Lamb of God gains wider acceptance with pure American death metal

It’s hard to imagine the fellows in Lamb of God getting a little shaky before any gig.

When that gig is your national television debut, a few butterflies in the stomach might be expected.

The Richmond, Va.-based thrash metal/metalcore phenom made its first ever network premiere with a live performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien last Friday. Randy Blythe and company performed “Pathetic” off of their latest release, Sacrament, however their performance was anything but. The dueling guitars and the double-bass assault, anointed with the growls Lamb of God fans adore, let these East coast metallers christen the stage like pros.

A week prior, The Monitor spoke with guitarist Will Adler about the groundbreaking arrival in front of a mainstream audience and how the band earned the respect from fans, critics and the metal community.

“I don’t know what to expect. It’s something we’ve never done before,” said Adler in a telephone interview days before the band embarked on their headlining US tour, which makes its Texas stops today through Sunday. “Conan has been cool with bands of our genre, so it’s cool to be amongst the few.”

In November, Atlanta’s Mastodon took the same stage on the late night talk show, as well as Slipknot in 2005.

“It’s exciting to think that national television has come far enough in our direction to actually let a metal band like us on the air,” drummer Chris Adler — Will’s brother — said via the band’s official Web site. “We are very excited for the opportunity, not only for ourselves, but for the doors it will help to break down for heavy metal in general.”

Appealing to the masses never seemed like the band’s objective. However, following their 2000 release, New American Gospel and a relentless touring schedule, their success skyrocketed. Critics and the metal community didn’t know what to think of Blythe, Mark Morton (guitar), John Campbell (bass), and the Adler brothers.

At the time, this type of music only came from European imports.

Following two more successful albums, LoG released Sacrament, pegged as one of their darkest to date, in 2006. In recent interviews band members say when penning the tracks for the new album they veered from crooked politicians and social issues. Songs like “Pathetic” and “Descending” deal with addiction and alcoholism, “Walk with Me in Hell” addresses the destruction of codependency and “Blacken the Cursed Sun” confronts suicidal depression, the band’s Web site states.

“Over the years doing what we do, we feel we’ve matured as song writers and musicians,” Will Adler said. “The closer we worked together the better the song structure and development.”

That hard work and maturity must have paid off for the Virginia five-piece once “Redneck” received a Grammy nod for Best Metal Performance. The band, which traveled to Los Angeles to attend the ceremony, faced some stiff competition, going up against their buddies in Mastodon, Slayer, Ministry and Stonesour. Slayer took home the golden gramophone in that category.

“It would be great to get a Grammy, I don’t know,” Adler said a few days before the Feb. 11 awards show. “If we had to play that would be way more nerve-wracking. I can play a huge arena or club, but the Grammys, that’s not our audience.”

On the same token, what does such a breakout band like Lamb of God tell earlier fans, like those who still revel over the days of Burn the Priest, the band’s original moniker?

“We haven’t changed much,” he said. “I really don’t spend time thinking about those that want to keep us as the band in their back pocket. It’s going great for us.”

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Miriam Ramirez covers features and entertainment for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4468. For this and more local stories visit www.themonitor.com.

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