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LAMB OF GOD The Duke EP

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, November 17, 2016 @ 2:42 PM


- advertisement -
LAMB OF GOD
The Duke
EP
Epic Records




While not exactly a goldmine of essential material or undiscovered treasures, the new five-track EP from Virginia’s LAMB OF GOD nevertheless is noteworthy for a couple reasons.

The first is the personal nature of the subject matter of the title track, one of only two new songs here, both of which were apparently left over from the sessions for 2015's VII: Sturm Und Drang. “The Duke” honors a friend and fan of the band, Wayne Ford, who was stricken with leukemia and died in 2015. In conjunction with the EP’s release, LAMB OF GOD is offering a number of items as part of an online charity campaign to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – if you’re interested, you can find out all about it HERE.

The second is the more practical matter of the music itself, and the fact that “The Duke” also marks the first time frontman Randy Blythe employs clean vocals nearly all the way through. Sturm Und Drang featured several instances of cleans in passing, most notably to lead off “Overlord”. Here, he goes all in, save for some sporadic, emphatic barks. The results are mixed. While the cleans help convey the song's somber message and mood with more clarity and grace than Blythe's signature screaming probably could have, they come off sounding rather plain and even tentative during the more relaxed verses. Better are the more forceful choruses where he puts a bit more muscle behind them.

Looking forward, however, not sure this is a trend the band should expand on – if that is even the intent. Blythe's attack-dog presence is so fearsomely effective, to restrain him takes away one of the band's biggest strengths. The second new song, “Culling” is more standard-issue LAMB OF GOD thrash: chunky, surging riffs, brisk pacing and Blythe's irascible rasp. While it is a better, more immediate tune than some of the material that ended up on Sturm Und Drang, it does have a too-familiar ring to it and is perhaps better-suited to its “B-side” status here.

The rest of the EP is three live tracks, all from Sturm Und Drang, recording during summer festival appearances. “Still Echoes”, from Rock am Ring in Germany, and “512” and “Engage The Fear Machine” from Bonnaroo in Tennessee, showcase the band's ability to blend thrash metal intensity with evocative melody and Blythe's aggressive vocals and come out with something that is both catchy and corrosive. At its best, in other words.

As an attention-getter, The Duke does the job – all the better to benefit the cause behind it. It also answers the question “I wonder what LAMB OF GOD would sound like with clean vocals?” that I'm sure many fans have had. And if it turns out they don't like the answer, there's enough brutality in the other four songs here to cleanse the palate - and offer the solace that the song “The Duke” is probably just the experiment/aberration it seems to be and not a taste of things to come.

3.0 Out Of 5.0

Grab a copy of The Duke in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.


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