Prior to the release of their second EP ‘Hymn of The Vulture’, I Am The Law shared stages with Superjoint Ritual and Crowbar. They also cite Pantera and Lamb of God among their main influences, so, taking these facts on board, you could probably take an educated guess at what these Nashville based Southern metal overlords sound like before even hitting the play button.
…And you’d be absolutely right.
This is one of those releases that really doesn’t mess around. Within thirty seconds, you’ll know whether you like it…and if you like it, you’ll almost certainly love it. ‘Electric Mistress’ serves up a weighty groove metal riff with a heavy downtune, heavied further by an extremely punchy drum sound. The overall vibe sounds like the more melodic end of Lamb of God in an instant which sets up a great verse, but the chorus weaves the riff and vocal into something bouncier. The melody from Marilyn Manson’s ‘Beautiful People’ seems to be on loan for the weekend, but that in itself only makes this more appealing and fun, while the vocals shift between a meaty Southern growl and melodic hardcore shouts with ease. ‘Appalachia Burning’ makes a much bigger feature of that heavy drum sound – easily done with the band slowing down a couple of notches – and pushes forth a world of grinding guitars. The effect is one of maximum hardcore metal, tapping into a sound that takes the bones of ‘Reinventing The Steel’ era Pantera and forces them through a Crowbar intensity before topping everything with a bit of Lamb of God for good measure. While it should always be all about the riffs – and I Am The Law do their utmost to ensure those riffs are first rate – the usage of a dual vocal is really what makes this number stand out. There are plenty of Southern edged growls, but for bigger atmospheres, the band find space for cleaner voices which are then boosted by spooky echoes. It’s occasionally unsettling, but the results are great.
For those looking for something much faster, the EP’s instant standout ‘Silver Tongues’ is the greatest track Pantera never recorded. With the kind of riff that Dimebag Darrell took to perfection, I Am The Law plough forward at top speed, taking the riff into heavier places by injecting a little of a Lamb of God influence into the tune and a Pride & Glory southern drawl in the vocal department. Sure, it’s nothing new but this and the thrashy hardcore of the title track of the title track really set I Am The Law up as a metal band to keep a keen eye upon. The pairing of these numbers elevates the EP from just a worthy addition to any metal collection to a near essential one. The title track in particular gives drummer Chris Lochbihler an amazing workout – he’s such a fluid player with great timekeeping – as well as pushing Brandon Howard’s vocals to the extreme, ending up with something that comes across like a Superjoint jam replayed by Lamb of God. In metal terms, it’s amazing – all tight grooves and insanely heavy riffs, whilst still ensuring there’s a great song at the heart of it all. To finish, ‘All Hail The Wind’ opens slowly with dual guitars dishing out ringing tones and fuzz within a set up that makes excellent use of a stereo split, whilst a world of double bass drums pummel with a knee-killing speed, before the track opens out into a landscape of grinding riffs and melodic death metal infused vocals. After four tracks of very impressive groove metal, this is an odd detour and far less of a melody results in something far more marginal in appeal. That said, it’s still well played and more than proves the band are capable of stretching out. By the track’s end, things revert to somewhat familiar ground, though, with a few bars of pure groove where Brian Bradsher offers a huge Lamb of God influence within a classic guitar riff, before everyone descends into a world of noise that almost has an industrial rhythmic edge. It mightn’t be I Am The Law’s best song overall, but that only proves how good a couple of the other numbers genuinely are.
I Am The Law haven’t been shy of showing their influences throughout ‘Hymn of The Vulture’, but this EP none the worse for that. Sometimes familiarity works to a band’s advantage and this is definitely one of those times. If you love riffs – and more importantly expect those riffs to be well produced and delivered with an amazing amount of weight – you really can’t afford to miss this.