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We have to admit it: groove metal is everywhere. After the advent of that musical annoyance in the '90s, it never really went away. Instead, it sneaked into the works of many a once great thrash masters, bogging down their once vicious, riff-heavy drives into modernized one-note mush. Titans like Exodus, Flotsam & Jetsam, Agent Steel and Laaz Rockit have all given into going "bro metal", as I believe someone else called it one here. However, not all hope is lost. From out of Wisconsin of all places arrives Lazarus A.D., whom manage to do something amazing: they do groove-thrash right. With their keen sense of riffage and relentless aggression fused with single-note pounding and cooking breakdowns, they manage to put many of the old dogs to shame, and in the process become of the most prominent and hopeful figures in this thrash revival movement we're experiencing.
Armed with an ultra-heavy, predictably slick and modern-sounding production, the boys of Lazarus A.D. are fine bunch of talented, competent thrashers. Jeff Paulick takes bass/vocal duties; his bass rarely plays a major role and rarely heard save for a few fill moments. His voice kinda teeters somewhere in between Phil Anselmo-type faux hardcore bellowing and harsh, old-school thrashspeak along the lines of Brian Zimmerman from Atrophy or Kurt Brecht from D.R.I.. The leads of Dan Gapen are quite good, spewing forth some real nice riffs and slicing solos with little difficulty; the rhythm guitars of Alex Lackner are a bit more basic. Lastly we have the very energetic drumming of Ryan Shutler, who batters the kit mercilessly, even with a tad bit of technical flair; his kick drumming, while painfully over-exposed like in many a metal albums these days, are also quite noteworthy if the fuckers haven't been artificially-triggered.
The songs on "The Onslaught", admittedly, run together a bit. It's not REAL bad, but each song really pulls the same exercise of pissed vocals, relentless drumming, and half groove/thrash riff attacks. Still, many of these cookers are good for what they are. Opener "Last Breath" is a classic thrash album starter song, loaded with relentless, hateful energy and a truckload of riffs. Follow-up crusher "Thou Shall Not Fear" plays more to the groove side of things but never loses the thrash attitude. "Rebirth" is also pretty cool with its assaulting slight gallop, while one of my favorites on here, "Every Word Unheard", plays like a game of tennis between the groovier and thrashier stuff. The rest are all pretty solid save maybe for the unusual closer "Who I Really Am", which fails while attempting a stuttering- type riff.
Overall, a damn fine modern thrash album. Some stuff gets at me, like the fakey production or the lack of more variety in the songs, but really there are two things that make "The Onslaught" a solid experience. One is the energy of the band, which is quite admirable and becomes infectious quite fast, while the merging of groove metal and thrash id practically flawless and well-executed. That'll teach the old masters that shit like "The Atrocity Exhibition" or "Left For Dead" sure as shit isn't the way to go. Play that groove-thrash boys, and while you reign on stage, maybe the old dogs will learn a few new tricks in the meantime.
Remember a few years ago when there was a sudden revival of interest in the thrash genre? Many of the new-found fans frequently lamented at how “thrash was dead.” Time has pretty much proven those whiners wrong; there has been an upsurge of bands that not only play but dress like they are from 1985. These “retro-thrash” bands mostly mimic some of the big names of the time, like Exodus and Slayer, but there are a few out there that show quite a bit of potential. One of these bands is Lazarus A.D.
Lazarus A.D. hails from Wisconsin, of all places. “The Onslaught” was a self-released album that came out in 2007. The version you either own or else plan on purchasing is most likely the Metal Blade re-release. This re-release features different artwork and a remix/remaster from James Murphy, who does a fine job, as usual.
Even though Lazarus A.D. are usually lumped in with the retro-thrash bands, referring to them as such would be a disservice and, more importantly, inaccurate. The term "retro-thrash" pretty much implies copying thrash bands from the 80s. Lazarus A.D. takes those ideas and uses them merely as a reference point when constructing their music. There is an element of groove present, but what we have here is not the type of groove that usually comes with a negative connotation. Instead, Lazarus A.D. takes those groove parts and uses them as a foil to all of the delicious thrash sections, much like many of the best thrash bands did back in the day.
Many of these riffs are some of the best that have been written in the past few years; simultaneously catchy and heavy. Singer Jeff Paulick’s vocals lack toughness and maturity at times, but those will most likely come around on subsequent releases. Guitarist Dan Gapen adds icing to the cake with his jaw-dropping solos (he can pull them off live perfectly note-for-note), reminding me a bit of a young Alex Skolnick. The songs are lean, but mean and eschew some of the over-blown theatrics of some thrash bands from the late 80s. The only real misstep is the fade-out at the end of “Every Word Unheard,” seemingly coming just as the song sounds like it’s about to pick up.
Considering how young the band-members are, I expect nothing but great things for Lazarus A.D.’s future. Check out the songs “Thou Shall Not Fear,” “Damnation of the Weak” and “Absolute Power” if you need any convincing as to this band’s talent. As long as they stick true to their music and do not try to dumb down their sound, look for Lazarus A.D. to become a household name in metal in the coming years.
When it comes to this thrash revival, there have been a lot of amazing new bands that have developed and are playing some really solid old school 80s style thrash, chaotic, spastic, and very punky. So when the occasional new thrash band adds a bit of that groove influence or more of a modern style to the mix, they almost automatically stand out from the pack. This is what makes Lazarus A.D. pop very clearly from the rest of the movement.
The Onslaught makes the debut of Lazarus A.D. After being signed to Metal Blade, Lazarus A.D. changed their name simply by adding the A.D. to the end of their previous moniker and has re-released this debut album in this remixed and remastered form. The Onslaught originally was self released in 2007, but with a new cover and slightly new sound (thanks to the ever present and working James Murphy) the band seemed poised to take their music on a wide-scale level.
What makes this album pop from their contemporaries at this stage is that the band uses a significant amount of post thrash groove tendencies in their music to give songs a bit more of a push/pull feeling instead of always going balls out. This combination of chunky riffs and swing drum patterns meshes with the more chaotic and thrashy elements well and it comes off as a very volatile combination.
Many fans of thrash might be thrown off by some of the groovier sections in this release, like the almost Pantera-esque riff about 30 seconds into Forged in Blood or the mid-tempo and very catchy “Thou Shall Not Fear” but fear not, these only last for sections and the band balances them with some very headbangable thrash parts. I could see some people mistaking some of the stop-and-go riffs as being too modern or even metalcore for their tastes (I would argue that comparison though to the end), but Lazarus A.D. uses them incredibly well with their frantic fret work on display with leads and soloing.
The impressive production (and very impressive mix and mastering) help bring out both sides of the band. The bass is a prominent feature to their sound and style which is brought forth in a greater capacity on this version of the album that lends the album towards the groove orientation, but the stellar drumming is what benefited most from it as one can now hear his precision and little nuances that make his performance my nod for best on the album.
Lazarus A.D. might not be my favorite band from this new thrash movement but they definitely one of the best. The album tends to get a little bit monotonous by the end and that’s perhaps its greatest flaw, but the majority of the music contained on The Onslaught is well written and performed better. Not necessarily an album for fans of old school thrash though even if the opener Last Breath is one of the better thrash songs of the last 5 years.
Songs to check out: Last Breath, Absolute Power, Every Word Unheard.
Back when these guys were just called Lazarus, I happened to come across them after hearing about them from a friend in the Milwaukee Wisconsin area who happened to see these guys play. What my friend described was something of an untouched gem of thrash metal, a sort of "walk the line" kind of band that had all the elements people into most modern metal like but without the emoness and with the heaviness and ferocity of old school thrash metal. My interest was quipped and I decided to give Lazarus a listen, and after that I have since continued to follow the band and ended up purchasing the Metal Blade reissue of their debut album, The Onslaught.
The Onslaught is just what it says it is, it is an absolute onslaught. Without a doubt, this is easily one of the best records of the year and a great way to kick it off. Lazarus A.D have many of the right ingredients going on to make them one of the next big bands in today's metal scene. Their ferocity, intense but not obnoxious musical skill as well as some above average songwriting keep the band in a position that makes me more then tolerate their music but several aspects end up keeping their debut from truly reaching the potential that would have absolutely propelled the band past everyone else in their respective field.
First of all, while Lazarus A.D is tagged here as thrash/groove metal, I would hesitate to call this band simply another bad Machine Head or Pantera knock off. For every part that is even remotely groove metal like, there are at least three parts that are thrash. Overall this is a thrash metal album, largely in the vein of Slayer and Metallica but with a bit of Kreator style rhythm along a dash of Testament melody. Throw that in with some other rather meaningless influences and one influence that people just seem to hate so much. That's right the band is influenced by Pantera and it shows.
However, don't let Lazarus A.D's influence and genre tag turn you off. If you're an old school thrash metal fan, you're bound to at least tolerate this album. Modern thrashers will probably love it as well. Not nearly as melodic as many newer thrash albums and with not nearly as much Gothenburg influence, The Onslaught just tears you a new one through and through with pretty much each track.
I can understand why this would be a turn off to some and it does show. There are groovish parts in The Onslaught. A few songs such as Damnation Of The Weak, Absolute Power, and Lust have breakdown style choruses that are bound to piss off some old school thrash fans and fans of metal that prefer to not have breakdowns in their music. Also every song has at least one good chunk of simple one or two chord palm muted "chugga chugga" riffing going on. This gets on my nerves quite a bit because sometimes when this goes on I feel like that the band could clearly be doing something way better then simply playing the same chord(s) palm muted over and over again. Throw that in with some rather randomly placed but incredibly good sounding death vocals here and there and the band can seem a bit trendy sounding, subsequently turning off many potential listeners in the process.
Also many of the songs sound like they should end earlier then they actually do. A lot of the time the band finds themselves repeating riffs for a time]and not really singing that much when it sounds like they should be. Add that to the fact that some of the songs sound like they are extensions of each other (the biggest case being Revolution and Rebirth, who sound like they should have just been one big song rather then two separate ones)
A vast majority of the lyrics also completely wreak of groove metal style. Most of the lyrics are the typical groove metal themes of being powerful, acting tough in the face of enemies, and kicking their asses in the process. Don't forget the basic personal related themes and the "don't tread on me" kind of tough guy sounding lyrics, they're all over this album as well. Some songs stand out a bit. Last Breath is pure old school sounding in terms of lyrics and Thou Shall Not Fear just sounds brings back my old memories from Desert Storm in my old M2 Bradley. That song sounds like nothing and is only about pure bloody war at it's most hellish point. Nothing quite like that for me. Lust has a bit to do with society, but still takes a very personal touch that kind of annoys me. Profanity is used to to minor level, not nearly as much as many newer bands but enough for it to be noticeable and get on the nerves of some.
What Lazarus A.D makes up for is that this is much more thrash metal then groove metal (as stated above). Without a doubt this is some of the most intense and heavy sounding modern thrash metal I have ever heard. Many of the riffs are absolutely awesome sounding when they are played at full speed. Speaking of full speed, it is often when Lazarus A.D plays at full speed do they sound most cohesive and together as opposed to slowing down to get into a rhythm. The guitar tone of Dan Gapen and Alex Lackner adds a ton to the sound, for instead of going for the typical "wall of sound" style of guitar tone the guitar tone bites at you like a great white shark. Throw that in with the punishing drum work of Ryan Shutler and the always moving forward bass of Jeff Pauling and this music sounds just plain heavy.
Speaking of the musicians above, the other thing that Lazarus A.D really excels in is musicianship. Jeff Pauling's vocals are completely killer. While they do contain some clear Phil Anselmo referencing, they are by no means a rip off. Where Anselmo came off like a whiny, immature teenager most of the time, Pauling comes off something like the forceful and gun toting sergeant that is going to take you to a war waged purely by metal combat. His raspy barking absolutely kills and the vocal patterns are always solid to a very good degree. His bass work is mostly root notes but at the speed that Lazarus A.D routinely plays at, I'll give him some credit for some pretty good multitasking. Dan Gapen's lead guitar playing is absolutely awesome, shredding harmonic scales and sweeping all up and down the neck. Already I bet this is screaming to some "another f$#^ing wanker!". Don't even think of it that way. Dan has what most hyper technical modern metal guitarists don't have, an ability to know how to write and phrase a solo! I guarantee you that in time this guy is going to be all over the front cover of Guitar World magazine. Alex Lackner backs him up with tight riffing and occasional harmonizing with a few flashes of soloing of his own here and there. Ryan Shutler's drums just push ahead at full speed, pummeling you constantly with wicked dreams of double bass and over the top blast beats with awesome overall rhythmic patterns. All of this is done in a way that is both advanced but written overall very well, phrased perfectly, and never sounds one bit obnoxious.
The mixing and remastering of the Metal Blade version of The Onslaught is something that some will like, others won't. It is a bit more on the modern side of things, and James Murphy sort of sees to it that it sounds a bit more groove metalish then thrashy. No wall of sound, and more biting guitars are here. The tone and mixing is fine for Dan, but for Alex the tone could have really used a lot more chunk to it and the bass seems to sort ring out a bit too much (even though it was nice to hear it). Cymbals don't really cut that much and could use a bit more of that. However the drums sound just plain awesome for the most part. Acoustic sounding overall with thumping like bass drum tones and a snare tone that sounds great to me for the most part.
Overall Lazarus A.D has shown a lot of promise so far with their debut album. Great musicianship and way above average songwriting with some interesting sounding mixing and mastering really help to make them stand out from many other bands in their genre. However lame lyrics and a general fact that the groove metal rears it's ugly head plenty of times keeps the band down to a place where their debut album was just good, and not the best. Hopefully Lazarus A.D's next album will be better, but for now I'd more then live with The Onslaught.