religion as long as you don't cram it down our throats. It's up to the individual artist whether they want to be menacing, but I agree that you can't shock people anymore. The nightly news is full of atrocity. I just want to make the kind of music I like.

"All I ever wanted to do is drink beer and play in the basement, and the 12 years since we started has been like a slow burn with hot sauce. It's a purely narcissistic endeavor."



LAMB OF GOD plays Bogart's Thursday with Trivium, Machine Head and Gojira.

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