America is a country in dire need of metal saviours. They export more pop punk and mainstream rock bands than can be good for one's mental health, but on the metal side the US has only a few gems going for it. Especially in the thrash/death metal scene, where the Americans used to reign back in the 80s. But what's left of those bands? Metallica is a shadow of their former selves. Megadeth goes through more lineup changes than a picky coach's squad and is only just managing to revive themselves. Slayer, except for 2006's Christ Illusion (which would come after this album), went down a descending slope. Anthrax turned into a soap. And Pantera was nowhere after Phil Anselmo left and some years later the tragic murder of guitar god Dimebag Darrell finished off any hopes of this band returning.
Since then, from the underground has come very little to make America proud in the 1990s. Sure, Dream Theater had the whole progressive thing going for it, and Iced Earth are still power metal classics, but other than that, who could come and take over the flame from the old metal masters? In comes what is termed the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, with such bands as Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God. The latter seemed to stick closest to the Pantera/Slayer rulebook.
But really, if this band is all the US has going for it, America won't reclaim its former throne as lead position for thrash metal anytime soon. Lamb of God is a decidedly average band that reminds us why Iron Maiden, Metallica, and similar still headline tours. It's because whatever has come out newly just seems to pale drastically in comparison to the old greats. Lamb of God's guitar work is straight from the Pantera rulebook, but they play it with no innovativity or creativity. It's technically all fine, but there is no extra oomph behind the band's guitar work.
Guitar solos and squeals, once a trademark of how the genre evolved, are provided, but the best ones come from Alex Skolnick (of old thrash dogs Testament) and Chris Poland (formerly of Megadeth.) Lamb of God's own solos seem to shrilly contrast with the classic metal firepower the old guard gives off. It just seems to be symptomatic of the endless syndrome of music that young upstarts hardly ever live up to their forerunners.
Even the vocals have no sort of significance. Blythe has an acceptable bark, but does he come over like you wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley like Chuck Billy could? No, he doesn't. He sounds decidedly average. His vocals aren't even bad; they just have nothing special about them, they don't have that X factor that makes you say "now this is a GREAT vocalist!". There is just nothing that sets these guys apart that would make you listen to them rather than Pantera.
This is also reflected in the song quality. There are very few terrible tracks to be found on here, but there are no gems of the sort either. Listening through this album made me fall asleep during the process becasue every song sounded like I'd heard it before. The same track just ended a minute ago! The only notable standouts are opener Laid to Rest, with some impressive riffing and drum work, and What I've Become also shows off some of the vigor and power that Pantera used to display. But other than that, there's nothing going on here you haven't heard already a thousand times from older, better, and more talented bands floating around in the same genre.
And this experience of filler songs without any sort of distinguishing feature is what pervades this record and brings it down a notch to the shelf of mediocrity on my music list. The album is consistent in its musical quality and nothing too detracting can be said about the musicianship or how well the songs are played. But to be a really great band, there has to be more to the music than just sticking by the rulebook, because that's exactly the difference between buying and album and playing it or having that album collecting dust on the shelf. And Lamb of God with this album seem to display a mentality that sees them content with the latter option.