Groove metal band Lamb of God announced today that it’s celebrating the 20th anniversary of its debut album with a collection of covers titled Legion: XX, due on May 18 through Epic Records. The quintet will release the project as Burn the Priest, which was its original moniker — it had renamed itself Lamb of God by the time it delivered its second album, 2000’s New American Gospel, to prevent any potential associations with Satanic metal.
Vocalist Randy Blythe explains that back when the act was called Burn the Priest, the black metal scene was starting to get a lot of coverage in the United States. “[People were] like, ‘Oh, you worship the devil.’ No, we’re basically a punk rock band that kind of plays metal, so, no, we don’t worship the devil. Satan’s not real,” he says, laughing, “so that’s kind of a foolish thing to idolize.”
Blythe notes that the band had been discussing doing the album “forever” with the intent of just having some fun and paying tribute to the musicians who influenced Lamb of God. “It’s a lot less pressure when you record covers because you already know the songs are good. You don’t have to second-guess yourself and think, ‘Is this good? Is this going to work?’ You already know that it’s a solid song.”
The 10-track set includes Agnostic Front’s “One Voice,” Bad Brains’ “I Against I” and The Accused’s “Inherit the Earth,” which is the first single. All the groups represented on Legion: XX are Blythe’s among favorites, especially Bad Brains. Initially into punk, noise, hardcore and crossover music, Blythe suggests that he doesn’t come from the metal scene, despite his career path. “I’m not a metalhead, which people don’t seem to understand, even though I’ve been saying it for 20-something years. They’re like, ‘But you’re in a metal band.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s weird. Life is weird that way.’ ”
Blythe loves punk because “it’s real. It’s about something. It matters … The best punk rock music speaks on matters of importance, I think. Generally sociological and political commentary, which is always relevant, particularly now in an insane world.”
One song that he’s pleasantly surprised made the cut is Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” His first choice from that band’s catalog would have been “something a bit more political,” like a selection from 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey. “‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’ is like a silly song, so I’m like, ‘That sounds really kind of stupid, I guess,’ ” Blythe recalls. “Until I sat down and recorded it and had so much fun doing it.”
Lamb of God’s version is also special to him because all of its members — himself, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, drummer Chris Adler and bassist John Campbell — contributed vocals to it, as well as producer Josh Wilbur, to substitute for the audio samples heard on the original cut.
“So we wouldn’t have to go back and get the samples’ permissions that are really cost-prohibitive, we did the voices from the samples ourselves,” Blythe says. “The really cool thing about that song, beyond the fact that it was really just a lot of fun to record, is that it’s the only song in existence where all five members of the band have a vocal on it.”
Blythe thinks it’s “100 percent likely” that Lamb of God will play a few of the covers when it goes on the road starting May 10 as support for Slayer’s Final World Tour, along with Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament. (For tour dates, go here.) He calls it “a big, big honor” to be part of the lineup and counts Slayer as friends, as they have always been good to his band.
“They put in a good run, man, and they’ve always done their thing,” he says of Slayer’s retirement. Knowing that some feel that the band shouldn’t quit, he says, “I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, they can. They’ve been doing it 30 years! Their first tour was in a Camaro.
“Some people are like, ‘Why would they quit?’ Dude, they’re getting older,” he adds with a laugh. “[Slayer singer-bassist] Tom [Araya] has had an operation on his neck ’cause his vertebrae were fricking fusing. He’s literally sacrificed part of his physicality to his career. I certainly understand that. As I get older, my body hurts more and more. If they want to lay it down, man, then that’s their prerogative, and they’re going to go out with their heads high. They did their thing and never compromised, and they’re always Slayer, which is, of course, awesome.
Track listing for Legion: XX:
1. “Inherit the Earth,” The Accused
2. “Honey Bucket,” Melvins
3. “Kerosene,” Big Black
4. “Kill Yourself,” S.O.D.
5. “I Against I,” Bad Brains
6. “Axis Rot,” Sliang Laos
7. “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” Ministry, featuring Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers
8. “One Voice,” Agnostic Front
9. “Dine Alone,” Quicksand
10. “We Gotta Know,” Cro-Mags
Pre-orders and merch bundles are available here.