It took Lamb of God’s Mark Morton a long time — he estimates more than two years — to make his first solo album, Anesthetic. But Morton, shown talking about several of its songs exclusively below, definitely subscribes to the theory that good things come to those who wait.
“This album certainly had a longer incubation period or gestation period than most of the projects I work on,” the guitarist tells Billboard. “There was my schedule with Lamb of God touring, Josh (Wilbur)’s schedule as a producer, and then this list of participants, artists and players and singers that all got involved. It was a lot of hopscotch in terms of recording and scheduling and all that kind of stuff. So it did take a while, but I think in retrospect there were some benefits to that as well.”
Due out March 1, Anesthetic‘s 10 songs feature a stellar guest list of fellow headbangers, including one of the final recordings by the late Chester Bennington on the opening “Cross Off” along with Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, Myles Kennedy from Slash and Alter Bridge, Buckcherry’s Josh Todd, Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, Testament’s Chuck Billy and more. Other players on the set include Alice in Chains’ Mike Inez, Korn’s Ray Luzier, Megadeth’s David Ellefson, Stone Sour’s Roy Mayorga and the Black Crowes’ Steve Gorman, who was the album’s primary drummer.
“There was never this idea I was going to sing on the album,” says Morton, who does take the mic for one track, “Imaginary Days.” “I just never considered myself to be much of a frontman in that sense, so, really, always we were going to have guests on it. Our models were that first Slash solo record (2010’s Slash), the Dave Grohl Probot kind of template. The idea was to pick singers that were right for each song, style-wise, and say, ‘In our perfect world, if we could pick anyone we wanted, who would we have sing this song?’ That was more or less the process.”
Though definitely still in the hard rock world, Morton considers Anesthetic‘s material to be “just misfit kind of ragtag songs that were popping up in my writing process that I couldn’t fit into the Lamb of God frame — more blues-feeling, kind of ’90s grunge-sounding songs. The point of the project, for me at least, was to do something that was sort of not such extreme thrash metal. There’s a couple metal songs on it, but it wouldn’t have made sense for me to do a thrash metal album on my own ’cause that’s what I do with Lamb of God.”
Morton is well aware that Bennington’s appearance on “Cross Off” is drawing greater attention to Anesthetic. He wrestled a bit about whether or not to include it after Bennington died by suicide on July 20, 2017 but ultimately decided it was a performance that did more good coming out than being held back.
“The song was special to us all before he passed,” Morton says. “It had been awhile since he’d done something that heady, that scream-y, and he was really thrilled about that and you can really hear it in his performance. Everyone involved, including people close to him, knew how excited he was and how much he really loved that song, so it felt right for the world to hear it. It was an awesome session and we had a great vibe making it.”
Morton “wouldn’t rule out” another solo album in this vein and is looking forward to touring to support Anesthetic on a co-headlining trek with Light the Torch starting March 13 in Richmond, Va. Lamb of God, meanwhile, is “cranking” on a new album, it’s first since VII: Sturm und Drang in 2015. “There’s a whole bunch of new music coming together,” Morton promises. “We don’t really have a deadline or a (release) date in mind. I don’t want to venture a guess, but there’s definitely (an album) coming and it’s feeling really good.” Lamb of God will also be part of Slayer’s Pure American Metal tour, kicking off May 2 in Phoenix.