Add this to my list of shocking news: Lamb of God has parted ways with drummer, and founding member, Chris Adler. It’s as shocking as hearing Mike Portnoy’s departure from Dream Theater. You’d think I’d be immune to surprises having seen so many member changes in so many bands; but some people are so strongly associated with their acts that it’s hard to imagine their band carrying on without them. Alas, the news is true. Chris Adler is no longer the drummer of Lamb of God. Art Cruz, who had been filling in for him for a while, joined the band full time. 

Even though we’ve heard from both parties at this point, it’s still not very clear what actually happened. These things end up being public at some point; but for now, we don’t really know what led to this decision. My goal with this article is to share my own thoughts on Chris Adler’s drumming, his contribution to Lamb of God, and what we might expect in the future.

My introduction to Lamb of God was in the mid-2000s. My cousin, with whom I discovered so many bands together and who was a drummer himself, was super into this band he’d become a fan of. What struck him most was the drumming. I remember going on rides in his car, blasting Lamb of God, and admiring the innovative drumming. For a while, I didn’t know the names of any other members, but I knew who Chris Adler was. Later, I started seeing his name more and more in heavy metal magazines. Apparently, it wasn’t just us who thought his drumming was exciting and unique.

Lamb of God

The funny thing is, I never quite became that big of a fan of Lamb of God. I love Ashes of the Wake (2004) and Sturm Und Drang (2015). I think those two are their strongest records. There are some tracks that I like in other albums, but they didn’t have the coherence of these two. I also sometimes thought the music became a little too predictable. The songs followed very similar patterns. Sturm, however, was great because they consciously avoided that and the result, in my view, was spectacular. 

But no matter what I thought of the music or the album I was listening to, I’ve always loved the drumming. My cousin was right! Chris Adler was a force to be reckoned with. It is kind of hard to gauge a musician’s versatility when they play similar music, but then I found out he’d done the drums for Protest the Hero’s 2013 record, Volition. He’d done a track on Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth before, but this was an entire album, and in a completely different genre. It’s a fun album in general, so if you’re into progressive metal, definitely check it out. The bonus you get is listening to Adler’s drums in an undoubtedly distinct manner. He was no stranger to complicated drum parts, but with the time signatures being far more challenging in this type of album, even Adler himself acknowledged that this was a “daunting task”. Admittedly, I’m only a casual listener of Protest; but judging by the online reactions for Volition, it looks like even the die-hard fans loved his contribution. 

With his guest drumming, one other thing became clear. Chris Adler loved doing projects outside of LoG. All musicians enjoy this to varying degrees, but some welcome the challenge more than others. Adler made it very clear he still belonged in Lamb of God, but looking back at old interviews, he was also incredibly proud of himself for being a part of the Protest the Hero record. A new challenge, positive reviews, and he said he was “better off” for having done it. 

Then came 2015. When it comes to Megadeth, I throw my name in there as one of their biggest fans on this planet! When the thrash titans went through yet another line-up change and a drummer position was open, the rumor mill started doing what it does! But then a photo emerged of Dave Mustaine and Chris Adler at a restaurant. Seemed like they were in the same town right around the time Mustaine had started preproduction on what would eventually become Dystopia. The band announced it officially soon; Adler was indeed taking over drum duties for recording and he was likely going to help with the following tour as much as he could. Both Adler and the Megadeth camp were very careful not to label him as a “new member” though. After all, Chris Adler was a founding member of and an integral contributor to Lamb of God. No one could think of any other scenario at the time!

Adler’s desire to play with Megadeth started making more and more sense to me as time went on. He was a huge Megadeth fan. I didn’t know that before he started recording with them. If you read David Ellefson’s new book, More Life with Deth, he goes into more detail on just how much Megadeth means to him. And here was his chance to have his name on a Megadeth album! To add to his excitement, Mustaine was open to hearing his thoughts on what Megadeth meant to him. Adler said he expressed his opinions after Mustaine sent him some demos and spoke to him about what excited him about the band when he first started getting into their music. If you’re a fan of a band, and you find yourself recording with them, imagine how thrilled you will be when they are receptive to your thoughts on their current demos!

But something else also makes more sense now. Chris loved to get out of his comfort zone. He’d already proven that by playing with Protest the Hero. Megadeth, of course, was a whole new challenge in and of itself. But he knew he loved trying new arrangements, working with new people, and pushing technical boundaries. Why not? 

Adler’s time with Megadeth wasn’t very long. He did tour with them for a bit but then it was time for everyone to move on. I actually got to see the band with Adler in Boston and even got a picture with that line-up at a VIP Meet & Greet. But the news of Megadeth finding a permanent drummer after Adler was not surprising at all. Everyone knew that at some point Adler would go back to LoG.

I love Chris Adler’s drumming on Dystopia. His playing added a new layer of intensity on an already heavy batch of songs. I appreciate Shawn Drover’s contributions to Megadeth, but I always thought Megadeth needed someone else to bring back the level of energy Nick Menza or Gar Samuelson had. I found that with Chris Adler. And when I saw them live with Adler, it was one of the best live shows I’d experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled Dirk Verbeuren is in the band now (Adler recommended him, by the way) and I’m looking forward to his playing on the next album. But I was a little bummed when Adler was no longer drumming for Megadeth. But he had to be in Lamb of God. That much, we all knew, accepted, and respected. 

Still, some things were a little confusing even before his exit. The language wasn’t always clear, and the band was unusually evasive. In July of ’18, LoG announced Chris Adler was going to miss the then upcoming tour “due to unforeseen circumstances” and Art Cruz, who eventually got the full-time gig, was going to fill in for him. To be fair, the band also added they expected Chris to return “in the very near future”. But “unforeseen circumstances” for a crucial member to miss shows? Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean someone’s departure from the band, but it does signal something serious. Adler must have figured it was no time to fuel rumors, so he made his own announcement a few months later. He revealed that he’d suffered a motorcycle accident the previous year (2017). It was a serious accident – one for which he needed a surgery and regular sessions of physical therapy. He said this was why he’d missed out on the tour and he was working hard to “be back behind the kit” as quickly as he could. 

That answered why he was missing those shows. It happens sometimes and bands ask their colleagues to fill in. But looking at the timeline, I’m now realizing that the seeds of his departure were probably planted around then. These things don’t just happen overnight. I’m not suggesting the accident caused the departure. But it does look like even when Adler was recovering, his chances of coming back to the band he had co-founded were getting smaller every day. There was also so many confusing events and announcements going on for a while. They all eventually led to Adler’s departure; but they left everyone confused when they were happening on their own. As hindsight is always 20/20, we now see these things were all connected. 

In June of 2019, Randy Blythe was asked when the fans could expect to see Adler back in the band. Remember, this was roughly a year after they’d announced Adler was going to miss the tour due to “unforeseen circumstances”. Okay, now that we knew about the motorcycle accident, any comments on when he can be back in the band he co-founded? Blythe said it was “hard to say what’s gonna happen with Chris Adler.” He added he had “no comment” on Adler. That was the biggest sign right there that things weren’t working out as we’d hoped. Still, there was no official announcement about an exit. 

Again, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m now realizing they were probably ironing out some legal details to pave the way for Chris Adler to leave. Nobody’s going to want to make too many comments when these things haven’t been worked out yet. Blythe’s evasiveness and Adler’s silence during this time make perfect sense when evaluated from this perspective.

As everybody knows at this point, Chris came back to drumming as part of the all-star band Hail! for which the announcement was made on June 29th, roughly a few weeks after Blythe’s “no comment” statement. The Hail! announcement mentioned nothing about a potential return to Lamb of God. Now we knew Adler could play just fine; it’s just that he wasn’t playing with Lamb of God. I think at this point we could guess where this was going. The band soon made it official and welcomed Art Cruz as a permanent member.

Chris did elaborate on Facebook on October 23rd a little more. I’d say it answered everything, but, frankly, it didn’t. He did, however, imply that he didn’t leave; he was asked to leave. We also found out that he had thankfully recovered from his accident. The rather confusing part was about his not wanting to play the same song “10,000 times”. I get the notion. And for an incredibly versatile drummer like him, it makes perfect sense. That’s why musicians in certain bands will go and do a side project. But was this the reason he was asked to leave? Did he refuse to commit to a certain style of music for future records? Or was this more about not wanting to do similar setlists for every live show? I don’t know. In other words, I don’t know if “artistic differences” was the cause of the departure. But it sure looks like it. Mark Morton did kind of respond to Adler’s statement on Twitter in a rather sarcastic manner, even making fun of his brief stint with Nitro. I won’t go into detail on that one, but suffice it to say things don’t seem super friendly at the moment. I hope the relationship improves soon. At the end of the day, Chris’s brother, Willie, is still in the band. One would hope that would help. 

I’ll definitely follow what LoG releases from here after, but I’d have to admit I’m more interested in what Chris Adler does. He’s a phenomenal drummer and it’s no exaggeration to say that his playing was a breath of fresh air when LoG first emerged on the scene. He influenced so many new drummers, like drummers before him influenced his style. I absolutely loved what he did with Megadeth and I give him a lot of credit in helping Mustaine and Ellefson get back to their roots with Dystopia. He’s certainly capable of playing whatever he wants. Right now, he’s doing a drum clinic series called The Chris Adler Experience. I wouldn’t blame him if he just wants to play some familiar tunes without too much drama for a while before figuring out what he wants to do next. Sometimes you need a comfortable transition. I’m sure there’s already a huge group of musicians lined up to join him in whatever venture he chooses next. I’ll be paying attention too!

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