Mastodon was initially scheduled to release its third album, Blood Mountain, on August 22 -- the same day Lamb of God dropped its fourth disc, Sacrament. But with Mountain's street date pushed back to September 12 and Lamb of God's relentless live schedule, the U.S. metal throne has been all but claimed by the latter, which recently completed the U.S. leg of the Unholy Alliance tour with Slayer and is currently on the road as part of the 2006 edition of Gigantour with Megadeth, Opeth, Dillinger Escape Plan and Arch Enemy.
For a metal musician who's also a metal fan, that's pretty heady stuff. Despite his own band's success, Lamb of God bassist John Campbell (whose brother Jeff co-owns Denver's 3 Kings Tavern) sounds a little starstruck by the prospects. "We're going from a tour with Slayer to one with Megadeth," he enthuses. "That's pretty crazy stuff right there."
Indeed -- although Lamb seems like more of an anomaly on Gigantour than on the Slayer bill. The group's instrumentalists are all extremely talented (drummer Chris Adler, in particular), but they're closer in spirit to Pantera or a hardcore band than any of the ultra-clean, technical/progressive Gigantour acts. "I think there's definitely some edge to some of the other bands on the bill," says Campbell, "but we're holding the rock-and-roll flag pretty high."
Sacrament marks a change of direction for the act, sort of. The music is still ferocious, down-tuned death metal with a punishing groove, but the lyrics -- which on the past two records were strongly anti-Bush -- are more introspective and personal. It's a shift Campbell approves of, though not because of any incipient Republicanism.
"I think we were running the risk of being pigeonholed as a political band, and we are definitely way more than that," he explains. "We have strong political opinions that were heavily represented on our last two records, and this time out we figured that it would be a good idea to expand the scope of what we communicate through our music."
Whether they share the band's politics or not, Lamb of God fans sometimes go the extra mile to connect with their heroes, and as grateful as he is for the band's success, Campbell sometimes wishes they wouldn't.
"Besides being away from friends and family for extended periods of time touring," he says, "the fame aspect of it is probably one of the shittier parts of being in a band. I just had to get my phone number changed and unpublished because I started getting calls from random fans.
"First of all," he continues, "it's weird that they're looking up the bass player. Second of all, I've got one of the most generic names in the world, so those people who put the time and effort in to find John Campbell in Richmond, Virginia..."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.