Lamb of God had a killer year in 2009. Wrath, the Richmond, Virginia, band's sixth album, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 when it was released last February, a triumph the quintet consolidated with a long run as the opening act on Metallica's tour. Then, in December, came the news that the group was nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy for the furious Wrath track "Set to Fail." (The band had been nominated once before, in 2007.)
"It's been a phenomenal twelve months for us," says drummer Chris Adler, speaking on the phone from Richmond. "I kept waiting for the bubble to burst, but it never did."
How are you feeling about your chances for a Grammy? You're up against some pretty big names -- Slayer, Judas Priest, Megadeth, and Ministry.
Yeah, we were as surprised as anyone that we got nominated. But we've been through the process once before, so we know what to expect.... But the metal categories never seem to get televised. Is it a bit anti-climactic to actually go to the ceremony?
We still got all dolled up last time. Just kidding! You can take the redneck out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the redneck.
Which of your fellow nominees would you be least upset to lose to?
Probably Megadeth. I know that they've been nominated eight times and never won.
They're the Susan Lucci of heavy metal.
[Laughs] I won't tell them you said that! But we know that band pretty well. They've been through the ringer. They deserve to win.
It's unusual for a band to have their sixth album be their highest charting. Why do think you guys have been able to keep growing your fan base 15 years into your career?
In truth, I thought we'd peaked with [2006's] Sacrament, which went to No. 8 on the album chart. "Redneck" from that album got played in a lot of places metal doesn't normally get played. And with the attention span of today's music fan being what it is, I thought we'd run our course popularity-wise. So we were all shocked at the fact that we intentionally put out a more aggressive album with Wrath and then had it sell better than the last one. It was really heartening. But by way of explanation, all I can think of is that the world isn't getting any easier to live in. A lot of people need to release some pressure, and I think heavy metal helps people do that. It's a stress relief.
What was it like for you guys to spend months on the road with Metallica?
It's funny, I remember being at the very first show of the tour -- we hadn't even met Metallica yet -- and their road crew came into our dressing room and told us it was time to get on stage. So we were like, "Okay, I guess this is how it's gonna be for the rest of tour, we'll never see those guys." And we were also expecting a hostile crowd. We knew that people at a Metallica show are there to have a couple beers and listen to their favorite band. But we played and I think we turned a few heads. Right after we came off stage we were sitting around the dressing room, not knowing whether we should be happy or upset that what we'd just experienced was going be our reality for the next year. Then Lars [Ulrich, Metallica's drummer] walks in, introduces himself, and says, "We've been carrying bands around for 20 years and I've never seen anybody do as well as you guys just did." That was quite flattering. After we got over our nerves, the rest of the tour was great. And the Metallica dudes were super friendly and supportive.
Have you started thinking about the next record yet?
Only as far as scheduling. We're going to be touring again for the first half of the year, so the plan is to lock ourselves away with our families starting in September or October when the touring ends. Then, in the beginning of 2011, the band will get back together and see if we can come up with anything.
Is it strange to have your life planned that far in advance?
It is, but we've worked really hard to have that problem. So I can't complain.