Lamb of God

With last year's Sacrament, Lamb of God continued its decade-long evolution into a more nuanced metal monster. Having ditched the shock-value moniker Burn the Priest in 2000, the Virginia-based band has found subtler ways to incorporate religious iconography, such as the communion wafers scattered on Sacrament's cover. After several albums filled with pointed anti-Bush diatribes, Sacrament targets ambiguous enemies. For example, "Redneck" sparked message-board debates about whether the titular "self-righteous laughingstock" was the President or, because of the track's uncharacteristically Pantera-like sound, Phil Anselmo. Singer Randy Blythe used to orchestrate "Walls of Death" at the beginning of the song "Black Label," splitting fans into two violently colliding factions, but now he washes his hands of the affair with a simple "you know what to do" during that tune's opening chords. Such strides toward sophistication aside, Lamb of God's shows remain as brutal as ever, all swirling circle-pits, savage technical riffs and Blythe's terrifyingly enunciated threats.

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