No one could accuse Lamb Of God of having unrealistic expectations when they first unleashed their heaviest of metal sounds on audiences.
"We started this in 1994 doing heavy metal when definitely metal was not big-time stuff," says bassist John Campbell. "We've always played kind of mathy, weird metal ... not your typical style. We thought we could go tour from Richmond to Chicago and hit some bases and that would be cool."
Campbell, guitarist Mark Morton and drummer Chris Adler met in the early '90s as students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and began playing as an instrumental trio before adding Randy Blythe on vocals. They added second guitarist Willie Adler in time for a move to Prosthetic Records and a 2000 release titled New American Gospel.
Obviously, Lamb Of God have gone a lot further than that over the past decade. They were one of the first of the current wave of extreme metal/hardcore bands to land a major label record deal (with Epic). And as perhaps the genre's leading band, they've helped push the underground hardcore/extreme metal scene to the brink of mainstream acceptance.
Over the past couple of years, Ozzfest has made extreme metal more of a presence in its lineups, and even the alternative rock-oriented Warped Tour has featured a few hardcore groups. Then there's the Sounds Of The Underground tour, which in summer 2005 booked Lamb Of God as the headliner on an inaugural bill that showcased more than a dozen top bands of the scene.
Lamb Of God, meanwhile, spent the summer on Ozzfest, joining Hatebreed as main support for headliner Ozzy Osbourne. This outing follows with the release of their new album Sacrament, which was greeted as one of the year's most anticipated metal releases.
Campbell notes that Epic doesn't expect Lamb Of God to be the kind of band that thrives at radio, delivers mammoth first-week sales of its new CDs, and moves millions of units with each album. "When we even first sat down with them, we pretty much immediately said, 'You know this is not a radio band you're signing ... we're not going to tailor songs to make them radio-friendly. We're not working on writing radio hits.' If radio comes around to us, that's good. But if it doesn't, that was never the goal to begin with. I think they just saw the underground scene rearing its head and showing some commercial viability from a business standpoint. Being in the business of selling records for a profit, I guess they figured there was some formula that they could plug us into and work that up."
Not having the instant success of some major label acts shouldn't bother Lamb Of God. Years spent on the road and in the studio have led to their strongest achievement yet — Sacrament.
"It's our absolute best songwriting," Campbell says. "There have been some steps up in some departments with some vocals and vocal arrangements. We cover absolutely all of our bases on this record — from doing some songs that kind of make you think about some of earlier work, to doing stuff that makes you think about more recent work, to doing a track that might be something you never saw or heard before from us, but definitely fits right into place."