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Lamb Of God    
lamb of god
I had heard of Burn the Priest, but I don't think I had ever listened to them. And then somebody gave me a copy of Lamb of God's, 'New American Gospel'. With the fact that they used to be Burn the Priest the number one press point associated with the release, I was understandably blasť about the whole thing. Then I popped it in the Discman, and pressed play. I was floored. Killer, thrash-style riffing delivered with total extreme metal intensity and driven by some of the most intricate technical-metal drumming I've heard in some time. Ever since, I've been hooked. Lamb of God rule, and everybody out there into well-executed and passionate thrashing needs to know about it. So we hooked up with Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler to learn the story and to do our part in helping the band to spread the 'New American Gospel'.

Metal Update: Are you familiar with the Metal Update?

Chris Adler: I'm familiar. I'm familiar with Metal Update and Metal Judgment and all that stuff. I'm an Internet freak, so - (laughs)

MU: Do you see Lamb of God as a band that appeals to people coming from any particular sub-genre of metal, or have you hit upon a sound which can be embraced by a broader mixture?

CA: I think that just the way you put that is kinda funny. I don't know if we necessarily 'hit upon a sound,' but a focus of ours, from the beginning, was not to be pigeon-holed into a particular sub-genre, to any particular corner of the metal community. And I think we as individuals bring such varied influences into the project, and the way that we combine those creatively is very unique. Both in music theory and in what we prefer to listen to. There's a lot of differences in the guys who are in the band. So I think it was kind of a point of ours that we weren't copying anybody, and that we wanted to make something that other people weren't doing. That's actually what we originally set out to do. Because we were really fed up in the very early nineties with the stuff that was coming out, and we said, you know what, we could probably sit down and do this a little better, and, well, we did.

MU: You say that you all bring different influences into the band, and your drumming is one of the aspects of Lamb of God that strikes me the most. It rules. As the drummer, what perspective do you think you bring to the Lamb of God sound?

lamb of god

CA: I've been schooled in many different instruments, and I am very familiar with music theory. Drums are never something that I had any formal education with. I'm flattered when people compliment my drumming like the Metal Judgment reviewers did, and I'm flattered when you mention it now. It's something that I've always been very, very humble about, and I'm always looking to get better. I spend a lot of time thinking about what it is I'm doing and the parts of each song throughout the album. To be completely honest, everything I do is most of all just a complete testament to the guys I listened to growing up, guys like Steve Shelton, the guy from Confessor. Nowadays . . . well, I don't really want to name names -

MU: Aw, c'mon, Chris. That's the fun part!

CA: Well, from the very beginning., even when I was a little kid, I was really into Aerosmith. From there, I jumped into the early Megadeth stuff, the early Slayer stuff. These guys who are throwing in jazz stuff and all that. I want to incorporate all that stuff, and I want to incorporate all the best stuff that I've ever heard and make it my own.

MU: Your drumming is so expressive and there is so much activity. The speed, precision, the amount of activity - the beats are complex, not so much in terms of time signatures but in the depth or the fills and the aggressiveness of the attack.

CA: It's true. There's a fine line between being in the groove and being too busy. And I definitely push the boundaries of that. But it's something that's really well thought out. It's a methodological process I go through that is well thought out. I take the riffs that the guys come up with and totally dismantle them inside my head. And figure out a unique way to do it. But that's not to say I'm going to totally mess up everything they bring in and turn it on the table. 'Cause I love just laying down a rock beat as much as the next guy. But I want to be interesting with what I'm doing, not necessarily for the critics or the listener but for myself, 'cause I have to sit back there on tour every night and do this stuff. And I love playing the drums. So I don't want to just sit back there and fart along with some crap.

MU: Do you get compared to Meshuggah a lot?

CA: We do. We get: "Meshuggah and . . . ." a lot of other bands thrown in there. That has a lot to do with the fact that we do play a bit with the time signatures and mess things up, but at the same time keeping a rock feel . . .

MU: You've got some old-school, thrash-style riffs.

CA: Both of the guitar players are big-time into old school metal. You know, Sanctuary, some Overkill stuff. Definitely a lot of Slayer influence on the guitars. At the same time, there's a lot of more intricate stuff going on. Breadwinner. Forbidden. And the guys that really kind of took speed playing to the next level.

lamb of god

MU: But the vocals are much more extreme than a lot of the bands we've just been talking about.

CA: Yeah, the vocals are. I think that it is very fitting to what we are doing. I really think that it fits in with what we wanted to do. It's something that's well thought out on our part, insofar as what we wanted our vocalist to be like. And it's extremely well thought out on our vocalist's part.

MU: So you always wanted to go with that style over a cleaner, more accessible voice.

CA: Yes. We are not interested in being on the radio every fifteen minutes. And we're not in this because we think we're going to make a million dollars. We love being able to play this music and to be creative and to be aggressive in that pursuit. It's the record label's job to go out and make money on it. If we can get out there and play and make that energy connection with the live shows and at the same time be able to play the music that we want to play and to continue doing this, that's our true goal.

lamb of god

MU: What is your opinion on the Napster debate?

CA: I think it is the record industry and the record company's business to make money. From my perspective, as a musician, I'd love to be able to make a living, and I'd love to be able to continue doing this. But from my experience with music I've learned that this is not what pays the bills, and I'm lucky to be able to continue doing this. I'm not necessarily doing it for the money. I'm in it to be creative and to make the music that I wanted to hear as a listener. We're very happy with the album because it reflects what we, as listeners wanted to hear but nobody else was doing.

MU: How does that translate to a position, pro or con, on file-sharing?

CA: Well, from my perspective, any avenue that is available to me, that allows me to get my music out to the people who might want to hear it, is an avenue that I might want to pursue.

MU: Whether or not you get paid for it or not.

CA: Correct. My goal is accomplished every time we finish writing a song. That's where it ends. When we get to take it on the stage, that's a special thing too. But really my goal and my soul purpose in this is to be creative in the practice space with these incredible musicians that surround me and doing something unique.

MU: But getting the music from there out to the people is going to require the existence of at least some kind of music business. Getting the record budget, getting in the studio, getting it out to the people, somebody has to pay for that.

CA: Isn't that the truth. (laughs)

MU: Can there be a music business with MP3's traded freely without charge over the Internet?

CA: I think so. As a musician, I need to take advantage of avenues to get my music out to the people that want to hear it. I understand that the music industry is based on money, and this is all about making a dollar. And right now I don't think that's necessarily in danger. I don't necessarily think that's what Napster is being used for. Although I think in some cases it is. And in those cases, I don't know if I'm 100% behind pulling an entire album off there at CD quality. You're not being very supportive. I think the people that are behind the music and understand what the music stands for are gonna be the people that support that band, and support that record label that's putting out that band.

MU: Under the name Burn the Priest, you guys had some success promoting yourselves through the service. Tell us about that. But before you do, why don't you just give us a basic history of Lamb of God / Burn the Priest.

lamb of god

CA: We started out in the winter of 1994. We had a clear idea of what we wanted to do.

MU: Where are you guys from?

CA: Richmond, Virginia. Anyway, as I said before, we felt that nobody was really putting out the type of music we wanted to hear, and we thought that we could do it. We started out with the name "Burn the Priest." And with that name -

MU: Where did the name come from, or what did it mean to you?

CA: That name basically meant 'fuck the system.' It was our way of telling people to open their eyes and see things that that they often choose to ignore. Or to look under the rocks and see what is not often found. Understand your own humanity. And, probably more important than any of those things, it symbolizes that your belief system and your spirituality and anything you hold as a belief, is not something that should be preached at you or told to you, that is just wrong. That is your most personal possession and should never be challenged or looked down upon. That was the idea we had. We weren't out there preaching a message - it was about the music. And you could tell what it was about if you read into the lyrics. You could decipher the message. But what happened was that it grew to a point where we were larger than ourselves. When we were getting letters from California where we've never played or Europe where we've never been, telling us that they were our biggest fans although they've never heard us. They loved us because we're "satanic." We're out driving around, playing shows and trying to get enough gas for the gas tank, and these kids are buying shirts only because they think we're satanic, and that for some reason that's cool. I just got to the point that - that was not the idea behind the whole thing. It took on such negative connotations - for all the blood and sweat that we put into this, it was really very defeating to have that element continue to grow and grow. And I understand how it happened and it's obvious why it went down like that. But anybody who took the time to buy the record and read the lyrics or have any understanding of what it was all about knew that it wasn't really about that. And I think that we realized early enough that that type of thing was going to continue and it was going to get worse. And we didn't really want to continue presenting ourselves in that way.

MU: When did you make the name change?

CA: In April of 1999.

MU: Why Lamb of God? That may take people too far in the other direction!

CA: You're right. It may very well go in another direction. But there was another reason we changed the name. In April of 1999 we let our guitar player go - and my younger brother moved back to Virginia from Seattle - and this was a guy that I'd been playing music with for about thirteen years. So it was just very natural for us to get together and start playing music, and he's a guitar player. So I asked him if he'd like to try out and he was very excited. Of course, I was a little biased. But when he came up to the rehearsal space, he just blew us all away. Everybody was just laughing at how good this guy was. So there was a huge jump there in our focus, our potenial and our momentum. For me, we needed a monumental turning point, that effort, that next step that we were all able to now take as well.

MU: So what does the new name mean? The same thing?

CA: Yeah, it does. It doesn't even really mean that we, in a religious way, did anything different. Because it's not a religious thing. We've just kinda turned the coin on its head. And, you're right. It is the same thing. It really is the same thing. If you spend any time researching the band and pay any attention to what we as individuals do or we as a band do, that it's not a religious thing and we really are saying the same thing. Your belief system and who you really are, they are your most personal possessions and should never be looked down upon by anybody.

MU: Did you make the name change before you began your discussions with Metal Blade?

CA: Yes. We were talking to four record companies that wanted to put us out. And right as they decided they wanted to put out our material we decided we wanted to change the name.

lamb of god

MU: Were you marketing these same songs at that time?

CA: No. We had only had the Burn the Priest record on the street for about four or five months at the time everybody started talking to us. So we hadn't even started writing for a new record yet. And once we made the change to the new name, we haven't played a Burn the Priest song since.

MU: So is this a different band?

CA: It is a different band in that there is a new guitar player and a far greater focus and potential that we didn't have before.

MU: Are you ever going to play Burn the Priest songs or is that band over?

CA: Because of what it came to be and because of the negative connotation that came to go with it, I think it is something that we've chosen to leave behind us at this point. Now that's not to say that we'd never do it. But at this point we've kinda decided to stick with the new material and progress from here. I think the new album is such a progression from the old album. And that's not to say the old album is a bad record, I really think that we were very, very happy with the way the first record turned out and it was exactly the way we wanted to present ourselves. It was a good representation of the band. It was exactly the music that we wanted to hear as well. But I just think we've moved on from that, and I think the writing and recording of the new record was such a methodical process for us. In a way it was this intricate puzzle. From beginning to end, in the way that it went together. It meant something that song three was between tracks two and four. And to get to that level of detail was something that we didn't have.

MU: Do you think you lost any momentum due to the name change?

CA: There's probably some people out there that think we sold out or wussed out for some reason. . .

MU: Have you ever seen a review of you guys that didn't refer to you as "formerly Burn the Priest"?

CA: Not yet.

MU: That will be a measure of your success when you see it not going that way. (laughs)

CA: I think if there is anyone who does think we sold out, those were the people who didn't really understand us before anyway. If you don't take the time to figure out what's it all about, it's probably not worth me arguing the point to you.

MU: Having a bunch of fans who simply don't get it must really wear thin after a while.

CA: Yeah, it was just really debilitating for us. Because it was really tough, having put so much positive energy into it -

MU: Were there labels that wanted to force you in another direction, like being as evil and satanic as you could possibly be?

CA: That was a very scary point for us. We had busted our ass for five or six years as Burn the Priest, and really kinda built up a respectable following and gotten the name around. Everywhere we toured people knew who we were. And regional shows were going great. It was just a blast. So when we decided to make the change, we knew we were kinda shooting ourselves in the foot. But it was such an important decision for us, that it had to be done. Even if it meant losing the deal. We were really scared we were going to lose the deal, but at the same time, we never expected a deal in the first place. And it was a change that we needed to put our foot down and make for ourselves, no matter whoever was going to offer us whatever.

MU: What role did the internet play in building your original following.

CA: I think we kinda got in on it early. I work with computers for a living. I've been working on computers my whole life. But I think we just kind of . . . I kept my eyes open and took advantage of opportunities that were made available to us. I kinda got in on the ground floor of the deal, and got our music up there. And spent some time on the message boards and talking to a lot of people. And plus the fact that we were busting our butts playing shows, doing the weekend warrior thing.

MU: It must be tough to balance a professional job with playing in a metal band. How do you tell your white-collar boss that Oderous Orungous just called and you need two weeks off to go do the GWAR tour?

CA: (laughs) It's a great place. We do our best to work it out. When tours and different shows are proposed, I have to weigh my options every time. And ask if this is the right step at this time. At the same time, it has been a dream of mine to do this my entire life. When I was a little kid I didn't dream of being a network administrator. So, every chance I get to do this, I'm doing it. And I think I'm educated enough, and well-schooled enough in the different things that I'm interested in to land on my feet when I get back.

MU: That's a healthy perspective. Was the tour with GWAR and Amen a Metal Blade concoction?

CA: Nope. We live in the same town and they asked us to do it. At first we turned 'em down, but they came back a couple of weeks later and got us to do it. Not that we didn't want to - but we had to make sure it was the right move for a couple of the guys in the band. But since we got it worked out we're excited. Me personally, one of the things I'm looking forward to the most is that a guy by the name of Shannon Larkin is playing drums for Amen. To catch up with him and to watch him rock. . . I'm gonna be a little kid again. But I think that historically bands which have opened up for GWAR have gotten the shit end of the stick, 'cause I think the GWAR audience is not really there to see the opening act.

MU: Especially you guys. You're not exactly a comedy show.

CA: That's kind of one of the reasons why we wanted to do this so much, and that's kind of the reason they wanted us to do this. I think we really balance out what's going on there. Not that GWAR doesn't have everything together in the way that they do things, but I think that we bring something really, really honest to this tour. I really don't think we want to sound like anything. I think there's something about our band that every fan of every kind of music from a jazz fan to a GWAR fan, there's something there that everybody can enjoy. We're looking forward to getting the chance to show people.

MU: What are you listening to right now as a fan?

CA: The CD in my car right now is Nevermore - 'Dead Heart in a Dead World'. That one has been kicking my ass for a couple of weeks.

MU: What do you think of the "Sound of Silence" cover?

CA: I got the promo early from Steve over at Noise. And I wasn't really paying attention to the cardboard, and I started picking up on the lyrics. And I was just blown away. It really is a great twist on the whole thing. It turns it on its head and makes it really dark.

MU: What else?

CA: Flatstick, from Australia. A lot of the old Confessor stuff. And I always have a Meshuggah disk somewhere around. And the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

MU: So where do you go from here?

CA: Hopefully we can go on playing this music. Just keep on doing what we we're doing. We're just looking to do this as long as we can, and to keep having fun.


Review of Lamb of God 'New American Gospel'





Interview: Eric German [ ]
Photography: Brant Wintersteen
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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