Back in 2004, Style Weekly met with local heavy metal rock leaders Lamb of God, spending time with the band at Ozzfest and in Richmond. Since then, the group has shared the stage with big names such as Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Mastodon and Slayer; debuted its 2006 album “Sacrament” at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 charts; and released its five-hour “Walk with Me in Hell” documentary. After being together for nearly a decade and a half, the biggest change may be that bassist John Campbell and drummer Chris Adler became fathers.
Style talked with Adler, who discussed the ups and downs of touring as a new father, the band's international plan with the release of its new album “Wrath,” due in 2009, and his insight on Richmond's transition from punk rock to metal.
Style: How does fatherhood affect the band's approach to music making?
Adler: Wow, I don't know … that's a crazy question. I think that we've always been very passionate about the music and although we both [Adler and Campbell] are very lucky now to have a family, it's not something that changes the way we feel about the music or what the music is. It's not something that, at least in my stance, has changed my ability to do what I do or the passion about what I do.
What about touring?
That's definitely going to be toughest part about it. We've been home for a year, so writing the record and getting ready to tour has been easy because we get to go home and spend time with our families. But now this would be the first time where at least two of us are going to be away from not only our wives but our children. So it's going to be tough. I've seen it done out on the road, families as part of the business, and you learn how to deal with it and you make it work the best you can. You try to rationalize it I guess. It's not the same as having a 9 to 5 job, but then again, like I said, I was fortunate to be home this entire year. So for the first six months I was with my daughter every waking moment, so there are upsides and downsides and I try to make the best of both.
Do you believe that now being fathers affects the band's edge or image?
I wouldn't think it would change anything at all. There's plenty of groups we've toured with, been on the road with that have families. We were just out with some of the best of the best -- Black Sabbath and Megadeth -- you know, all these guys have kids and I don't think anybody has ever looked at them differently because they do.
You're playing with Municipal Waste, another big metal band. What is it about Richmond DNA that lends itself to metal now, rather than the punk of yesteryear?
Yeah, I'm not sure. I moved here in '90 and there was a really thriving punk rock scene and there wasn't really a whole lot of metal, unless you consider GWAR metal. There was some death metal stuff going on at South Side that I got into for a while, but for me I've always been a big fan of speed metal and when I met the guys in the [VCU] dorms, it eventually made the band “Lamb of God.” We got together initially because of our love for the same music, so when we sat down and started to be a band and started writing music that was the kind of stuff we wrote.
I guess times change and metal's come back a little bit. You know we've been doing this for a long time; we've been a band since 1994. So our relative reason for success is we've been working on it for a long time. I'm not sure if it's Richmond that brews it but I know Richmond's made us better because of the quality of musicians that live here. But I don't know if it's necessarily a breeding ground for metal.
How does “Sacrament” differ from the upcoming “Wrath”?
For me it differs significantly. [We took] “Sacrament” … about as far as we could, in the direction of really kind of fine-tuning and ultimate production and all kinds of production values that were outside the norm of what a band could do if they just set up in a garage and play. We really made it the most sonically. We used every resource that we could to our advantage in the production of that record, where “Wrath” is really a far more straight-ahead metal record. There was almost a vibe of going against what we've done on “Sacrament,” not because of any way that we regretted it but because we felt like we had really realized and fulfilled what we wanted to do with that record and so it's like, now let's evolve and move in a different direction.
You've announced the band's deal with the label Roadrunner. What aims do you have internationally with that decision?
We've been fortunate enough since really 2002. We've been touring around the world and especially on the “Sacrament” record we were able to do two years and three trips around the world. I don't think being on Roadrunner is going to significantly change things but when Sony EPIC, the label that we're on in the U.S, merged with BMG, everything seemed pretty seamless in the U.S, but it really fell apart overseas. We just weren't able to get the support over there from the label that we needed in order to do what we do.
Now we're kind of a grass-roots organic band. You know we don't need a lot of help from labels, we don't need a lot of label money, and we're not looking for a whole lot of advertisement. A band like us rose from word of mouth and the integrity of the band. We don't need a label to convince the kids that we're cool, but Roadrunner has the ability to get our CDs into the stores overseas which is really very helpful.
I've heard that you're touring with Metallica. What do you see happening this year with them?
We've got a lot of stuff coming up with them actually. We're doing December here and the U.S with Metallica and then we're doing most of Western Europe with them during next summer. There was really one of the last major influential bands for us, as a band that we have been able to tour with. We've gone with a lot of the big metal bands from yesteryear and there were kind of the last ones. So I think we're very limited in good company being able to tour with as many great bands as we have and we're looking forward into hanging out with those guys and having a good time.
You guys have been together forever, how has the dynamic shifted since you've formed?
Wow, I mean we've obviously grown up -- we've been together since '94, we've definitely learned a lot about each other. We've matured as people and songwriters and I think where most bands in their career -- “Sacrament” debuted as number 8 on Billboard charts here in the U.S -- most bands that achieve that kind of status normally kind of start to slack off and they start to rehash their music and just go with what seems to work off the last record. And with “Wrath” we really chose to go a different way and to get even more aggressive and faster and try to stay true to how we started. We worked in a lot of earlier material to get motivated for this record. I really feel like that we're at a pinnacle moment for the band where we've thrown out a very wide net and now we're going to be reeling it very, very fast, and we'll see how that goes. We've really always tried to do something different and continue to evolve and we've talked amongst ourselves and kind of promised ourselves that if we're unable to evolve and unable to do something better than we did on the last record, then we really shouldn't bother putting out a record at all.
Lamb of God, Municipal Waste and This Time It's War play the National Monday, Nov. 24, starting at 8 p.m. $25. 612-1900 or www.thenational.com.