Lamb Of God/Burn It Down

Lamb Of God

New American Gospel

Metal Blade/Prosthetic

Burn It Down

Let the Dead Bury the Dead

Escape Artist

And the battle for supremacy of metal-core’s newer, more intelligent school rages on, this month’s young upstarts being Lamb Of God and Burn It Down. A quintet hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Lamb Of God (formerly monikered Burn The Priest) make their high-profile debut with their second long-player, New American Gospel. (Their eponymously titled debut was released last year on fledgling indie Legion Records.) With a gospel this harrowing, this fire-breathing, this god-fearing and -flaying, the record could yet become the new Word, as the band takes a cue from producer Steve Austin’s brainchild, Today is the Day, by lashing out at non-linear, epileptic song structures, more like quick jabs to the cranium than one steady lop of it, tribal tom-toms and stuttering riffs painting vignettes of a wasted humanity while frontman D. Randall Bythe screams, screeches, wretches, just plain gesticulates a “Letter to the Unborn” (lyrics?) and expressionistically extols “The Subtle Arts of Murder and Persuasion,” among other things. In a word: nihilistic; in two: destructively nihilistic. Needless to say, New American Gospel is 10 chapters of caustic reading — amen!

Whereas Lamb of God owe a sizable debt to the aforementioned Today is the Day, Burn It Down owe a slightly less sizable debt, mainly because it’s split between two groups: Tool and the new n’ improved Deftones. However, that’s not to say that the Indianapolis four-piece is somehow more generic or — egad! — less “heavy”; such guideposts mainly serve to signify something most of Burn It Down’s contemporaries are conspicuously lacking: melody. Yes, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, the band’s second album, displays a sprawling stretch of manic-depressive melody and loping (but aggressively so) song-structures, both of which colliding head-on with mathy nuances and a considerable kill factor, where proceedings deceptively cool down for a bit, only for the blowtorch to subsequently take you out of the game. Vocalist Ryan Downey splits the difference by smoothly segueing from hardcore-derived barks into Maynard Keenan-esque, drowning-in-front howls into smoother, lonely-man-on-the-mountain croons; still, for as accessible as all this sounds, it’ll be a goddamn long time — not to mention some tinkering with cultural logistics — before somebody as smart and smarting as Burn It Down gets on MTV. And for that, folks, I give another “amen!”

Who wins? Dunno. Does it matter? Nope.

Metal Blade, 2828 Cochran St., PMB 302, Simi Valley, CA 93065-2793,; Escape Artist, P.O. Box 472, Downington, PA 19335,

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