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Lazarus A.D. - "Black Rivers Flow" (CD)

Lazarus A.D. - "Black Rivers Flow" CD cover image

"Black Rivers Flow" track listing:

1. American Dreams (4:53)
2. The Ultimate Sacrifice (4:53)
3. The Strong Prevail (3:04)
4. Black Rivers Flow (4:52)
5. Casting Forward (3:56)
6. Light a City (Up in Smoke) (3:49)
7. Through Your Eyes (4:09)
8. Beneath the Waves of Hatred (5:04)
9. Eternal Vengeance (7:03)

Reviewed by on December 29, 2010

"Each time I listen to 'Black Rivers Flow' I find something new and different, and that introduces another thing that wasn’t present on 'The Onslaught' – depth."

Full disclosure: I love Lazarus A.D.’s debut full length, “The Onslaught.” When I reviewed it for Metal Underground back in November of 2009 I gave it four-and-one-half skulls, writing “this is one unbelievable, too-good-to-be-true, fantastic album.” So I pretty much went bananas when Metal Blade put Lazarus A.D.’s second studio long player, “Black Rivers Flow,” up for review (drop date of February 1, 2011). “More of the same?” I thought to myself, “Yes pleeeeeeese!” Well, it isn’t what I expected.

The awesomeness of “The Onslaught” came from it being a golden retriever puppy playing at the park for the first time – it runs around trying to do everything at once: “I’m gonna dig! I’m gonna run! I’m gonna sniff! I’m gonna play!” and so on, never running out of energy and always true to his metal-dog self. “Black Rivers Flow” is an older and wiser golden retriever, now choosing which sticks to get and which to leave. The lead off cut for the album, “American Dreams,” starts with a softly building intro but instead of being followed by full force riffs barely staying on the rails, we get slow power chords and solo leading into a chunky groove. “American Dreams,” and most of “Black Rivers Flow,” is always in control.

And that’s the key difference – “Black Rivers Flow” is more thoughtful, composed and arranged than “The Onslaught,” which matters because “The Onslaught” was so damn awesome. Now these things – thoughtful, composed, arranged – aren’t necessarily bad, just different. “The Ultimate Sacrifice” swings pretty well (think Testament’s more danceable stuff) and has sophisticated time signature shifts. The title track has cleanly sung backing vocals, blues licks sneak into solos here and there across the album, there are plenty of Hetfield-style power chord stomps throughout, and album-closer “Eternal Vengeance” has a quiet, introspective, and cleanly sung intro.

But we also don’t have as many of Ryan Shutler’s deep sea earthquake double kicks approaching the mainland. Lead vocalist Jeff Paulick doesn’t chew and spit the lyrics quite as nastily as he did before, the intermittent blast beats have been replaced by some keen cymbal work, and the handful of breakdowns have been replaced by another hardcore staple: the gang vocal. But everything isn’t stripped away, as plenty of blue collar riff work and searing solos remain, which formed the base of “The Onslaught” and Black Rivers Flow” alike.

The press material talks a lot about a “sophomore slump” as it seems Lazarus A.D. was fully aware they set the bar quite high with “The Onslaught.” And they have clearly made a point to grow and change as a band, also apparently realizing that there really can be only one AC/DC. Each time I listen to “Black Rivers Flow” I find something new and different, and that introduces another thing that wasn’t present on “The Onslaught” – depth. So right now, still parsing through the thing, I am feeling only three-and-one-half skulls: “Black Rivers Flow” is a good album and is definitely worth checking out or picking up. But check back with me in a year and I’ll probably think it is somewhere between excellent and perfect.

Highs: The varying tempos and time changes add another dimension to the music.

Lows: Not enough double kick drums!

Bottom line: Sophomore album doesn’t live up to Lazarus A.D.’s phenomenal debut – but it is still really good.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)