In some fans’ eyes, Lamb Of God are the natural heirs to Pantera: the Virginians’ mix of precision brutality, rabble rousing anthems and supreme musicianship make the band a go-to outfit for anyone with a penchant for incendiary, 21st century heavy metal. Plus, by walking a similar sonic landscape to the cowboys from hell, they’ve managed to plant themselves firmly onto any festival mainstage they choose. None of that is a bad thing… but there’s always been more to the quintet than belting out Redneck to a throng of beered-up moshers. And Legion XX proves that.
Released under the band’s original moniker, it’s a tour around the band’s myriad influences, a homage to the acts who lit a fire under Randy Blythe and co. back in the 80s and 90s. And for anyone whose musical palate doesn’t expand much further than Metallica, Machine Head, Trivium and LoG themselves, it should serve as a real eye opener. Bad Brains’ I Against I, for instance, doesn’t quite work (it’s a little to metallized, perhaps) but Blythe brings the spirit of Brains singer HR to this version… and you’d love to see the influential Rastapunks get more recognition as a result.
New York hardcore gems like Agnostic Front’s One Voice and Cro-Mags’ We Gotta Know, though, lend themselves well to Burn The Priest’s razor-sharp makeover, while The Accüsed’s Inherit The Earth is a rib cracking opener, and you get the sense that the Richmond boys had a lot of fun turning the clock back to skateparks and embryonic punk/thrash collisions. It all sounds great – though a little too obvious.
However, things get really interesting when Burn The Priest take a left turn, when they dig in the dusty crates for more alternative fare. Big Black’s twisted anti-anthem Kerosene is the album’s undoubted highlight – the band shift Steve Albini’s work into their own space, while retaining its wild, unhinged vibe. The work of post hardcore gamechangers Quicksand also makes an appearance in the form of Dine Alone, a song which allows Blythe to stretch his vocal cords into melodic territory and allows the band to bring more subtle flavours to Legion XX. And while there’s nothing subtle about Ministry’s Jesus Built By Hotrod, Burn The Priest do a fine job of burning up the asphalt and delivering a searing rendition of the tune which announced a new era for Jourgensen’s industrialists.
Respect, too, goes to the boys for focusing on their local scene: Axis Rot, by Sliang Laos, is a real find, akin to a harder, more street-smart Voivod.
Lamb Of God/Burn The Priest are, by today’s standards anyway, a huge metal band. They didn’t need to release Legion XX. But by doing so, they’ve both given a firm nod to their roots and demonstrated a versatility that they’ve only hinted at before. And they should be applauded for it.