Travis Shinn photo
It's a testament to staying power when a touring band can weather 15 years together in a genre that has witnessed an ebb and flow in popularity. Formed in 1994 when its founding members were students at Virginia Commonwealth University, local headbangers Lamb of God have elevated their profile well above the heavy-metal fray — they earned a 2007 Grammy nomination for their album Sacrament, and their latest release, Wrath, hit No. 2 on Billboard's top-albums list. As the group set off on another tour, we checked in with Chris Adler, who explains how, among other things, a heavy-metal drummer satisfies his own musical tastes while choosing tunes suitable for his 9-month-old daughter.
Q: The band's new album, Wrath, hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 list in March. What does this say about the state of heavy metal and music in general?
A: Well, right now is obviously a pretty special time for heavy metal. When we started the band in '94, it was at the point when all the metal labels had dried up. I think it's back, and I think it's really very healthy. But like all good things, it'll kind of fade in time, and we'll be back to the underground scene, worrying about gas money. That's fine with us — we're not doing it to retire on the beach somewhere. We're doing it because we love the music.
Q: The band has been able to steer clear of any major breakups or hiatuses so far. How do you all keep it together?
A: It's not been easy. There's been some fights, some blood and tears, but even through that, there's a common goal, in that we love what we're doing. Together, we're certainly better than one of us individually. That gets stretched at times. Those relationships are not always "best friends." In the end, we have a lot of respect for each other and what we've been able to accomplish, and what we still have to accomplish.
Q: What's life like away from the band?
A: My wife and I just had a little girl, Mackenzie, about nine months ago.
Q: I guess you don't have her listening to metal quite yet. Do you?
A: No, we do. There's a series of children's music called "Rock-A-Bye Baby," which is basically popular bands doing baby jingles. So, when my daughter was born in the hospital, the very first thing we put on in the delivery room was the baby song by Metallica. We have a very metal household. When I'm home from tour, I'm trying to be Mr. Mom. I'm with her in the morning until my wife wakes up, and we just hang out and listen to music. She's going to be probably not a metal head but at least well-versed in metal.
Q: When we talked to the band back in 2003, you lamented the fact that your tour bus would take you from the 9:30 Club in D.C. right down to the NorVa in Norfolk and completely bypass Richmond. How does it feel to have a decent-sized venue, The National, where you can come home and play?
A: It's not only awesome for us to be able to play at The National. It's been awesome for me, as a fan of music, to finally have a venue to attract national acts. I'm probably at The National at least three times a month hanging out and having a blast. I always love local bands and all, but it's nice to have a place that you can really go see the bigger acts coming in. It's a comfortable place that's cool.
Q: How many years till Lamb of God is filling up the Richmond Coliseum?
A: [Laughs] Who knows? Nobody ever thought that when we were playing the basements for a free six-pack of beer that we would ever potentially be any kind of an arena act. This past December, our final leg of the Sacrament tour was an actual arena tour. It's really been unbelievable that a band that's kind of as aggressive and abrasive as we are can even get to that spot nowadays. I think that the overall mega-success stories, like Metallica and such, their days may be over, but we're doing our best to keep up our end, and having people coming in to those size venues and supporting us is a really good sign for metal and the future of heavy music.
Q: Are there any famous fans among the band's devotees?
A: I guess the weirdest one that we were like, "What?" was, umm, what's that guy's name from American Idol? Daughtry? Chris Daughtry? He's a big fan. Dave Grohl [of the Foo Fighters] found us. He's a big fan. It's kind of weird when people that we are kind of thinking of as superheroes are calling to tell us they dig our stuff and want to come out and have a beer or something like that. It's been an interesting ride so far.