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Sunday Old School: Laaz Rockit

It's funny how some people come to bands through others. Perhaps when looking for the American cult heroes Pentagram, you stumbled across one of the bands of the same name from Chile or Turkey.

Maybe you never would have heard of Trust if Anthrax hadn't covered "Antisocial." Many American metal fans, and indeed younger fans from all across the world were introduced to the likes of Diamond Head, Budgie and Holocaust via Metallica covers. Speaking of Metallica, it was on an unlicensed documentary about the Bay Area quartet that I discovered today's featured band, as one of the interviewees mentioned he only attended one of their early shows because he wanted to see another group, by the name of Laaz Rockit.

Laaz Rockit was formed in San Francisco in 1982 by guitarists Aaron Jellum and Phil Kettner, along with vocalist Michael Coons and bass player Dave Starr, taking their name from the Clint Eastwood movie, "The Enforcer," before rounding up their lineup with drummer Victor Agnello, as well replacing Starr with Willy Lange in 1983. That same year, the band recorded their first demo, "Prelude to Death," which led to a record deal with Target for their debut, "City's Gonna Burn." Though by no means a bad album, there are fans who regard it as a slightly weak debut, feeling it's an unfocused work that didn't capture the band's full potential.

Whatever the case, it wasn't long before a sophomore studio album hit the shelves, as "No Stranger to Danger" followed only a year later in 1985. It was certainly a more melodic effort than some other Laaz Rockit releases, which was a little uncomplimentary to Coons' voice, given that he's perhaps more suited to performing thrash metal. This was to be the group's final record with Target, as they soon signed with Roadrunner Records afterwards.

The first result of this partnership came in 1987, when thrash was doing very well commercially thanks to successful and now classic albums from the likes of Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, in the form of, "Know Your Enemy." With it's cartoonishly violent album cover, reminiscent of the Rambo movies, the tone was set from the outset that the record would be a relentless, sonic onslaught of metal music and it lived up to the expectations, becoming a favourite of many Laaz Rockit fans and garnering many positive reviews. The emerging popularity of the band caught the attention of movie executives and saw the band record the title song for the movie, "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III."

"Know Your Enemy's" successor, "Annihilation Principle," with it's equally vibrant and colourful artwork, was received just as well, becoming the second of three consecutive albums to receive near universal acclaim and spark the debate as to which was the greatest Laaz Rockit album. It was also notable for it's inclusion of the Dead Kennedy's cover, "Holiday in Cambodia," which was released as a single soon afterwards to a decent response. Only a year later, Laaz Rockit released, "Nothing'$ Sacred," once more to a highly positive response and fan reaction. The success of the previous three records allowed them to release their first live album, "Taste of Rebellion: Live in Citta" in 1992, which was recorded at a club of the same name in Tokyo.

Despite the seemingly successful career the band were enjoying, the group announced their decision to split that same year. Many of the members went on to form a group named Gack, which was more in line with the groove metal style which had been recently popularised by the likes of Pantera and Exhorder. It seemed as though the world had heard the last of Laaz Rockit until they returned to take part in the Thrash of the Titans benefit concert for Testament frontman Chuck Billy and Death mastermind Chuck Schuldiner, a show which also marked the reformation of such bands as Exodus, Death Angel and Heathen. The band only performed two more shows after this, in the Netherlands and Japan, all the while claiming that they had no plans to return on a permanent basis.

These claims were soon put to bed however, as the response to the shows were so positive that they group released their first live DVD, "Live Untold," before confirming that they were indeed working on new material. This new music eventually surfaced in 2008 under the title, "Left For Dead," through Massacre Records. Though not regarded as up to par with their previous releases, fans were nevertheless happy to see the return of such a stellar band, who have continued to perform live throughout Europe and Japan especially. Though the band were struck by tragedy in 2014 after drummer Victor Agnello passed away following a year long battle with leukemia, they are still fighting on and announced last year that they are working on new material once more, much to the delight of fans of the band and old school metal worldwide.

Laaz Rockit - "City's Gonna Burn"

Laaz Rockit - "Dreams Die Hard"

Laaz Rockit - "Means To An End"

Laaz Rockit - "Leatherface"

Laaz Rockit - "Fire in the Hole"

Laaz Rockit - "In The Name of the Father and the Gun"

Laaz Rockit - "Brain Wash"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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7 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Laaz Rockit"

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Anonymous Reader
1. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

These guys were and still are awesome. I think the first time I heard of them was back in the late 80's when MTV's Headbanger's Ball played "Fire in the Hole".

# Jun 12, 2016 @ 6:02 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. Drum_Junkie writes:

Awesome SOS! I still have Annihilation Principle on cassette. I never thought about it until now, but maybe Vic's setup during that era was unconscious inspiration for how I doubled my own bass drums up. Definitely some unsung heroes of thrash!!!

# Jun 13, 2016 @ 8:42 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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3. Blindgreed1 writes:

I picked up their debut album along with the debut album from Riot on the same day. Great piece Oz.

# Jun 13, 2016 @ 2:19 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
4. Carlos Santos writes:

Good read, as always - I liked the interviews as well, especially the Butcher Babies and the Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth ones.
As far as as Laaz Rockit, isn't there a Metallica connection? I think it was their bass player that was invited to the band after Cliff Burton's death or maybe it was their vocalist that was invited in the early Metallica days...

# Jun 13, 2016 @ 10:04 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

I agree with Carlos. Great job, Oz.

# Jun 26, 2016 @ 10:31 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

6. Diamond Oz writes:

Thanks guys!

# Jun 26, 2016 @ 11:00 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

I always enjoy reading your Sunday Old School articles.

# Jun 26, 2016 @ 12:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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