Twenty-five years in, the iron-jawed Virginia metallers and their new drummer release their tenth, self-titled LP, a sonic exclamation point that poignantly and ferociously punctuates the present moment.
In 2018, Art Cruz played his first shows with Lamb of God, fulfilling a rock ’n’ roll fantasy of performing with his favorite band. Then in 2019, the fantasy became cemented in reality when he became Lamb’s official drummer. As the newest and youngest member of LOG, Cruz has injected a fiery spirit into the veteran outfit’s signature sound.
MD: Drum sounds have been an important part of the overall Lamb of God sound. What were the discussions like when coming up with drum sounds in the studio for the new record?
Art: As I’ve progressed as a drummer, I’ve learned a lot about how to make a full band album, not just a drumming album. We came into it agreeing that we wanted to beef up the drum sounds. They’re still snappy, punchy, and quick, but it’s a little more organic. I used a 7×13 snare as opposed to the 12″ that [former drummer] Chris Adler had used. The fans will definitely hear a difference, but it’s not far off. I also used larger cymbals for added warmth and sustain. We recorded all the music at Dave Grohl’s 606 studio. That live room is unbelievable!
MD: And it has the famous Neve board that used to be in Sound City.
Art: Hell yeah, man! The sound out of that board is insane. I have some raw footage filmed on a camera phone from the control room while I was playing in the live room, and you can just hear that room talking through your drums. To my knowledge, I think this was the first time since the band’s first album where the music was recorded all at the same place. There was a remarkable energy. Vocals were done at our producer Josh Wilbur’s house, but everything else was tracked at 606.
MD: What was your process for tracking?
Art: This is not a common thing, but I actually tracked my drums last. I first tracked drums on a Roland V-Drums kit, which gave the bass and guitars a skeleton of the structure to record to, but if something changed, I could easily change it so they had a solid foundation. MIDI, when used like that, is a game changer and time saver. Then, when the structures were set, I did my real drums, and I was able to build my parts around the vocal patterns.
As for tracking, what worked best was recording the songs all the way through and then coming back and focusing intensely on all the fills—so there were definitely punches. But I had to be able to play through each song several times to make sure I was hitting the right vibe. This approach allowed for some spontaneous moments, because I had the freedom to just record and let things happen. I tend to be more creative in that space. Josh comes from a drum background, in addition to being an experienced, knowledgeable, flexible, and intense producer. He will make you dig in and reach the next level of your playing. He really helped me bloom.
MD: What are some of your favorite moments on the record?
Art: The opening track, “Memento Mori,” was one of those songs that was practically already written; I just added some spice that comes with my background in music. I often get asked who my favorite drummer is, and I always say, “Santana!” He’s not a drummer, but to me he is because the band had an overall sound that, to me, is a drum sound. Santana is what got me into drumming, and then I discovered Tower of Power, Rage Against the Machine, as well as all these great metal bands, and Chris Adler is hands down my favorite metal drummer. So I’m just pulling from different influences, and that will naturally show up in my playing and add a flavor that wasn’t there before.
“Checkmate” was the first song we worked on together. If I could show you [guitarist] Willie [Adler]’s demo of that tune, it’s the perfect example of how it started as something totally different and the outcome being the result of our chemistry during pre-production. That song is very special to me. It has a classic LOG sound that was natural for me to fall into, and I didn’t overthink it. It just felt right.
MD: Is the intro snippet from pre-production?
Art: Yeah, how cool is that! Josh didn’t tell anyone that he was keeping that as the intro; it was a surprise when he started sending us the initial mixes. That was legitimately the second time we had played through the song, and I’m playing on the rim of the snare trying to come up with a pattern to the riff. So not only was it the first song that we ever worked on, it ended up being the first single, and my voice is on the track counting in the song. My friends and family were freaking out when they heard it!
“New Colossal Hate” is my favorite drumming song, because they really gave me the green light to just fly. It’s extreme but it’s also groovy and funky. “Bloodshot Eyes” may be one of the first LOG tunes that has a closed hi-hat groove. During pre-production I would always be messing around playing David Garibaldi grooves from “What Is Hip?” and “Soul Vaccination,” and Josh heard the hi-hat work and commented that he’d never heard that in this workspace. So the verse groove is part Tower of Power with some Abe Cunningham vibes thrown in. The pre-chorus has this tricky linear tom pattern, too.
MD: What was the biggest thing you learned from this experience?
Art: I’m in my favorite band ever, so there’s all this pressure, and going back to Josh being my MVP, he really helped me understand that all I had to do was be me. I didn’t have to emulate anything, because at the end of the day it’s almost instinctual for me to play for this band because their sound is ingrained in me. Not to mention the support I received from the guys in the band as well. They gave me the platform to speak my mind and give my two cents on the songs.