Comfort Zone

“The whole thing just kind of evolved through my writing.” Lamb of God's Mark Morton takes a pain-free approach to his solo debut, 'Anesthetic.'
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Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton wasn’t planning on recording a solo album, but neither was he planning not to. “The whole thing just kind of evolved through my writing,” he says. “Lamb of God is my mothership, so I’m always working on songs for the band. But there’s a whole lot of stuff I write that I put aside, stuff that isn’t right for them. So over the years I’ve amassed a big stack of material. At a certain point, I was like, ‘Okay, now what should I do with all of it?’ ”

Much of the music Morton had compiled was straight-up rock and didn’t fit into Lamb of God’s style of full-assault heavy metal. After he played his demos for the band’s longtime producer, Josh Wilbur, they decided it was worth pursuing a solo record. There was just one problem: Morton isn’t a singer. So he and Wilbur set up a dry-erase board and began compiling a list of guest vocalists to approach.

“We took things on a song-by-song basis,” Morton explains. “I didn’t want to take singers out of their comfort zones. If something sounded like it was in a particular singer’s wheelhouse, that’s who we reached out to.”

To Morton’s delight, nearly everyone he wanted signed on. As a result, Anesthetic (Spinefarm Records) boasts such names as the Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan, Buckcherry’s Josh Todd, Testament’s Chuck Billy, and Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge and Slash’s backing band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. “I’m so happy and proud that I was able to get so many amazing singers on the record,” Morton says. “It’s an understatement to say that I couldn’t have made this album without them.”

The only guest guitarist on Anesthetic is former Black Crowes picker Marc Ford, who joins his old bandmate, drummer Steve Gorman, on the song “Axis.” “I didn’t have any kind of edict, like, ‘There can be no other guitar player on the record,’” Morton says. “And I sure wasn’t going to say no to having Marc Ford on the track. What I like about that one is how it’s half ’70s rock, but there’s another section that’s more ’90s alternative, kind of like a Blur-type thing. Mark Lanegan is one of my favorite singers ever, and he does a beautiful job on it.”

Morton was elated when the late Chester Bennington, formerly of Linkin Park, agreed to sing on the raging cut “Cross Off.” The guitarist calls himself a “big, big fan” of Linkin Park, noting, “They really changed the game for rock when they came out with Hybrid Theory.” As for working with Bennington, who died in July 2017, “He didn’t have anything to prove to anybody, but he came in and really dug into the song in such a creative way,” Morton recalls. “When you hear him, you’re like, That voice is just so powerful! Chester was such an incredible talent, and I’m just happy to celebrate how awesome he was with this song.”

The most surprising track on the album is “Reveal,” a transporting slice of ’70s bluesy soul that features the heavenly vocals of New York City–based singer Naeemah Maddox. “I get together with Naeemah and a few of her friends every now and then,” Morton says. “We play stuff that’s far and away different from Lamb of God. I thought it was important to have her on the record. I didn’t want it to be all dudes.”

Guitar-wise, Morton stuck mainly to his signature Jackson Pro Dominion models, although he occasionally picked up a Les Paul owned by Wilbur. Whenever an acoustic was needed, he strummed a Guild. “I see these guys who bring in a bank of guitars, and they change instruments on every song,” he says. “I’m a pretty simple man, and I figure you can only play one guitar at a time, right? Too many options give you too many problems. I only want one worry in the studio: Are we getting this song right?”