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Lazarus A.D. built a rather large perch for themselves in the world of modern thrash with "The Onslaught". So, why not a follow-u, right? After the boys' effortless blending of thrash and groove, how bad can it OH MY FUCK METALCORE! Well, sorta. Lazarus A.D.'s follow-up album, "Black Rivers Flow", isn't really bad, but man is it several steps down from "The Onslaught". Whereas that was basically balls-out, non-stop aggressive groove-thrash (done right), "Black Rivers Flow" is, sadly...thrashy, as opposed to thrash. This album leans more towards groove metal with heaps more melody and a number of more developed chorus sequences. Not a bad idea in general, but the final product, with its moments of clean vocals, prominent choruses and softer riffage, just feels more like a misfire leaning towards metalcore.
That's not to say the returning bandmates don't give it their all anyway. Sure, they restrain themselves more this time around, but solid efforts are still put in. Jeff Paulick's bass is still low, while vocals are still that gnarly thrash metal hoarseness. Lead guitarist Dan Gapen still lets a loose with some solid riffs and solos, while also providing the clean vocals heard numerous times throughout the album. Alex Lackner's rhythm guitar is still pretty basic, while the drumming of Ryan Shutler still goes pummeling and strong. Still all good, but more restrained.
A few songs do stand out of the sea of weak-ass softness going on. The sharp, rolling "The Ultimate Sacrifice" dishes out some of Lackner's sweeter rhythm lines and a clean, but catchy and strong chorus. Opener "American Dreams" is a heavy and inoffensive, but a little boring chugging thrasher. We have some solid faster moments with the upbeat "Light A City (Up In Smoke)", armed with a really catchy chorus, as well as the similarly solid "Through Your Eyes". Beware the rest, though; while there are minor salvageable moments throughout, much of what we get here leans more towards annoying modern metal. "Beneath The Waves of Hate" goes back and forth between tolerable half-thrash and thrashcore-type moments. The title track is just boring, while "Casting Forward" suffers a weak, whiny mall-chorus. But the worst is easily the closer "Eternal Vengeance", a metalcore "epic". Just lousy and a weak way to end the album.
Overall, it could've been worse, but considering how sick "The Onslaught" was, it could've been a shitload better. The concept of Lazarus A.D. taking their last album, slowing it down and adding melody, is not in of itself a bad idea, but the execution leaves much to be desired. While a few numbers are worthwhile and even a few of the weaker songs show some potential, overall the experience will leave thrash fans wanting more or even leaving them a bit pissed. The band mates still cook and show their stuff nicely, but mostly this endeavor could've gone better.
It's a shame that Lazarus AD failed to achieve as much attention as its fellow members of the so-called "thrash revival" scene. Perhaps the main reason for this is that Lazarus do not try to create carbon copies of the 80s thrash giants like a lot of their peers. Their second album illustrates even more-so than their first that while being thrash, they don't have a need to conform to any formulas that are perhaps expected of them. They simply play what they think sounds good and seem to have a great time with it, which is definitely a refreshing breath of fresh air.
With 'Black Rivers Flow', Lazarus have progressed into an intriguing entity. If one must go by genres, I would call them thrash with heavy groove and even death influences thrown in. Think Nuclear Assault with some Pantera and a tiny pinch of Death. And it works.
While not being perfect, 'Black Rivers Flow' has everything to make it worthwhile for a listen. The speed and aggression are accompanied by well-designed melody amongst crunchy, groovy riffs. The drumming and solos are excellent with their variations within songs - it is not the same blast beat or riff played time and time again throughout the whole song.
My biggest, and perhaps only major complaint, is the vocalist. While its something one can get used to, his singing occasionally reminds me of metalcore screaming rather than what is "expected" in thrash. But I suppose I can attribute that to them breaking the stereotypes and going in their own direction. Don't let this sway you away from giving the album a listen, however. While needing large improvement in my opinion, the vocals aren't terrible. They just aren't up to par with the rest of the band's sound.
A solid release from just as solid a band with still plenty of room to grow, 'Black Rivers Flow' is definitely worth picking up while awaiting Lazarus AD's third release with high hopes.
-Marcin W. Cencek
Music is a fickle beast, as are its fans. The “difficult” second album has always been a problem. Debut records are usually a collection of songs that have been beaten into shape, rewritten and re-crafted in numerous rehearsals and in front of indifferent audiences. What emerges then is what diehard fans come to perceive as the one true identity of the band. Subsequently, future releases are easily dismissed as either a reiteration of that “formula”, a sell-out, or at worst a betrayal. Having been lumped in with the thrash revivalists, fortunately Lazarus A.D. appears to be entirely indifferent to such pressures. Lazarus A.D.’s debut, The Onslaught, was hugely impressive though at times sounded like a band eager to show their mettle. And now, Black Rivers Flow looks set to blow that album out of the water.
Loaded with some remarkable riff- and lead-work, the songs are more groove-oriented and favour force over fury, mixing straight-ahead heaviness with melody in the vocal and guitar performances, the sound is akin to old-school thrash blended with a lethal dose of latter-day Pantera and technical death metal. The Lazarus A.D. sound is unequivocally stamped all over this record and the multi-layered title track is the best on the album and shows the band at their best.
Having set the bar high so early in the band’s career, The Onslaught brought with it the prospect of the ‘sophomore slump’, that difficult second album that threatens to undermine everything achieved thus far. On Black Rivers Flow, the aggression and energy and old-school influences from their debut remain and, fortunately for us all, Lazarus A.D. have stuck to their guns and augmented their sound by stronger structures, progressive musicianship, and a detailed attention to musical nuances, the product of which is an extraordinary album that should be a key feature in any metal-heads collection. A stunning start to 2011!