Lazarus AD: We want to write riffs that force you to headbang
Sometimes you just know. Never mind the fact that this band has only been on the continent for a grand total of 2 days, they’re only playing their first European show, and, in a few days time, they will have $1500 in cash stolen from their van while in Southampton. Speaking to Lazarus AD at their London gig, you just know they’re going to be big.
“People just like our music,” says guitarist Dan Gapen when asked why more and more crowds are turning up to their shows. “We play thrash and have elements of groovier stuff, even some borderline death. We just try to mix everything and I guess it works for us. I even think we could play with a hard rock band and still hold up.”
Playing with a hard rock band is about the only thing the foursome from Wisconsin haven’t done. They’ve been out on tour with bands as diverse as Testament, Goatwhore, Amon Amarth and Ensiferum. It’s a veritable who’s who of all things heavy, and has been an incredible experience for a band that’s only just put out its second album, ‘Black Rivers Flow’. A much groovier effort than their debut effort, ‘The Onslaught’, they’ve obviously learnt a thing or two about crafting quality songs from their tourmates.
That’s not the only thing they learnt, of course. “People often come up after gigs and say they saw us at Amon Amarth or Testament,” grins rhythm guitarist Alex Lackner. “Those two tours get mentioned more than any of the others. We got along with the bands so well too. We were partying with the bands every night. On the first day of the Amon tour, all the other bands left and we were sitting around drinking and I thought ‘I can only imagine they’re drinking, so let’s go introduce ourselves.
“They offered us some booze so I thought ‘Ok, let’s do a couple of shots’. Ted pours half a glass of straight liquor and goes ‘Drink’! I’m like, ‘You got some chasers to mix it?’ and he goes ‘Naw, drink it’! Half a glass is a shot to Ted Lundstrom?”
Gapen adds: “Those guys will pour you something retarded that you don’t even want to drink and five minutes later another guy from the band will dunk some vodka in your straight whiskey. I’m not gonna drink this! Testament are different. When we party with Testament we’ll go out to the bar and terrorise everyone. Those guys are fun as hell.”
Clearly they terrorised enough people to earn the respect of Testament, because Chuck Billy turned up at one of their last shows before heading to Europe, accompanied by Rob Flynn. As they say this, the grins on Gapen and Lackner’s faces are about 5 miles wide, and it is truly refreshing to see a band that hasn’t become jaded enough for such a momentous occasion to be considered just another gig.
“It’s a good feeling,” says Gapen, his grin betraying the colossal understatement he’s making. “These are people you respect and you’ve heard your whole life, and you get to know them and in turn they respect you. Especially with Chuck. I grew up loving Testament and when I found out we’re going on tour with them I just about dropped a nugget in my pants!”
Of course, all this success is down in no small part to the phenomenal potential Lazarus showed on their debut, and realised on Black Rivers Flow. While the groove of ‘American Dreams’ reminds you of early Pantera, ‘The Ultimate Sacrifice’ is a slow bruiser that mixes old-school thrash with a heaviness that’s not too far removed from ‘Sad But True’ era Metallica. And that, really, is the whole album in a nutshell. Songs like ‘Through Your Eyes’ and ‘Casting Forward’ incorporate incredible amounts of groove for a band that is undeniably rooted in thrash metal.
Was the decision to add more groove a conscious one, or did it just happen during the songwriting process? “A bit of both,” reveals Lackner. “There’s definitely a lot more groove on this one than straightforward thrash, but we wanted that. We tried to progress as musicians; if you really listen to the two you hear the difference in structure and vocally. On the first album we were extremely young and trying to prove that we could play fast and heavy and we could stand up with all these other bands. This time it was about showing that we can diversify and grow and not stay like a Slayer, who’ve released the same album 15 times. I love Slayer and they’re a great band, but I don’t want to be that band.
“My favourite bands are the ones that have grown and changed like Metallica and Testament. I like to write riffs that force you to headbang whether you like it or not. It’s like those riffs from bands you like, when they come on you’re suddenly headbanging without even realising it! I want to write riffs for the guy who comes to a gig and thinks he doesn’t want to see Lazarus, and all of a sudden he’s nodding along.”
“Some bands focus way too much on just being fast,” adds Gapen. “The groove reminds me of classic rock, that vibe you get is old-school stuff and that’s what started everything. It’s super catchy, there’s a lot of melody involved in it, great song structure, amazing vocals – the stuff that you immediately catch on to and the riffs are stuck in your head, it’s the same concept.
“My favourite is to mix the speed and chaos of thrash with the headbanging riffs. Groove riffs to me are the ones that just make you want to headbang and break your neck. I love Pantera, DevilDriver and Machine Head and they’re awesome at that. See them at a festival and everyone’s jumping up and down, you know? I just want show people how many ways I can smash your face up.”
Faces were certainly smashed at London’s Islington Academy, and all across Europe (a few more might get smashed next time if they find out who stole their money). For now, it’s onwards to France, Spain, Germany and a handful of other European countries. They’re going places, literally and figuratively. Lazarus AD might not be a name known in most homes yet, but sometimes you just know it will.