LAMB OF GOD - Closer to the Divine

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

Not many metal bands enjoy the current notoriety of Lamb of God. This is a band that is EXPECTED by metal fans to lead the next generation of American metal. Picking up the torch from Slayer and Pantera is no small task and it brings with it tremendous pressure.

The band's new album "Sacrament" responds to the pressure in an unusual way. Instead of regurgitating the unquestionably mayhemic style of previous hits "Ashes of the Wake" and "As the Palaces Burn", "Sacrament" refines the LOG trademarks and offers a more expansive sound that still manages to kick furious amount of ass.

Lamb has built much of its success on the back of an inhuman touring schedule. I caught up with bassist John Campbell as they were starting Gigantour. This travelling metal show comes on the heels of the Unholy Alliance tour with Slayer and Mastodon. And more international gallivanting is in the cards for these road dogs.

I think you will find this is one of the more interesting interviews we've done at Wormwood recently, as the candid Mr. Campbell covers a great multitude of subjects, including Lamb's punishing tour schedule...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us. Do you guys ever take a break?

JOHN CAMPBELL: (laughter) Not much of one! We got off the Sounds of the Underground late last summer and went immediately into writing, which was a five day a week schedule. We went from that into a tour of Europe in December and then took a couple of weeks off. Then come January we were right back at it and went into the studio and from there we went out with Slayer on the Unholy Alliance tour and came back home for a month before we jumped back out on the road with Gigantour, which is where we are at now.

WC: How's that been going so far?

JC: We're really just starting to get into the pace and the rhythm of the tour. We've been out here for a little more than a week and it takes about that long for a tour to get settled in and that's pretty much where we're at.

WC: You've played with all the major metal tours like Ozzfest, Sounds of the Underground, Gigantour and Unholy Alliance. Let me put you on the spot and ask how they all compare to each other.

JC: Unholy Alliance is the best tour I've ever been on in my touring existence.

WC: It seems to be an unbeatable lineup (Slayer, Lamb of God, Mastodon, Children of Bodom, Thine Eyes Bleed).

JC: Even beyond the line-up, the dudes in those bands and the dudes in those band's crews...the venues...everything about that tour...was great. Everybody got along really well. We were really good friends with some of the bands even before the tour started and by the end of the tour, everybody was having a really good time.

WC: Any one show in particular that stood out?

JC: (laughs) To my brain. no. Because my brain works on the blur factor and everything just becomes one awesome show.

WC: To me, the production sound on your new album "Sacrament" is a little bit different than what we've heard before. I thought it was more of an oldschool type of production.

JC: Well, what we did is use the same producer we did on "Ashes of the Wake", a guy named Machine. We felt like to that point that was the best production value we had gotten and we felt we could get it a little better. We had a relationship with Machine we felt we could build on so we brought him back in and built on the production of "Ashes" to get the result we got on "Sacrament".

WC: Will you be continuing your relationship with him? Will he be the Lamb of God producer right on down the line?

JC: I have no clue at this point but you never know. When we shift gears out of writing the next record, we'll make the decision. We aren't really thinking too far ahead right now.

WC: You play an awfully angry type of music. Is it difficult to sustain that anger night after night?

JC: The worst thing that happens is you get sick. That can be a real pain in the butt. But no, it's not. We put a lot of ourselves into creating this music and it's a way to vent. Playing the stuff live is an incredible rush.

WC: This record sounds like it was very emotionally draining to make. Did you feel drained while working on it?

JC: Definitely! I think everytime we've ever done a record, we've gone in and put everything we've had into it. Doing a record in four days is one thing, but now we go into the studio for two months and put ourselves into it every day...that's very draining.

WC: You've gone out of your way to say that the lyrics on "Sacrament" were a lot less political than on "Ashes of the Wake". Things in the world seem to be just as bad if not worse than when you did the earlier album.

JC: At the time we did "Ashes", there was actually a little bit of hope in the process because we were getting ready for another election to make a change. Well, we all know how the election went. That took the steam out of a lot of people. As far as us changing gears with the political thing, we were going to try and do that on "Ashes" in the beginning of 2004. But this time around the goal was not to do a political record, to keep from being pigeonholed as a political band.

WC: Would you say then that after the events of 2004, it's really a kind of hopeless situation as far as political change goes?

JC: (chuckles) Yeah, definitely, I think it is. My personal belief is that all the powers that be have all the money and all the means to manipulate the system to stay in power and continue to make more money. Those of us not in power are fucked. It's almost to the point where there's tyrannical shit going on and it's not "we, the people" any more.

WC: It's funny...

JC: It's not funny, it fuckin' sucks! It makes me very angry. It sucks that the hippy "Peace and love and huggin' everybody" approach doesn't work and the "pickin' up guns and shooting people" approach doesn't seem to work either. It's kinda screwed...

WC: What was I going to say was it was funny that we spent 50 years fighting the Communists but we still wind up with a very small clique of people that control everything only they do a better job of sugar coating it.

JC: (laughter) Yeah, there's definitely some truth in that statement!

WC: Even the Who had it figured out years ago. "Meet the new boss...same as the old boss..."

JC: That's true. It's not like there's anything new.Not much is getting done as far as change goes. I just hope it doesn't come down to armed warfare. It would suck to have to shoot people.

WC: Not only that, buying all those flak jackets would get expensive...

JC: And they've already got 'em all...

WC: Some have said that "Sacrament" has a bit more of a metalcore feel to it. Is that a term you're comfortable with?

JC: I've seen the term before. We don't purposefully write a metalcore song. Shit comes out, like the song "Redneck". The title of that song is the only time a working title ever came from the writing process and made it on to the record. We usually come up with the most ridiculous titles for 'em while we're in the writing process...embarassing titles I wouldn't even tell you...but "Redneck" was one that, when Mark came in played the riff, Chris said "that riff is so fucking redneck" and the name kind of stuck.

WC: You're sure I can't pry one of those silly titles out of you?

JC: Yeah, I'm pretty positive! (chuckles). The point being that we write stuff that is an expression of what we are doing. To put a label on it , I understand that's how people are better able to understand it, but as far as I'm concerned, being completely absorbed in it, "Lamb of God" is the only label that I'd put on it.

WC: The word "sacrament" itself is something that makes you holy...

JC: Right, it's a ritual step towards being closer to the divine.

WC: How do you perceive the connection between that word and your album?

JC: Our name is Lamb of God and that's a pretty strong symbolic connection right there. Regarding the name, it means nothing and it means everything. It's whatever you find in it that makes sense. It is a ritual step towards divinity and Lamb of God is more than a band to us, it's our religion, it's why we do what we do. Also, addiction is a real heavy theme on the record. People who are addicted to things act in a very ritual way, almost religiously and that fits in with the title as well.

WC: And the religious theme also naturally leads to a lot of cool imagery.

JC: Sure! Hopefully a lot of cool thought processes as well. If we do anything with our music that leads to people thinking about stuff on a deeper level, then we've been successful.

WC: The record had an awesome debut on the charts...

JC: It absolutely did, it debuted at #8.

WC: Slayer came in at #5, Iron Maiden came in at #9. Is it pretty fair to say metal is back to the level it was in the late 80's?

JC: (laughter) No, the late 80's metal sucked and deserved to die a horrible death!(I'm betting he is referring more to mainstream pop metal than the underground--Dr. Mality) That's one of the reasons we started the band back in 1994 was because nobody was making good metal. Well, let me take that back...there were a few bands making good metal. To say that metal is back to the popularity it had in the late 80's...I'm not sure if it's quite that big yet. Maybe getting that big is part of what ended up killing it.

WC: Yeah, then it becomes a trend and a trend never lasts...

JC: Well. we've been doing the band for 12 years independent of any sort of trend. We did our first tour through Maximum Rock and Roll's "Book Your Own Fucking Life" which they put out yearly and is a list of clubs and promoters. We'd have to call people then and say we were a "punk" metal band. If we said we were a metal band, we'd get "no, not interested", but if we called ourselves punk metal, then they were all about it.

WC: And then everybody at the shows wound up digging it anyway, I'm sure.

JC: Yeah, because we knew we were playing great metal music. It was just that metal was such a bad word back then.

WC: I know right now on Gigantour you're playing with some dudes with a similar outlook, Overkill...

JC: Oh, fuck, those dudes are amazing!

WC: They're one of my favorites and Bobby Blitz is one of the funniest guys I've ever talked to.

JC: Yeah, having those guys on this tour is a saving grace for me, because they are awesome dudes. They are good, honest people and they're as funny as shit and they've got a great band that puts on a great show. It's really fuckin' cool to have them out here with us.

WC: I'm glad they finally got a break to be on a tour like this because they've been slogging it out in the clubs for years like an American version of Motorhead.

JC: Bobby Blitz said something as funny as shit the other day on stage. "When I was 16, I told my mamma I was never gonna work a real job, that I was gonna play rock and roll in arenas. I just didn't know it was gonna take 45 years!" (laughter) God bless 'em for being on this tour!

WC: Will the big success you've been having change Lamb of God?

JC: Absolutely not. A common question in any interview is "did you feel any pressure going in and writing this record?" The answer is always that the only pressure we feel is the pressure we put on ourselves. That's what we've done before...just write music that outdoes what we've done before and whips ass and that will get us proud and pumped to get more out.

WC: After Gigantour wraps up, will you be headed right back out or will you be taking a break?

JC: We'll be taking a nice long 3 day break and then we head to Japan for a festival date and then we head down to Australia to catch up with Killswitch Engage and Unearth and from there we fly to Milan, Italy to catch up with Slayer and do the Unholy Alliance European tour. That will get us home about Thanksgiving.

WC: You're seeing the whole world. When you started all those years ago, did you think you'd ever be going to Australia and Japan?

JC: (chuckles) When the van breaks down on the road to Philly, the question at that time is "fuck, are we going to make it to Philly?" (laughter) Hell, no! I never expected anything like this!

WC: That's got to be one of the best perks of being in a successful band.

JC: When we fly out of Richmond to go to Japan, we'll be going westerly and continue on until we circle the Earth. That's pretty heavy.

WC: What was the last CD you got just for your own enjoyment?

JC: That's a good question. Strangely enough, it was "Sacrament"! The first day we were doing an in-store, I picked it up! It's been a while. I've listened to a lot of unsigned, unpopular bands. Richmond, where we're from, has a lot of good underground bands going on. I keep my head pretty deep into that stuff and listen to whatever comes to me through those channels. Very rarely do I get the kind of CD you find in a store...usually you'll have a hard time finding what I get.

WC: That whole area of Baltimore/ Washington, D. C./ Richmond has a lot of interesting bands and venues to play.

JC: Yeah, it's interesting because the Unholy Alliance tour completely passed by that area and the closest we're getting on Gigantour is New York City to the north and ******** Virginia to the south.

WC: Any bands from your area you'd like to put a shout out to?

JC: There's a band called Alabama Thunderpussy that's signed to Relapse that's working on their next record now and I've been able to go into the studio while they've been working on it and it sounds amazing. I look forward to that record coming out.

WC: Are there any projects outside of Lamb of God that you're involved with? Do you have any interest in producing, mixing?

JC: At this point, all my time is really spent with Lamb of God and when I'm not doing that, it's all recreation. There's nothing on the immediate horizon for me along those lines.

WC: What was the last gig that you attended just because you wanted to check it out?

JC: I went to see this band from Richmond called RPG. Saw 'em in a club that we played in years ago, a spot that's been around Richmond for a long time. It's sort of a shithole. When I saw the band, the air conditioning was broken, the power was going out during the set and I stuck around drenched with sweat watching the band get their power cut off. I stuck around to watch because RPG is an amazing band from Richmond, Virginia.

WC: It brought back some memories of back in the day.

JC: I've been in bands with three of the four dudes and so I had to stick my head in and give some support.

WC: In the history of Lamb of God, did you have any Spinal Tap moment?

JC: Are you kidding me? Absolutely! You can't be a band at all and not have a Spinal Tap moment! We were doing a signing in Worcester, Massachusetts at that place called the Palladium. A huge building...they've hosted metalfests with 60 bands or more on 'em.

WC: The New England Hardcore and Metal Festival...

JC: That's the one! We did a signing and when we were done with that, we left the room and wandered through the place trying to get to the back stage and after ten minutes we wound up coming in through the other door of the room we had just left.

WC: And nobody yelled "Hello, Cleveland"? (laughter)

JC: You know, somebody very well may have! But it was definitely ripped from the pages of Spinal Tap!

WC: Any final words for the Lamb fans out there?

JC: Just keep on listenin', we're going to keep on doing what we do and I appreciate you helping to spread the word by doing the interview and taking the time to write it up!

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