Written by Kep
Violblast – Lazarus Abandoned
Thrash Metal from Spain
Released February 28th, 2021
I don’t really like thrash metal.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t *dislike* thrash. I just don’t, like, like it. It’s never done much for me. Maybe that’s because I got into metal later than lots of metalheads; by the time I was diving in, instead of being introduced by bands like Metallica and Anthrax and Testament, I was checking out Meshuggah and Fear Factory and Arch Enemy. My gateways were bands with thrash influences, sure, but definitely not thrash bands.
So how did I come across Violblast, you ask? Well, how does anyone find new metal bands? I saw Lazarus Abandoned on Kman’s Twitter feed, obviously. (If you somehow don’t know who Kman is, remedy that immediately by following him @Kmanriffs.) It was the cover art that caught my eye: a hand-painted, Cthulhu-mouthed, bird/skull-faced humanoid with a massive creepy claw hand and a giant snake over its shoulders? Sure, sign me the hell up! Points to Frankie Marrajo, the artist, for getting me in the door. And I’m damn glad that I stepped inside because Lazarus Abandoned is a really wonderful record.
This is the third full-length and fourth release overall for Spanish veterans Violblast, and it sure feels like the cohesive, skilled effort of a four-piece that hasn’t had any lineup changes in its 9 year history. It’s awesome to discover a band that’s this far into its career; there’s no evidence of growing pains on Lazarus, just focused, proficient music-making from four guys who clearly have a shared vision of what they’re creating. The band has a Slayer-style lineup: bassist Andrés Perez is the vocalist, and he’s joined by Santi Turk (rhythm) and Sebas Silvera (lead) on guitars, and Sergio Ruiz on drums.
Violblast shows off some extremely tight, intelligent songwriting on this record. 11 songs (including an intro) make up the 45 minutes, and despite its length, the album doesn’t drag. “Miserere” is the opener, an exhilarating track that hooked me. There’s an expansive opening of towering guitars, followed by machinegun-esque sextuplets that return in multiple places during the track. The band really starts to shine when the first real thrashy moment plunges headlong into an absolute riff-fest of vitriol and wicked imagery. This is stuff that’s begging to be played live: there are gang vocal chants of “Rise, rise” and “Onward, onward” alternating with Perez’s fierce snarl, and I can envision a crowd, fists in the air, screaming out the words. When the track was done I found myself reaching for the repeat button, and it wasn’t the only song that I felt that way about. “Behold a Pale Horse”, with its epic opening and an outstanding ear-grabbing groove halfway through, and the title track “Lazarus Abandoned” with its destructive heaviness juxtaposed with a fascinating acoustic section, both stand out in a sea of great songs.
There’s more going on Lazarus Abandoned than just thrash tropes, though. Violblast has some obvious death metal influences that consistently add really nice wrinkles to their sound. There’s a riff just over :50 into “Spasm” that could be straight out of an Arch Enemy track, and a downright evil passage 24 seconds into “Dead Embrace” that reminded me of Abysmal Dawn or Carnation. These are far from the only spots where the death metal feel is overt, and that influence really fleshes out this record nicely.
Lazarus boasts great instrumental performances and weighty, well-mixed production. Ruiz is precise and lively on the drums, providing a tight and accurate rhythmic base for the others to work with. Both guitarists perform admirably and both take solos, although it’s rhythm guitarist Turk that handles the majority of them. These solos are mostly great, and there’s a lot of diversity in the approach that he and Silvera take: plenty of melody, screech, and shred, although a few feel a bit on the short side. Perez’s work on the bass is good as well, filling out the overall sound without stealing any of the limelight from the guitars. His vocals aren’t overly screechy or deep; they hit that nice sweet spot in the middle, with real venom and fury. On top of all this, the production is a textbook example of what modern thrash should sound like: clean and clear but not pretty, and faithful to the unit as a whole without sounding excessively processed.
There are, unfortunately, a couple of tracks that don’t land as quite memorably as the rest: “Dead Embrace” has that extremely cool moment I mentioned but feels a little filler-ish, and “Await the Choir” has a restful, atmospheric intro but doesn’t follow through convincingly. Perez also experiments with some semi-clean vocals in a few places, none of which persuaded me. But these are nitpicks; overall, Lazarus is a fantastically paced and written record.
I was also impressed by the lyricism on display. The words here are intelligent and surprisingly poetic, in addition to having genuine weight. Check out this line from “Spasm” that hit like a ton of bricks: “Abandoned children, divine hand denied / Orphaned wounds, bleeding hate open wide / Excruciating, atrocious emerging / Broken shell, bathe of sins, I’m submerging”. That is some powerful, incensed shit right there. Or how about this, from “The Last Adam’s Son”? “A pyre on fire awaits for the souls / Grave goods to remember our past / An answer of Gaia for what we have done / Bloodbuilt empire will face its downfall”. Vioblast has some real things to say about religion and the way humanity treats itself and the earth, and they say them better than most.
Regardless of how I arrived at Lazarus Abandoned, and regardless of how I feel about thrash metal overall, this album struck a chord with me once I gave it a listen. I’ll stop short of going out of my depth and declaring it near the top of this year’s thrash leaderboards, but it’s absolutely worth your time and attention. Check it out! I left the door open for you.
Favorite track: Miserere