Legion: XX (pronounced “legion twenty”) commemorates the twentieth anniversary of Lamb of God’s first album release. As most metal fans are aware, that original album was actually the self-titled debut of Burn the Priest; drummer Chris Adler, bassist John Campbell, and guitarists Abe Spear and Mark Morton changed their name to Lamb of God soon after its release to reflect the change in their lineup, which now featured vocalist Randy Blythe.
Legion: XX contains lovingly wrought covers of ten of the band members’ favorite songs from their musical upbringing in the ’80s and ’90s. Standout tracks include thrashing album opener “Inherit the Earth,” originally recorded by the Accüsed, as well as reverent retellings of the Melvins’ “Honey Bucket” and “Dine Alone” by post-hardcore standouts Quicksand.
Adler certainly lends his drumming voice to the material on Legion: XX, but in a respectful manner, primarily adding signature double kick parts and hand/foot combo fills, along with his trademark sounds. “It’s a little hard to get away from our sound,” says Chris, “with my splash cymbals and high-pitched snare—and Randy Blythe’s vocals!”
Modern Drummer spoke with Adler after soundcheck at a headlining LoG show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, during a off day from Slayer’s farewell world tour.
MD: How did you approach personalizing the drum parts to the material on Legion: XX? And how much were you interested in honoring the original parts versus putting your own spin on them?
Chris: That was a tough balance. Everybody in the band picked two songs to cover for this project. For the other eight songs, the parts were influenced by whoever pitched in those songs. Some of them, in particular “Kerosene” by Big Black, were pretty much like the original except for the extended verse.
No one was dictating what to do. On the Quicksand and Melvins songs, I really felt like it was important for me to stay true to what was already there, unless I could pick it up a little bit. These are well-known and well-respected guys, and I didn’t want to take away from what they’d already done. We just had fun with it, changing tempos here and there. I don’t think there was ever really a moment when someone said, “No, I don’t think we should do that.” Everyone had grown up with these songs, and we all had the same idea of keeping them pretty true to the original, just making them sound a little more like us as a band.
MD: You’re out with Slayer now.
Chris: Yes, we are, along with Anthrax, Behemoth, and Testament.
MD: But you’re not performing as Burn the Priest.
Chris: We’re not. We thought about doing that but decided not to. We’ve been thinking of doing a covers record for fifteen years, but we could never agree on what songs to include. Finally we got smart enough to come up with the idea of everybody throwing in two songs and just seeing what happens. It was a lot of fun to do it, but that’s not really where we want to take the band. If we were performing as Burn the Priest, we’d have to play the whole record, and we didn’t want to do that.
MD: Are you performing any of the material from Legion: XX live currently?
Chris: We’ve been doing “Inherit the Earth” by the Accüsed, and with Anthrax being on the tour, we’re kind of back and forth about doing “Kill Yourself” [by Anthrax side project S.O.D.] as well and having Scott Ian and Charlie Benante [Anthrax/S.O.D. guitarist and drummer, respectively] come out and play with the guys.
MD: That would be awesome! So on the Slayer tour, it’s mostly Lamb of God material?
Chris: Yes, in fact, we dropped “Inherit the Earth” the past couple of nights because it’s a brand-new record and there are 10,000 people there who might not have heard it yet. We also only have fifty minutes, so if people [come] to hear Lamb of God, that’s what we want to give them. We may do two or three songs from the new record tonight, though, since we’re playing a headlining show with Behemoth.
MD: How’s it been to be out with Slayer again?
Chris: It’s great. We’ve known the guys for a long time. They took us out for the first time in 2003, then again in 2007. I think we spent three years on the road, and then Metallica picked us up for two years. Going out with Slayer again, it looks like it’s going to be an eighteen-month journey. In the end, we’ll probably have spent six years of our lives with these guys.
MD: On your current tour, are you playing an abundance of material from any one record in particular, or is it a blend of material from across your career?
Chris: We try [to] split it [up] as much as we can. We’re not doing a record in full or an “evening with” kind of thing, but it is getting difficult to choose. Tonight, on a headline set, if we’re doing ninety minutes, we can dig in to each record a little bit more, but on the Slayer tour we have less than an hour. With the number of records we have, even one song from each would probably go over. There are crowd favorites that might not be the most exciting songs for us to play for the ten thousandth time, but when the energy picks up, it’s kind of undeniable. There are some “must-play” songs. We don’t want anyone walking out disappointed, and we just try to switch it up here and there.
It’s been a pretty dynamic set so far. Every night has changed a little, which is the first time we’ve ever done that. Normally we settle into a set, and that’s the way it goes for the tour. This time we’re trying to keep things fresh.
MD: Do you play throughout the day before shows?
Chris: Normally, about two hours prior to the show, I’ll get into the headspace. And because the set’s been dynamic on this tour, for a good chunk of the day I’ll be working on putting a playlist together to help remember those tunes if we haven’t done them in a bit. I’m listening throughout the day, but my actual warm-up on my little warm-up kit happens around two hours before showtime.
Chris Adler endorses Mapex drums, Meinl cymbals, Promark sticks, Gibraltar hardware, Evans heads, and Roland electronics.