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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!