Catching up with Lamb of God, before the iconic metal act's San Antonio show this week

Lamb of God will perform Tuesday at Freeman Coliseum, supporting its new album Omens.

click to enlarge Lamb of God performs in 2019. - Wikimedia Commons / Brmesserschmidt1
Wikimedia Commons / Brmesserschmidt1
Lamb of God performs in 2019.
Metal veterans Lamb of God are returning to San Antonio's Freeman Coliseum on Tuesday on a tour supporting the new album Omens.

One of the key bands in the wave of U.S. metal that emerged in the 2000s, Lamb of God continues to be both a major draw and one of the acts of that era that made a lasting sonic impact.

The Current caught up with bassist John Campbell to talk about the recording of the new record, the band's approach to music videos and what he's learned after decades in the music business. 

Lamb of God has been to San Antonio a number of times over your career, do you have any interesting stories from your visits?

(Laughs.) San Antonio, specifically? I can't say that I do, because it all kinds of blurs together. Texas is always a great state to get into and play shows in.

The last few shows you guys had, you had Phil Demmel on guitar duties. How did it feel to play your songs with someone else?

It's interesting and different. Phil is an outstanding human and an incredible guitar player, so to have him help out with shows is — not the best situation — but it's the best of a not-choice situation. On this tour he only filled in on one show when we were in Canada, and then he came out and played with all of us at a festival in Sacramento. I think it was the Aftershock Festival. 

When Phil first came to rehearse with us, before he ever filled in with the new shows, we had booked two days to rehearse and then he came in. He visited us at home in our rehearsal space. He came in and ran through the set, and he basically knew everything. He was playing it almost flawlessly. We ended up playing just a few more songs over again, and then we cancelled the second day of rehearsal because none of us needed it. We were killing it. A lot of credit goes to him for seamlessly fitting in.

We were actually out on the Slayer tour when he stepped in when Gary Holt's father passed away and he had to fill. We watched him do that and we were like holy shit that guy's great. (Laughs.) When our situation arose when we needed someone on standby to fill in in case something happened, we reached out to him. Now we call him "The Phil-In Villain."

click to enlarge John Campbell performs during a 2015 festival appearance. - Wikimedia Commons / Stefan Brending
Wikimedia Commons / Stefan Brending
John Campbell performs during a 2015 festival appearance.

Speaking of touring, do you prefer performing at outdoor or indoor venues?

I prefer indoor, myself. You have a lot more control over the elements. But that said, there are outdoor shows that are incredible. Like some of the festivals we play in Europe are ridiculous as far as massive crowds and it's great.

Lamb of God will be closing in on its 30th anniversary in a couple of years, so how does it feel reflecting back on the band's career?

It's been a very slow build to where we are. We've been able to navigate fairly well the different pitfalls that have come our way. But, you know, we have integrity and we're real about this and feel lucky to be able to continue to do this. Reflecting back, I don't know. I'm very happy for whatever we've been able to do, and I hope to continue doing it for a little while longer.

In the same vein, is there anything you would tell your past self knowing what you know now?

No, I wouldn't. Because the experience is in the ignorance. It led to all the experiences I had and informed me to where I am now. I might just tell myself, "Don't worry." But the dealing with uncertainty — which we've all been doing with like the pandemic and just anybody in a long term situation like that — is just part of the experience, and I don't know that it would be fair to take that away.

That surely also applies to having no regrets.

I mean, I say that I feel like I lived as a good person. I like people.

Turning to the new album Omens, what have been the reactions to it from the people closest to you?

To be honest, I might take the random stranger's opinion more than people I know. Sometimes, I'm sure, I know people are like, "Yeah it's great!" But the reviews from everyone, from friends to people in the business to critics — I've read a few shitty reviews, but that's to be expected because people like to write that shit, and that shit to me is hilarious. This is our ninth record as Lamb of God, and I've gotten a chance to read lots of record reviews over the years and form my opinion on how important they are now. The overall response to our record has been outstanding, and I'm really happy with it.

The album is a bit different from the rest of your catalog. It leans more into the band's hardcore roots.

Definitely "Denial Mechanism" is super heavy on the hardcore. That's part of who we are.

You guys wrote and recorded Omens differently from previous releases. What was that process like?

The pace we recorded it at was a lot slower, and the pace we wrote at was sped up. We got into the process again sooner because we couldn't tour on the record we put out — the one that came out in the pandemic. So, instead of going out and touring, we stayed home and worked on new material. There wasn't a lot of time that went on before we went to the studio this time. We recorded live.

What we normally would do was learn all our stuff in the rehearsal spot and then go in the studio, and everybody goes and puts down their perfect piece. Then it gets fitted together by the producer, and we listen to it in mixes and stuff. I would do a record in four to five days. This time, we went in the studio and recorded live. Kept some of the live tracks and cleaned up stuff. I was in the studio for three and a half to four weeks as opposed to four or five days, and it was incredible. It was an amazing experience and I definitely think that has an effect on that final outcome.

Will this type of process continue for future records?

Who knows? I hope so. It worked really well this time. We're a very organic and in-the-moment band. We're not trying to force or push anything. The idea came up to do it like that, and it was something we hadn't done, so it seemed like the perfect thing to do. It worked really well.

Was there anything you did on this album, bass-wise, that differed from other album releases?

I didn't necessarily change much up. I play bass, but what I'm really playing is guitar on a bass guitar. On this record, there are more moments where I got away from that and played it more as a traditional bass guitar. Like the intro and chorus to "September Song" and other spots on the record. I play bass and I've gotten pretty good at doing it, so I'm not switching it up all that much.

The band's recent music videos could be described as cinematic short stories. Do you guys have a hand in the idea process or let the director take full control?

Depends. Sometimes it comes from us, other times we have treatments people send in that we read and discuss. Sometimes we'll add to it and sometimes we'll be like, "That's great, let's do it." That's all kind of handled by management, as they bring ideas to us. The "Momento Mori" video is something [vocalist] Randy [Blythe] was very into writing.

Is there anything you would one day like to try out musically? Like adding a jazz breakdown down in the middle of a song.

(Laughs.) No, I don't think so. I mean if it comes up in the moment and seems to make sense for a song, then we'll do it.

Is there anyone you haven't toured with that you still want to?

Oh man, I would mind riding around on Iron Maiden's plane. That would be pretty cool. I would love to tour with Metallica again. That was some of the best touring I've been able to do in my life.

Do you have a favorite music artist at the moment?

I'm obsessive about things, and I will kind of like obsess over an artist for a while and then try to get away from it. But I haven't found something else to obsess over. So, I'm kind of in between right now. The last thing I was really obsessed with was a Spanish pop singer named Nathy Peluso. She's pretty incredible. She's got some R&B style stuff, she raps and she also sings more traditional flamenco style.

Did she have any inspiration on the new record?

I would say nothing direct, but I definitely was listening to her to and from the studio. Just a vibe, an overall vibe.

Since Halloween is approaching, do you have any Halloween traditions?

No, I don't because in my line of work it's very difficult, because I'm home sometimes and other times I'm not. I love Halloween, though, and I'll be handing out candy since I'll be home this year.

$39.50-$180, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, Freeman Coliseum, 3201 E. Houston St., (210) 226-1177,

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