Chris Adler: The Irresistible Force

chris adler

The result? A blistering, plodding compendium of meticulously recorded salvos that could easily serve as the soundtrack to a battlefield brawl, from the rollicking rat-a-tat of “Desolation” to the nightmare rock of “Invictus.” Through it all, Adler is making full use of the more than ten cymbals, seven drums, and countless practice runs leading up to the main event. It’s the crispest, cleanest metal drumming he’s ever laid to tape, and it shows, with ear-splitting efficiency.

“This is our seventh record. It’s not easier to do anything better, or else we would have done it better to begin with. It’s analogous to how you swim — you might race your best lap, but six months later you’re a little bit better, and two years later you’re twice as good. Every time we do an album, we think, ‘Holy s__t, I can’t believe we got here.’ It’s this natural evolution. If you’re not getting better, you should probably stop. That’s the conversation we’ve had with each other. We’ve built a career where we don’t necessarily need to make metal records [anymore]. But we want to make them.”

Gathering The Flock

It took a long road to get to Resolution. It began in 1970s-era Richmond, where a young Chris Adler sat down for his first piano lesson. The instrument, which would blossom into an eight-year obsession, was a kind of gateway drug to the arts, nurtured by a mother who was a voice teacher and a father who was an actor in the local theater.

“There was this bug in the house to have a creative streak, and they were very supportive of that. From the piano, I started playing saxophone, which was not as cool as the guitar, which I started playing at 11 through about 21. I played in several bands at that time, even put out a record and toured the U.S.”

Soon Adler found himself in his final year at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a decision before him: become a network engineer with a steady paycheck or take a risk on a dream. The choice was clear — and that’s when “The Project” began to emerge. With classmates Morton and Campbell, Adler formed a band called Burn The Priest and began building the foundation on which Lamb Of God would be built. To do so, he traded the bass guitar for another new instrument: drums.

“I didn’t start playing drums until I was 21. There’s this period of time where you’re a teenager and you fall in love with music and an instrument. I fell in love with heavy metal, but I was huge into guitar — early Megadeth, Testament, Forbidden, because it was really technical compared to some of the more dumbed-down punk-rock stuff. These were guys that took a lot of time practicing their instruments. It’s not something everyone can do. It made it more elite, if you will. But the guy who really set [the drums] in motion for me was Shannon Larkin [Godsmack, Amen, Glassjaw, Stone Sour] — the most entertaining drummer I’ve ever watched. Watching him play, I knew I wanted to be that good at anything in my life.”

A record deal with Legion provided the band with the opportunity to record two 7" records, which in turn gave the new band material to tour behind, playing hundreds of shows across the U.S. That in turn garnered the band more attention, which led to a second deal with Prosthetic Records. In 2000, a full-length album called New American Gospel emerged, along with a new, less antagonistic name: Lamb Of God.

“I worked my ass off. We spent ’94 to 2000 literally touring everywhere we could. We sent out letters and demos and cassette tapes to anyone who would let us play their party. We did that almost six or seven years, but the first two [albums] were the most important in stepping up my game on the instrument.”

Two years of rigorous touring paved the way for a third album, 2003’s As The Palaces Burn, which gained the band its first significant radio airplay, reviews from Rolling Stone and Revolver, and its first Grammy nomination. That success led to a record deal with Epic/Sony in 2004, from which Ashes Of The Wake was born, offering plentiful evidence that the band deserved a headlining spot on the popular Ozzfest tour.

By the Sacrament album in 2006, the band was being mentioned in the same breath as metal legends Slayer and Pantera, each new release further solidifying Lamb Of God’s place atop the metal food chain. More Grammy nominations followed, Billboard chart records were broken and live shows were quickly sold out across the globe — all this at a time when metal was supposed to be irrelevant.

“A couple of years ago, it was very cool to like metal. That’s fading away — now there’s a generation of kids who really aren’t going to live that lifestyle. At the same time, there are a lot of guys like myself that — where my career started to blow up at 22, 23 — a lot of guys approaching 40 who took on responsibility and fell out of the timeframe to listen to this music. The last time they looked there was a bunch of hair metal and guys with jumpsuits and masks on. They’re getting back into it and finding us.”

With Age Comes Wisdom

For a guy who first picked up drum sticks at age 21, Adler has understandably spent the last decade finding himself — as a technician and as a career musician. His first challenge was abandoning his bid for speed king, avoiding a trap that befalls so many players of double bass-drum kits.

“Our first record has some of the most aggressive drumming I’ve ever done in my career. I was showing off. But having a guy in the band that’s only interested in going 300 bpm all the time and showing off does not make for an interesting song. It’s really a race that nobody can win, and if there is a winner, you get nothing. The more time I played, the more I realized how futile it was. I was overlooking so much more on the instrument that it was driving me crazy. It was more important to not play than to overplay. I try to find holes to not fill. It’s not entirely 180 [degrees] from when I started, but once I got up to speed, I very quickly backed off of it.”

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