Sometimes it’s all about the feel. At a time when parts of the heavy metal community have decided that they need to be oh-so-clever and self regarding, its massively reassuring to be able to turn to bands who are cut from the no-messing-about, we-are-going-to-rip-your-face-off template of heavy metal. It’s therefore a pleasure to welcome back American thrash metallers Lazarus A.D. and their latest head-pounding release, “Black Rivers Flow”.
Sophomore albums are supposed to be notoriously “difficult”. “Black Rivers Flow”, however, is nothing of the sort: this is no-nonsense, balls-out thrash, played for feel and fun. There is no attempt to be anything other than a pounding brutal thrash band and it’s all the better for it.
Opening track ‘American Dreams’ sets the tone with excellent effect. The band have taken all the things that made their debut album “The Onslaught” such a success- the brutality and intensity of no questions asked, no quarter given and have successfully added to that mix with a number of positive flourishes. There’s better production, better musicianship and, lets not overlook this, better tunes.
Don’t worry, the mid-western band have not gone all Puddle of Mudd on us. There’s still the shredding par excellence, the pounding drumming and the thrash heritage emblems of verse-chorus-verse to keep even the most demanding thrash aficionado intrigued and engaged. ‘Black Rivers Flow’ the album’s title track, has echoes of Anthrax, Pantera and Lamb of God. That’s not a bad crowd to be seen in.
‘Light a City (up in smoke)’ is an excellent sampler of what this band are capable of- brutal verse vocals, a hummable chorus and a cracking riff. ‘Casting Forward’ is the most obviously thrashy song on the album- where it rises above the mundane and simply workmanlike with the use of call and receive vocals from bassist Jeff Paulick and guitarist Dan Gapen. The band have recognised that a single voice can, when used relentlessly, offer little in the way of tone, texture or light and shade. Their vocal duelling is never less than compelling and, to these ears, a critical reason for its success.
‘Beneath the Waves of Hatred’ starts off like an Iron Maiden out-take, segueways into a Dave Mustaine demo before settling into a groove that is pure unadulterated thrash. Yes, its often generic and yes, sometimes you can see the seams, but overall the effect is never less than compelling or infectious.
For a thrash metal record there’s an admirable sense of pacing and variety but its the call and receive vocals that really grab you. Notwithstanding these elements, the band also never lose sight of the album’s essential purpose- it’s going to make you headbang and throw the horns. A lot. Do you honestly need any more? No, you don’t. Look, it’s on Metal Blade Records as well. Do you need a better recommendation? Thought not. Oh look, just go and buy the damn thing.