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For years and years I hoped thrash would make a comeback. And at the end of the nineties it did slightly. Bands like Hypnosia and Dekapitor kept the flame burning a bit but shortly after Y2K we were in bloom again and now in 2010 we can speak again of an almost over crowded scene. This unfortunately means that there are also a lot of horrible acts around and it’s getting more and more difficult the separate the good from the bad. There are plenty great unsigned demo acts around and unfortunately also shitty acts with a record deal.
Lich King resort to parodyism most of the time and the generic riffing doesn’t make it much better for them. By ‘generic’ I mean the kind of watered down riffs that seem inspired by bands who in turn plagiarized the Great Ones from the eighties but without the genius. (try to imagine a new band imitating Viking, who back then were already copying Dark Angel without being as good). The vocals sound as if recorded in a cardboard box. Now this would be nice were it a third rate album from Mexico 1988 or even a current underground demo but for a US band with an actual record deal (who are not playing black metal) the sound is almost hilarious.
Apart from the sound, the vocalist himself sounds as if he can’t choose between imitating a light weight Billy Milano (especially on ‘Black Metal Sucks’) or a half screaming – half shouting ex-black metal vocalist who has seen the light and converted to thrash (‘Attack of the Wrath…’ etc) trying to combine gruff eighties thrash vocals with Stevo Dobbins. Well, after Toxic Holocaust and Diamond Plate this is the third US retro band horribly failing in the vocal department.
It’s bands like these who make it real hard to convince thrashers and non-thrasher that there’s more to the new wave of thrash than just reliving the past the fundamentalist retro way. Yes, I’m gonna say it. Lich King give 21st century thrash a bad name. What Lich King does terribly wrong is not bringing their thrash/crososver with humour as SOD and Wehrmacht could pull off, but turning thrash into humour. And that’s precisely where they got it wrong and are a painful experience. A Mockery. It feels like Lich King want to be for thrash what Impetigo was for grind and death but fail to sound convincing and resort to painful obvious clichés, making them turn into the 21st century thrash-parody aside a death metal parody such as Dethklok.
We have adolescent thrash humour of the eighties on one side, often beer-laden and winking at Satan himself, versus the pre-pubescent He-Man worshipping kiddie thrash from the 21st century as Lich King bring us. On the next album they’ll be singing about pooh and start giggling. I’ve made my choice, 666.
So, this is a very retro band hailing from Amherst, Massachusetts, where I went to university. The flavor here is very Bay Area/80s thrash with a twist of Germanic speed metal. The band uses names for themselves like Darth Vader, Hulk Hogan, etc which I suppose would be funny...except that it's NOT funny, at all, and leads me to believe this is the product of irony, perhaps from some binge drinking brainstorm, but for all I know they could be sXe kids.
Fortunately, they have listened to the style and they play it pretty well. None of the riffs are very good, but they are pretty accurate to their source, with a bleeding, razor edge much like Exodus or Vio-Lence. The vocals of 'A Fucking Tyrannosaur' are pretty pissed off and they spit with accurate thrash venom, but the lyrics to this album are god fucking awful, dumb attempts at making a parody of thrash or metal in general as if it were only supposed to appeal to trailer park inhabitants or something, or ironic college students?
As harsh as I might seem, I respect that people are loving the old thrash days and in person I'd probably buy these guys a drink. This isn't a 'bad' album musically, they do some good leads and some energetic Bay Area thrash riffing. That goofy street side of thrash metal which was pioneered by bands like Anthrax or D.R.I. and now manifests in guys like Municipal Waste has never really appealed to me, I don't find it all that funny unless maybe Tankard is doing it. If, say, Lich King (haw haw) had taken this very same album full of music, and the same vocalist, and wrote some more straight forward angry thrash lyrics that weren't so tongue in cheek, I'd probably like it more. As it stands, I wasn't entertained at all.
I'd like to start off my review by just pointing out where this review is coming from. I'm not a big thrash guy. I don't dislike thrash - not at all. However, it probably is my least favorite metal genre. Why? I'm not sure really. Just like I'm not sure how black metal became [probably] my favorite metal genre. A look at my thrash collection is minimal - embarrassing. I have the standards, all the early Metallica records (“Metallica” and before ), Megadeth (everything except for “Risk”, “The System Has Failed”, and “United Abominations” - though I mostly listen to “Rust and Peace” and before - and really, mostly “Rust and Peace”), two slayer records (“Reign in Blood” and “Undisputed Attitude”) - then just a couple of things here and there; check out my collection if you really care. Point being, since thrash isn't my favorite genre I haven't really listened to a lot of it - and in fact therein my lie my reason why. So remember, this is the opinion of metalhead who isn't a true thrash metal warrior. AND, this is the opinion of a metalhead who isn't offended by this new horde of thrash revivalist bands, mostly because I'm not listening to any of it.
That being said, do you want to know what this record sounds like to me? Well, to me, it sounds like Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich got together between 1984-1986 and threw down some tracks and this is the lost archive of that meeting. The riffs are so Jeff Hanneman, especially “Reign in Blood” era - hand-banging, aggressive, and catchy chugs. The vocals remind me of Tom Araya, forceful throaty yells (I didn't really consider the bass when making this super group - and that’s fine). Some of the solos sound like they are ripped straight from “Ride the Lightning” (1:45 in “I Destroy”, 3:17 and after on “Cold Steel Machine”). As for the drums, they are mostly competent, but ultimately pretty sterile. Then again, are thrash drummers really supposed to stand out? I don't have an answer for this.
Seriously though, this record reminds me so of these two bands, around those years. I would suppose that is exactly what Lich King is going for. I could see how some people could dislike a band for trying to sound a certain way, when that way is twenty years old. I, for one, could give a rat’s ass. To me, it sounds good and that’s all I really care about. I like “Ride the Lightning”; I like “Reign in Blood”. Why would I dislike a record that reminds me of both of them? I have no idea, and that’s why I don't.
I feel the need to discuss lyrics briefly, only because it seems to be one of the problems that people most dislike about this record, and most of the recent thrash resurgence bands. Like I said earlier, I don't listen to a lot of these band, so I'm not so saturated with its themes of zombies, sharks, partying, pizza, beer, and killing posers (most of these I have never been exposed to at all- in fact, they may be exaggerations and I don't even realize it). Also, generally speaking, I don't even pay attention to lyrics. Basically, the lyrics present on this album don't even matter to me, so they couldn't impact me negatively. To be honest there’s only four sections of lyrics that I remember, and they're all choruses. The chorus in “Attack of the Wrath of the War of the Death of the Strike of the Sword of the Blood of the Beast” is memorable to me because it does that choppy chug along with each word on the title. I think a lot of people think Lich King are stupid for making a song title ridiculously long just for the sake of it being long. I can understand that, however because of that long song title, the chorus in the song was more enjoyable for me. The chorus in “Black Metal Sucks” is probably the most memorable because it’s catchy and humorous. Sure, I like black metal a lot, but that doesn't mean I can't handle people making fun of it (though I will admit that Lich King’s attempt at playing the genre at the end of the song wasn't very enjoyable, or good). The chorus in “Lich King II” where the vocals belt out “All Hail the Lich King” was also memorable, mostly because it’s the only time the vocals get that low on the whole album (not that the vocals are necessarily low; they're just lower). Huh, did I say four sections? I guess it’s actually just three. Point being, this review is pretty much based solely on its sonic qualities.
“Toxic Zombie Onslaught” has what I enjoy most about thrash: catchy riffs and aggressive solos. The opener, the previously mentioned “Attack of the Wrath of the War of the Death of the Strike of the Sword of the Blood of the Beast”, is a perfect example, as I find every single riff in the song to be enjoyable. Most employ the really fast chug, with a tiny change up at the end style. These riffs get my head boppin’. 1:23, in particular, really gets my head moving. The solo itself isn't my favorite on the album, but it’s still very good. The riffs at :29 in “Thrash Resurgence”, :2:10 in “Cold Steel Machine”, and 3:26 in “Lich King II” are also favorites of mine. The solos at 1:45 in “I Destroy”, at 2:39 in “Cold Steel Machine”, and both solos that end “Toxic Zombie Onslaught” are probably my favorite. All of the music is just relentless, blazing, and in your face.
I think this review may be unpopular with thrash metal fans (maybe it won't; I really don't know). I guess that’s why I opened this piece by stating that I'm not really a thrash metal fan - I like it, but I don't wave it’s flag (at least not very high). However, I am a fan of “Toxic Zombie Onslaught”, it is through and through a fun album. It isn't the best album ever, but I don't think it wants to be. Plus it uses a sample from “Office Space”; I don't think I even need to say anything else.
Okay, remember that black guy who used to play trumpet and (if metal equals not being an idiot) was sixty milion times more metal than the mastermind behind Lich King? Yes, that's right, Miles Davis. He had that series of albums such as Relaxin', Cookin', Diggin', and so on. Well, applause for the first act that sucks so badly that it deserved first place on the platter of one-word stinkers!
The fact that makes every bit of criticism to worsen things is that Lich King needs attention. It's the personification of the Paris Hilton inside each and every of us. If one said that Lich King is a worthless and wholly disposable listening (truth!) there would still be several voices screaming that it's not that bad, and maybe the guy behind the act would be even more pleased claiming that it is in fact the best album that ever took birth on Earth, so that the casual metal fan and the specialist get mad typing that he is an asshole. The sheer pompousness that surrounds this band is doubtlessly a parody of everything concerning metal music, and the interest of metal fans in goofiness mixed with Burger King beanslicer thrash shows that there is no person on Earth that does not get fed up with metal at times.
Technically speaking, this album is one of those poorly recorded masterpieces, with a frightully anorexical guitar tone and a relentless drum machine, programmed to drain the soul from your ears. Aside of this tiny flaw, the whole album is filled to insanity with little holes disguised as riffs and compositions. The "Cheesy Metal Intro" is so successful, that I couldn't prevent myself from thinking that Lich King would do a much better job as a second Manowar than trying to pose as a first-hand thrash revival act. Remove your testicles, lube your neck and pump some roids, and you would have much more metal cred.
Attack of the Etc.hits us over the head with a hyperspectacular riff to draw over rehashed thrash riffs galore, and that's more than enough to describe the rest of the album: an assortment of razorblade generic riffs, guitar leads that are being played as if they were really meant to represent the stereotype of metal itself, plenty of start-stop timing (ah, I sense some Vio-Lence, too bad that this is centuries ahead in hollowness) that also plagued Lich King's first album (recyclable materials can be plagued too). IF you were just lifted from Evanescence and Korn's universe and you need a good introduction to thrash, for example, this album will do its best to fuck you over with its massive chunks of monotony, and if you are a thrash devotee, you will only be able to sigh in front of this sad depiction of your fave genre. The vocalist got even crazier an more unbearable, mixing the hardcore delivery (bad hardcore) with lyrics made to entertain deaf people.
Well, in the end, I wouldn't be happy preventing you from hearing this album. There will be people who will like it anyway, because it's so thrashy. The dark side of the problem is that by listening and praising such music, one gives a thumbs-up to cliches and encourages this kind of filler to exist.
Straight from the 80's and we're old school! Lich King rules! This band is not one to exactly reinvent the wheel, and at a first glance may seem like a parody in itself, however the thrashers from the Lich King camp have brought fourth quite an addicting album to the aural senses. Toxic Zombie Onslaught comes at you with the same full force as the original old school bay area sound that they take their influence from. Despite some of the ridiculous and cliche titles, the songs sound like something to have come straight out of the outtakes from the "Bonded by Blood" session by Exodus.
You've got everything you want in your old school thrash albums. You've got the fast paced guitars throwing riffs out one by one to keep your head spinning with their own ferocity and full speed assault. You've got what is supposedly the "Same shitty vocals" but rather a very well executed vocal delivery. Everything from the opening "Attack of the Wrath of the War of the Death of the Strike of the Sword of the Blood of the Beast" to the anthem "Black Metal Sucks" all the way to the intentional filler tracks mixed throughout, this entire album is nothing but completely solid.
Some may see this album and feel it's rather generic. It is. The band is nothing original in an older sense where it takes everything from the bay area scene with its own interpretation, nor does the band's lyrical concept involving zombies, thrash, and themselves seem like anything we haven't heard a dozen times these days, however it's that fact which makes this album so enjoyable. It's a thrash metal album for thrasher's sake. Everything you would want from the old days and the up and coming is put right on this album, and it is definitely one of the catchiest from any band these days. Once again: They're the best band, and they're super cool. That's right. Lich King rules!
“For the Lich King is fierce…and he…is wicked…awesome!”
And thus begins “Toxic Zombie Onslaught”, Lich King’s second full-length. Building upon the success of “Necromantic Maelstorm”, Lich King continues to tread down the path of absurd, neck-breaking thrash with seemingly no care to whom they might rub the wrong way. The band has a hilarious habit of posting bulletins on their favorite forums and MySpace that contain posters proclaiming (in a sarcastic yet ever-so serious manner) themselves to be the greatest thrash band the world has ever known, and that Jeff Hanneman quit playing guitar after listening to just one Lich King song and picked up a job at STAPLES.
Oh, and then they have Thrash Baby, whose name they now trademark. It’s a baby who loves thrash metal. He’s pretty cool.
“Toxic Zombie Onslaught” doesn’t really do anything really different from “Necromantic Maelstorm”; instead, Lich King just tightens up their act and produces a much more rounded album. The opener, “Attack Of The Wrath Of The War Of The Death Of The Strike Of The Sword Of The Blood Of The Beast”, sets the standard for the rest of album, as its drenched in juicy Bay Area thrash riffs that touch upon the greatness put down by albums such as “Bonded by Blood”. There’s speed, there’s ferocicity, but most importantly, there’s thrash. Palm mutes, strained screams, and a thumping bass drum keep the song going, not to mention it also displays Lich King’s ridiculous sense of humor within the first minute. The song features lines such as “He's got chainsaws and bombs and an axe, and some unfiltered cigarettes too”, as they tell of how the Beast is going to unleash “all of the violent shit he has planned”.
The best thing is that the rest of the album keeps right in line. The title track and “Thrash Resurgence” are sure neck snappers, with the latter featuring an oddly catchy chorus due to Fucking Tyrannosaur’s vocals (yes, they still have that name listed as their vocalist), which seemingly reflect the crunching riffs projected with lethal precision. Both “Predator” and “Office Politics” are nods to films, since according to a forum post by one of the Lich King members, they felt left out due to bands like Evile writing songs about movies (Evile wrote “First Blood”, which was about Rambo). The songs seem to fit the movies as well, with “Predator” (obviously named after the movie with the alien hunter and Arnold) being more straightforward and barbaric in manner, while “Office Politics” (named off of “Office Space”) comes off as a bit more technical and riff-constructed. The closer, and also the continuation of the original “Lich King” song (aptly titled “Lich King II” here) off “Necromantic Maelstorm”, is epic in its own nature. Starting off with slow, gathering riffs, it quickly blitzes straight into an onslaught of guitar and drums, with vocals that shriek throughout the Lich King’s domain.
There’s been a few songs in musical history that started off as filler, but reached famous status upon the album release (“Paranoid”, by Black Sabbath for instance). In the case of “Toxic Zombie Onslaught”, that’s “Black Metal Sucks”. The whole song is as simple as a song could be, and is the only track off the album not to feature a solo…but that doesn’t even matter. “Black Metal Sucks” is a hilarious romp as Lich King rattles off everything that they hate about the stereotyped genre. Take the first half of the lyrics, for example:
“Over there in Norway, the churches all burn down
Let's go dress in goth clothes and get painted like a clown
Awesome leather armbands with spikes like two feet long
Hair is parted down the middle, frowning like a frog
In league with the devil, talking Satan, skulls and hell
Making mommy mad, cause that's original
If you hate good music, then it can't hurt to go
Image-conscious assholes, black metal fashion show”
The last line of the song indicates that “Black Metal Sucks” was written as quickly as possible (for pure amusement probably) since it goes “ Running out of rhymes, so wading pool. Thrash is the rule!”
There isn’t anything really wrong with “Toxic Zombie Onslaught”. Sure, the volume level might be a little bit low, but that’s what speaker knobs are for. The only thing that really holds this album back from greatness is that it’s just not going to re-write the books on thrash metal. “Toxic Zombie Onslaught” is by the numbers, but don’t take that the wrong way; this album rips. From start to finish, there is nothing here but high-quality thrash that will leave you not only head-banging, but laughing as well.
Bow to the Lich King, peasants.