There is a strong belief here among the BTSB staff that punk rock is the little brother of metal music. They are not alike at all, yet always seen as related by outsiders. So, for a new feature here on BTSB, we present to you Punk Vs. Metal, in which semi-pro punk rock fan Joe McVeigh and metal listener extraordinaire Mark Rahn debate the virtues and shortcomings of their favorite albums. One will discuss why his chosen album is great, and the other will politely point out why he is wrong. For the second installment, we have punk rock comedians extraordinaires the Vandals facing off against the leaders of the American Metal Movement, Lamb of God. Let the games begin.
“N.I.M.B.Y.” by the Vandals
The last article of Punk vs. Metal received quite a few comments about Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. People seemed to think that he wasn’t cut out to be a metal drummer. If that is so, what does it mean for punk rock drummers, who are usually accused (sometimes rightly so) of playing the same beat in every song? Well, friends and enemies, I give you Vandals drummer Josh Freese. Not only has Freese played on over 100 albums as a studio musician, he is also the drummer for DEVO (oh no…), A Perfect Circle and NIN’s touring band. Give it up, metalheads.
Now, Lamb of God’s drummer, Chris Adler, is pretty damn good too. Clearly drumming is not going to decide the battle this week. What is going to win it for punk rock this time, however, is something never found in metal music, but done so perfectly by the Vandals: humor.
Sure, metal rockers are up on-stage in zebra-striped spandex pants, a mesh tank top, and a perm that would make your older sister groan, but these metal gods take themselves very seriously. The image may be hilarious to the passive observer (and even the metal fan here and there) but it offers no wit, no insight, and in most cases is not worth the visual.
With the Vandals, on the other hand, you know you’re in for some cleverness. The protest-ridden lyrics so common to punk rock are hilarious when handled by the Vandals. On Live Fast, Diarrhea, by merely replacing the protest about politics with a protest about restaurant orders, we get the words:
I’ll say it simple, so you can understand
Get my food right, I am a hungry man
You say you’re sorry, not really a waitress
“I’m studying to be an actress”
Starting acting like a waitress!
-from “Take It Back” by the Vandals
Then there is the song “N.I.M.B.Y.”, which is not only hilarious, but also a perfect example of the Vandals’ ability to poke fun at punk rock’s penchant for rabble-rousing while also satirizing the “not in my back yard” social campaigns. On top of all this, the song has a great guitar riff and rhythm, something that is common on their later albums as well.
This is the kind of stuff you just don’t find in metal. In a room crowded with punk rock bands preaching their “message,” the Vandals are a breath of fresh air that can not be overstated. As drummer Josh Freese has said, “I think the Vandals is the least political band out there.”
If you like punk rock, then you will like the Vandals. If you like punk rock and you have a sense of humor, you will love the Vandals. They play first-rate, snot-nose punk with a heavy dose of hilarity. I couldn’t even get past the title of one of their albums, Live Fast, Diarrhea, without laughing, and the comedy continued as I listened to the record. The songs all feature great lyrics with catchy hooks and even a few impressive guitar solos which is rare in punk rock. Overall, the think the Vandals are great. I don’t think I will be trading in my Lamb of God records anytime soon, but some light-hearted punk rock might be a welcome change every now and then.
“11th Hour” by Lamb of God
Lamb of God is a full dose, make no mistake. Their music is brutally aggressive, and they are one of the heaviest and darkest bands that I have ever heard. From the moment you press play, a Lamb of God song launches itself into high-speed sonic destruction. It tears through your ears like an army of iron death machines without any regard for you safety. When it is all over, you feel like crying, but you are so thrilled that you survived, you ultimately feel empowered.
The thrill of it all is not for everyone, but it is definitely for me. My favorite Lamb of God album is their 2003 release, As the Palaces Burn. It has all the warmth of an icicle, and the soft-smooth feel of a piece of sandpaper. Palaces is Lamb of God’s third full-length record, but it was the first one to introduce the band on a national level.
Standout tracks include “Vigil” and “11th Hour”, as well as my personal favorite, “Ruin”. It starts off the album at a violent pace, and if you’re not ready for the tempo change halfway through “Ruin”, it might just knock you over.
What the band lacks in vocal talent, they more than make up for with incredible stage presence, and precision instrumentation. They are a musical horror story in the best possible way, and they are undoubtedly the modern day kings of American hardcore.
On the extreme other end of the punk-metal spectrum from the Vandals lies Lamb of God. Lamb of God is serious. Very serious. I don’t know how else to put it, but if you don’t like this style of music, you are not going to start liking it. I suppose that’s true with any band, but it seems more so with Lamb of God because of how hard their music is and how serious their lyrics are.
That said, I just can not get into Lamb of God’s music. Even though they have been described as a hardcore punk band, that their original name was Burn the Priest (Oi!), and that their bassist, John Campbell, said they are “a punk band that plays heavy metal,” I still can’t get into their seriousness. I’m not saying they’re bad, just not my style. Sorry Mark, give me the old school thrash instead.
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