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LAZARUS A.D. UNEARTHS TESTAMENT’S THRASH DNA

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LAZARUS A.D. UNEARTHS TESTAMENT’S THRASH DNAOftentimes, writers tend to fall in love with their own words and florid descriptions. I try to avoid this in my true crime books as I believe the stories themselves propel the tale along.

In music criticism, it’s even worse.

Who can come up with the most br00tal analogies or the wittiest put-downs or the sickest comparisons usually takes precedence over simply writing a straight-forward review of what the writer has just listened to or witnessed? Sometimes it’s not necessary to go into an overly detailed historical analysis of metal or an attempt to make a sociological connection between the music and its fans. I’m sure I’ve fallen prey to pedantic verboseness at times. But, hey, sometimes, it’s just better to tell the readers that “shit sucks” or “shit’s great.”

That being said, Testament and Lazarus A.D. fall into the “shit’s great” category, while Unearth falls into the “shit sucks” category.

Having just praised the newest Mantic Ritual CD (see my review) to the hilt and having a blast at Exodus in concert (see my review), I was stoked to get yet another dose of the greatest genre of metal music ever – thrash! Having interviewed Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick last year (see my interview) at the Masters of Metal tour with Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell, and Motorhead (see my review), I was excited that the band would pull out all the stops with a 90-minute set. Their MoM tour 25-minute set just didn’t cut it last year as they should have been allotted at least twice that amount of stage time.

In addition, one of you MetalSucks Maniacs gushed over Lazarus A.D. in the comments section of my Mantic Ritual review, so I pulled out their album and had been jamming to it for a couple of days. I was eagerly anticipating the live rendition of The Onslaught from these youngsters from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and, boy, I was not disappointed.

Plain and simple, Lazarus A.D. kicked much ass.

At first, I only noticed how most of the guys looked like other famous people – lead guitarist Dan Gapen reminded me of another Dan – Dan Spitz of Anthrax; rhythm guitarist Alex Lackner looks more like drummer Chris Adler from Lamb of God than the latter’s own brother, Willie; and lead singer/bassist was the dreadlocked spittin’ image of Forgetting Sarah Marshall star/writer Jason Segel. Eventually, however, the band started to get my attention with their heavy-as-shit, balls-to-the-wall, thrash onslaught. They could not have come up with a more appropriate name for their debut album.

Adorned in various metal t-shirts including Pantera, Iron Maiden, and Corrosion of Conformity, and backed by some choice EVH 5150 stacks, the L.A.D.s provided the San Antonio Scout Bar patrons a perfect intro to a long night of metal.

More people than usual were there early to catch these guys as they apparently won over some converts on their recent run through San Antonio with Amon Amarth just one month prior. The crowd’s reward was to get throat-gagged and face blasted with such incendiary (ooops! $3 word…sorry!) tracks as “Last Breath,” “Thou Shall Not Fear,” and “Absolute Power.”

Bassist/vocalist Jeff Pawlick (who stirred some homophobic feathers here at MS earlier this year) is one helluva frontman. His laid-back ganjaboy demeanor gave way to some serious neck-snapping and windmilling while barking out vocals that reminded me of a cross between Udo Dirkschneider from Accept and 36 Crazyfists’ Brock Lindow’s gruffer moments. In other words, da boy can sing! He’s also damn funny, especially when he informed the audience that his band does three things: “play metal, drink beer and, smoke ganja.” Cheers were elicited.

L.A.D. were criminally underrepresented with a short 5-song, twenty-five minute set, but hey, that’s the life of a new band. They were thankful to be gracing the stage with thrash legends Testament and they did exactly what they were supposed to do – get the crowd warmed up.

Next up was Unearth. I have seen Unearth three times now and I simply don’t get it. Their songs do nothing for me and their stage presence seems so practiced and nuanced and crazy that it just reeks of trying wayyyy too hard. To me, they are everything that is wrong with metal right now. But, I was obviously in the minority as the rest of the S.A. crowd was licking out of the band’s hands. Me, I spent some time meeting the L.A.D.s instead. I win.

Finally, the true titans of metal returned to S.A. proper after their abbreviated set last year. On the heels of one of the finest releases of 2008, The Formation of Damnation (see my review), Testament was offering up something very special and unique for the fans – the ability to vote for the band’s set list that night – sort of. In reality, the band had three different set lists that you could vote on. These included full-length performances of The Legacy plus their greatest hits; a full-length rendition of The New Order, plus their greatest hits; or simply 18 tracks spanning their entire career. While I voted for the New Order version, the 18 tracks package won out, as it did in almost every venue on their recent tour.

Here was their set-list:

01.THE PREACHER
02. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
03. THE NEW ORDER
04. OVER THE WALL
05. SINS OF OMISSION
06. MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
07. THE PERSECUTED WON’T FORGET
08. DEMONIC
09. TRUE BELIEVER
10. DO OR DIE
11. THE LEGACY
12. INTO THE PIT
13. SOULS OF BLACK
14. ELECTRIC CROWN
15. DISCIPLES OF THE WATCH
16. DNR
17. 3 DAYS IN DARKNESS
18. THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION

You really can’t go wrong with this set list, though I do wonder why the hell they didn’t play “Trial by Fire.”

As for a review, I was too caught up in the moment to write a truly coherent article on Testament’s performance that night, so here are a few choice notes I took:

“Chuck Billy sounds like a Bantha from Hell.”

“Bostaph is a monster!”

“Sounds like the diesel from Duel on a runaway downhill – which is a good thing!”

“This is for my brother, Dimebag Darrell – Texas crowd roars.”

“Chuck Billy sports a Texas Longhorns baseball cap.”

“We found your weed, Lazarus!”

“Crowd drained.”

By the time the night had ended, the San Antonio audience was truly spent. Regaled by the seasoned veterans from Testament, entertained (I don’t know why) by Unearth, and pleasantly surprised by upstarts Lazarus A.D., the crowd definitely got their money’s worth for a Wednesday night thrash attack.

So, to sum it up: Lazarus A.D. and Testament are the shit. Unearth, not so much.

-CM

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