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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.