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Deep doom metal heaviosity needs a better singer - 78%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, July 18th, 2009

With a name like theirs, you hope it's a question of when, not if, Lazarus Blackstar conquer the known universe and become the centre of all they survey with their particular brand of doom metal. Lazarus Blackstar: the name just rolls off your tongue with serious blackhole-dense doomy portent, doesn't it? And when you first hear those stark opening riffs of the title track that introduces this album, you know the style of doom metal does justice to the band's name: it's strong and full of muscle and there's a deep gritty quality to the slow riffs and melodies that together with the steely guitar sound puts the band into the same league of righteous transuranium heaviosity as folks like Corrupted. Oh yeah!!! The wonder is that we've not heard this band before, judging by the lack of reviews on this website here so far before I came along with this review, and I myself have to admit that I only heard about LB some time earlier this year (2009).

The title track is a stirring opener but follow-up "I'm Not Paranoid (I Know that They Hate Me)" is even better with a mixed pace that demonstrates what the band can do (great rhythm section with very gritty bass and precise drumming) and possessed of some really long drawn-out guitar drone-tones they'll shake the ground beneath you. Alas the deep music also points up the one weak spot in LB's formidable armour: the high-pitched singing which can sound strained especially when the vocalist is screaming into the mike which is actually most of the time when he has to sing. This can be irritating and I think of a tiny buzzing gnat doing circles above a super-giant hairy mammoth, the contrast between the singing and the music is that strong. That's a pity as the vocalist is actually pouring his heart and soul into his performance on all tracks and I marvel that he can maintain his strength and energy levels on each song without blowing his pipes out completely. But for me his style and limited vocal range as exhibited here are unsuited to the music. LB really need to get someone with a more varied range that can be more upfront in the music's mix and for some reason the Belgian doom metal band Thee Plague of Gentlemen which has a deep, more stoner-rock style of doom metal comes to mind. I heard that band's first album which featured a vocalist who was similar to Metallica's James Hetfield in the way he sang and I'm thinking, maybe LB need someone like that.

Anyway, on we go: about halfway through the album we get something different from LB's chug-along with the screechy singer with "Revelations III: Conclusion (The Dead Now Walk the Earth)", featuring spoken vocals and recordings of monstrous zombie creatures. The vocals are clearer on this track than on some of others. Another track of note is "The Day the Circus came" which has a suitably queasy droning instrumental middle section with a tape loop of a giggling clown toy.

Keep going and we get to outro track "Final Restraining Order" which mixes sung and spoken vocals with vocal samples to give a hardcore edge to the music. Actually the whole album has a considerable hardcore influence with its theme of an outsider individual who may not be all that actively rebellious but still ends up being crushed by a warped society more paranoid than s/he is just for being a bit different. The singing does go with that hardcore aspect of LB though I still stand by my earlier opinion that the band needs a less screechy vocalist with a more extensive singing range. The music's production is clean and gives the music a sharp edge and lots of space but at the same time doesn't show the full force of the band's power. With LB's style of music, the production should make it very robust and full but in spite of those long surging guitar drones and the deep gritty bass, somehow the band overall comes across as a bit cardboard in its sound, not quite three-dimensional. Try listening to a band like Cathedral with monaural sound and you get some idea of what LB sound like here.

Apart from my observations about aspects of LB's style, overall this band looks like something to keep a watch on as the guys develop their style. There is a lot of potential here, they just need to improve on the singing aspect and maybe balance their droning music with the occasional catchy melody and mix up the pace of the music more so it is not always slow. I believe some time after "Funeral Voyeur" was recorded, the band did change vocalists and got someone with a slightly more death metal style of singing.