At a screening of Lamb of God’s heart-wrenching As The Palaces Burn documentary in 2014, two things struck MonkHammer about softly-spoken guitarist Mark Morton. Firstly, how disturbingly similar he was to a friend’s boyfriend of the time, from his mannerisms down to the length of his beard, and secondly how thoroughly affable he seemed. Considering how aggressive and confrontational his work with Lamb of God can be, the man comes across as a genuinely kind and humble soul, that friend your mum actually likes, the one who’s “not like those other riff raff”, and it’s this quality that makes his debut solo album Anesthetic one of the most star-studded collaborations in years. Seriously, just look at the guest list: Mark Lanegan, Josh Todd, Steve Gorman, Marc Ford, Mike Inez, Ray Luzier, Roy Mayorga, Dave Ellefson, Chuck Billy, Myles Kennedy, Paulo Gregoletto, Alex Bent, Alissa White-Gluz, Jacoby Shaddix, Jean-Paul Gaster, Jake Oni, Randy Blythe… Even if you can’t stand LoG you have to admit that’s impressive!
Written over the course of several years (which makes sense considering the roll call), the album largely avoids the obvious risks of becoming just another Lamb of God album by virtue of both the variety of personnel involved and the fact that all 10 songs feature a co-write. As much Morton’s solo baby as it is the sum of its parts, the album’s greatest weapon is the guitarist’s seemingly inherent ability to write to his co-conspirators’ strengths, weaving himself into the very DNA of their contributions like a virus and pulling the strings from the inside. No one is required to try anything new and no one is asked to step outside their comfort zone, they are simply welcomed with open arms and invited to throw down. As a result, the album often comes across like a compilation of new tracks from the various vocalists’ day jobs, whether that be the nu-metal barks of Linkin Park on Cross Off, the arena rock stylings of Alter Bridge on Save Defiance, the thrashy chug of Testament on The Never, or the bluesy grunge of Mark Lanegan’s solo work on Axis. The fact that every song on the album also features a signature Morton-groove and is a solid 7 out of 10 is just the icing on a very impressive cake. Interestingly, the only time Morton fails to perfectly match singer to song is when he steps up to the mic himself on Imaginary Days, a mid-paced stomp that would have lent itself well to Steve Brooks (Torche), Jason Shi (ASG / Wildlights) or William DuVall (Alice in Chains). Still, both song and Morton hold their own, and it’s only the preceding Reveal featuring singer/songwriter Naeemah Maddox that really comes closes to a misfire, its acid jazz Incubus vibes wielding their own charms but ultimately standing out like Jay Kay at a Cannibal Corpse show. With enough Lamb of God to keep the die-hards happy and enough “other” to pull anyone else in, Anesthetic does absolutely nothing to diminish Morton’s already solid reputation, asking more questions about what the man is capable of than it answers.
Anesthetic is out 1 March on Spinefarm