Listening to the first track on Lamb of God’s seventh studio album, Resolution, I thought, Uh-oh, here we go: death, despair, nihilism. “I wanna be the only one left,” rasps influential metalcore frontman Randy Blythe. “Misdiagnosed condition/Burnt beyond recognition/Sink her straight through the floor/She’s not breathing anymore/Choke in this atmosphere/Nothing will be left here/Gone.” I checked the track listing: Thirteen more to endure. I braced myself as I clicked through to the second track, the not-so-hopeful sounding “Desolation.”
I was right to take a deep breath, it turns out. But not just because of the nihilism and negativity. To be sure, there’s no shortage of wailing, profanity-laced, gravel-voiced despair to be had here—a theme that’s been consistent throughout Lamb of God’s nearly 20-year career. Sifting through the band’s dense lyrics, however, some surprisingly poignant philosophical themes emerged as well, most notably unshackling ourselves from self-deception and rejecting bondage to our culture’s lies.
“Guilty” urges those in trapped denial to open their eyes: “Bound by the chain of lies you’ve wrapped around you/You’re trapped in regression/Dying in the face of truth/ … You’re just gluing your amber eyes shut/As the world keeps spinning around your cage/ … Internalize and fabricate escapable.” And “The Number Six” criticizes laziness (“Sloth is the enemy of greatness/ … We strive as you leisurely criticize”). The song also suggests that living a life of malice and deception will ultimately lead to death (“You’ve dug your own grave with your spite/You’ve dug your own grave lie by lie”).
“Invictus” is unfortunately graphic at times, but it manages to raise up dogged perseverance in the face of suffering: “Unconquered/Life is born of agony’s strain/Manifested in suffering/Most live crippled by fear/I’d rather walk it off on bloody stumps until I’ve bled dry.” That song also ponders the inevitability of death and how we should live knowing that the same fate awaits us all: “Yeah, we’re all gonna die/You brand it a crisis/I name it an honor/To face what arises/To remain unconquered/ … So how will you die? There’s no way out.” In a similar vein, “Terminally Unique” asks, “When will you awaken?/Your life is passing by.”
“Cheated” rightfully complains, “We king ourselves with a plastic crown/Casualty of a daydream nation.” And it calls those who live that way “The walking dead/Living a lie.” Then it asks, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
Rage, despair and hints of violence mingle on many tracks. “Desolation” repeats the profane phrase, “All that for nothing/What a f‑‑‑ing waste of time/I only took what was rightfully mine.” “Invictus” describes life as “a fatal disease without a cure.” And “Visitation” implies that all we’re left to live for is hate: “Too far gone now to reverse my course and be subjugated/And my blood keeps boiling/This is a labor of hate/This is how I choose to survive/The only way I know to exist/The road is hard and the cost is high/But I was built for this/My labor of hate.”
“Ghost Walking” seems to be about an unemployed man who grows increasingly desperate as he’s unable to find work. “Do you remember when work was bond, a fleeting promise in the light of dawn?” we hear early in the song. Now there’s only desperation as he hovers on the brink of either suicide (“Obliteration never looked so divine/ … You lived through h‑‑‑, now you’re trying to die”) or murder (“Shots fired just to numb the pain/There’s no one left to save”) or perhaps both. The specter of violence creeps into “The Number Six” as well, as the song rages at someone “in slut’s wool” who prompts him to sing, “An empty barrel makes the most noise/And I begin to feel my hands around your throat.”
“To the End” includes this line about communing with both God and Satan: “I’ve held the hand of God, and I’ve sang the devil’s song/And when it comes my time, no tears are gonna fall.” The song goes on to imagine the resulting funeral, an event at which some will mourn, but most will say, “Oh Lord have mercy/Thank God you’re gone.”
“The Undertow” spits at a critic, “You’re word’s not worth its weight in s‑‑‑.”
In a recent interview with loudwire.com, Lamb of God lead growler Randy Blythe said of Resolution, “This record had been introspective for me. I’m 40 years old and I still maintain all the core beliefs I had when I started forming in my teens. I’m known as a bit of a malcontent sort of guy I guess, and I’m still that way.”
Malcontent is exactly the right word here. You’ll find a lot of things in Blythe’s lyrics, but contentment isn’t on the list. And that makes him right in about half the things he picks to pick on. When his songs vent spleen about self-deception and the world’s lies, they offer listeners quite a lot to chew on. But when his constantly churning cauldron of contempt boils over—sometimes violently so—in the realm of common hardships and relationships, both human and divine, the resulting mess is guaranteed to burn.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.