Lamb of God

Sacrament

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Virginia metalcore kings Lamb of God get personal on the blistering Sacrament, an 11-track onslaught of machine gun riffs and larynx-shredding vocals filtered through an immaculately mapped-out rhythm section that owes as much to progressive rock as it does traditional heavy metal. Producer Machine, who helped craft 2004's Ashes of the Wake into one of the best metal records of the year, has returned, tightening his wrench and experimenting on Randy Blythe's voice like a fever-mad scientist. Longtime fans will no doubt debate the virtues of Sacrament's commercial bullet, the scathing White Zombie-meets-Megadeth single "Redneck," but the rest of the album is as brutal as anything they've ever done. Melodic opener "Walk with Me in Hell" culls inspiration from Piece of Mind-era Iron Maiden, "Pathetic" wraps itself around a sinewy lead that sounds like a snake swallowing dinner, and "Blacken the Cursed Sun," easily one of the best metal songs of 2006, shows further evidence of the band's potential to become the American version of Opeth. If Sacrament suffers from anything, it's a pounding sense of sameness. They rarely stray from the "Drop D" tuning, resulting in a second half that tends to blur, shake, and sputter out a bit, but there's no denying Lamb of God's almost unnerving power to conjure wind from the tiniest of stereo speakers.

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