May 23, 2018

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A match made South of Heaven

Slayer albums inspired Lamb of God guitarist; now he's opening for metal giants on final tour

Travis Shinn Photo</p><p>Lamb of God — Mark Morton (from left), John Campbell, Randy Blythe, Willie Adler and Chris Adler — are releasing an album of punk covers called Legion: XX.</p>

Travis Shinn Photo

Lamb of God — Mark Morton (from left), John Campbell, Randy Blythe, Willie Adler and Chris Adler — are releasing an album of punk covers called Legion: XX.

Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton is stoked to support Slayer on the band’s final tour. As a budding banger in Richmond, Va., Morton was a fan of Slayer’s 1986 thrashter-piece Reign in Blood, which is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential metal albums of all time.

That said, it was Slayer’s next release that truly moved Morton.

“I was into (Reign in Blood), but when South of Heaven came out it was a drastic difference because they slowed down. By slowing down, it got heavier,” Morton says about the 1988 album.

“I had a more visceral response to that album because it was slower, because it was groovy. I think I carried that with me. A lot of what I bring to the band has that groove element to it. I’m striving to make your head bob a little bit.

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Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton is stoked to support Slayer on the band’s final tour. As a budding banger in Richmond, Va., Morton was a fan of Slayer’s 1986 thrashter-piece Reign in Blood, which is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential metal albums of all time.

That said, it was Slayer’s next release that truly moved Morton.

"I was into (Reign in Blood), but when South of Heaven came out it was a drastic difference because they slowed down. By slowing down, it got heavier," Morton says about the 1988 album.

"I had a more visceral response to that album because it was slower, because it was groovy. I think I carried that with me. A lot of what I bring to the band has that groove element to it. I’m striving to make your head bob a little bit.

"South of Heaven was a big part of teaching me that when you slow down, it actually gets heavier."

Slayer’s schooling doesn’t stop there. In 1996, the band released Undisputed Attitude, an album consisting mostly of punk and hardcore cover songs, paying tribute to such bands as T.S.O.L., Minor Threat and D.R.I.

Like Slayer, like son; on Friday Lamb of God will unleash Legion: XX, a collection of punk, hardcore and crossover thrash covers. The album will be released under the band’s original name, Burn the Priest, formed in 1994.

Slayer guitarist Kerry King</p>

Slayer guitarist Kerry King

"In the very beginning, it really felt like we were more of a punk band than anything," says Morton, who is joined in Lamb of God by vocalist Randy Blythe, bassist John Campbell and brothers Willie and Chris Adler, on guitar and drums, respectively.

"We played metal songs, but the way we approached things and the DIY ethic we had, playing in basements and sleeping on couches, it was very punk rock."

Legion: XX features Lamb of God’s take on a variety of hardcore punk tracks, including I Against I by Bad Brains, One Voice by Agnostic Front and We Gotta Know by Cro-Mags.

Morton is especially excited about the song Axis Rot by Sliang Laos, a Richmond band that didn’t catch on outside the local scene.

"They broke up right as they were getting a record deal that might have taken them to the next level," he says. "I still love that band and I was really excited about including them on this collection, paying a little respect to our hometown scene and to a band that never got national attention but was still doing amazing music."

Lamb of God has proved to be especially resilient, its lineup rock-solid since 2000’s New American Gospel.

In 2013, singer Blythe was found not criminally reponsible for the death of a fan who suffered head injuries at a 2010 Lamb of God concert in Prague.

"We’ve been through so much together, so many of each other’s ups and downs, personal highs and lows. It’s cliché to say, but it is kind of a brotherhood," Morton says, adding the longtime members respect each other and, as they’ve matured, have learned to give each other room for their little quirks.

"I’m just lucky. This is a great group of players. I write a riff and I get to go jam it with Chris Adler. That’s awesome. I think Randy Blythe is one of the best metal frontmen in the world. And damn, he’s in my band."

Read more by Jared Story.

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