Retrospective: Lamb of God – “Sacrament”

sacrament

Lamb of God. Oh, Lamb of God. If you’re going to open a conversation about one of the most well-known and well-respected groove/thrash metal groups going, where should one begin? You could fill volumes with the events contained in the band’s history and discography. From the Burn The Priest days and the subsequent reasoning behind the name change all the way through the more recent drama surrounding a certain manslaughter case in the Czech Republic, there are countless events we could define as ‘critical’ to their history. Unfortunately for all you, I don’t really have time to get into any or all of that. But what I do want to focus on is the album that projected LoG to the top of my library for a significant period of time back in the mid-2000’s. And that album would be 2006’s Sacrament.

lamb-of-god

Now I know what you’re thinking: There should probably be at least one album that preceded Sacrament that I prefer over this one. While this particular album is nestled nicely in the very middle their discography between Ashes of the Wake and Wrath, and some would argue that Ashes was the crown jewel of their discography to this point (and I can certainly understand why), Sacrament will always stand above them all for me. Some may feel the same, some may not. But I really don’t care. I have my reasons and that’s all that matters.

I mean for one, shit, 2006… I was still in high school. I had certainly dabbled in some Lamb of God beforehand thanks to, well, downloading services (totally legal, I swear), but that was about it. Regardless, it was enough to entice me to pick up Sacrament right around the release date — yes, I’ve been playing that game for 10 years now, too. Weird, right? It was the first Lamb of God record, and actually one of the first extreme metal albums I had ever purchased. My definition of extreme metal has clearly changed… but that’s a topic for another day. What I’m trying to say is that there’s some nostalgia associated with this album. That helps it stand out a bit more when you look at how long I’ve at least been aware of (if not following religiously, pun intended) Lamb of God.

Beyond that, we all know that LoG has come up several times before on both the blog and podcast, and we generally discuss the same pros and cons of their work. The primary con? Their albums tend to be top heavy. When you listen to, say, Wrath or Resolution, do you really think the albums are consistent in terms of quality from one track to another? I personally don’t think so. They are solid albums, sure, but they’re solid because of their high points, not because of how they listens as full albums. Even Ashes and the preceding As The Palaces Burn fall victim to the same criticism, although to a lesser extent. The peaks and valleys are just too far apart. Sacrament, on the other hand, does not really have any weak points. From the dark opening moments of “Walk With Me In Hell” to the faster, heavier “Foot To The Throat” or “More Time To Kill”, this album covers plenty of ground stylistically but never truly lets the foot off the gas pedal.

And let’s not discount the highlights, which certainly exist when you look at crowd favorites like “Redneck”, “Blacken The Cursed Sun”, or “Again We Rise”. These all display a deeply raw emotion that brings a certain dread and darkness to their aggression. These high points don’t quite reach “Laid To Rest” or “Omerta” when looked at as singles perhaps, but when listened to within the context of the entire album, you begin to understand why it doesn’t really matter. The chanting (vocal harmonies?) of some of the choruses and the added dose of cleanliness to some of the leads (which attributes to the album’s dark feel) all come forward from time to time in the album, helping it feel somewhat relatable to an audeance while simultaneously keeping it cohesive and consistent, more so than any LoG album to come before it… or after it. Maybe the peaks aren’t as high, but the valleys aren’t as low, either.

Aside from that, it really is the darker feel of this album that helps it stand out stylistically from their other work. The leads are more precise, the brooding moments of various tracks like “Descending” send a chill up your spine in a rather terrifying way. I distinctly remember repeatedly listening to this album and reading the lyrics late nights back when it first dropped and just being completely blown away by how the words and music came together so perfectly to create an aura of atheistic, sarcastic, blackness. It has the same effect today whenever I got back to it and I absolutely love it.

Before I wrap things up, it would be remiss of me to not touch on the live performances that followed this album. I’m sure some of you have seen their live DVDs or have attended one or two of their shows over the years. I’ve been to a few, most notably one while at university and it was unreal. Un. Real. Keeping the all-nighter in sketchy Albany in the middle of a CNY January aside (again, a story for another day), the performance was absolutely legendary. I still haven’t moshed as hard in my life. It was, at the time, the biggest indoor metal show I had ever attended and I was completely full of life (everything before that was super small scale or like… Ozzfest or something). And these were the days before everyone considered themselves a fucking concert photographer/videographer with their piece of shit iPhones. It was an environment where everyone was on the same page as the band in energy and intensity. Everyone was full of life. The minutes and tracks went by and not a single ounce of energy was lost thanks in full to what Lamb of God was projecting onto us. Oh, and the show was opened by Soilwork, Devildriver, and Killswitch Engage… so we should have been dead on our feet at that point. We weren’t. It’s a show I’ll never forget.

I’ve rambled on and on about Sacrament probably more than I intended to, but hopefully that provides some background on one of the most important albums in my library. Maybe Lamb of God is too popular for us to really care about anymore. Or maybe their music just isn’t as good a decade later (I thought VII: Sturm und Drang was… fine, thanks for asking). Regardless, this will always be a gem and one worth getting absorbed in either for the first time or for throwback purposes. You can find the full album as well as a live clip below just because. Get on that.

“Ein Bier… bitte.”
– Corey

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