For a genre that never received much attention, even during its heyday, thrash metal is enjoying one of music history's more unlikely renaissances. In the past few years, a slew of retro-thrash bands has emerged from the underground. With names like Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, and Merciless Death, these bands are a living tribute to thrash metal's glory days of denim, leather, white high-tops, and, of course, binge drinking.
In 1986, thrash was at its creative peak. That year saw seminal releases from heavyweights Possessed, Nuclear Assault, Kreator, Destruction, and Phoenix's Flotsam & Jetsam, not to mention three albums that essentially defined the genre: Metallica's Master of Puppets, Megadeth's Peace Sells . . . But Who's Buying? and Slayer's Reign in Blood.
Thrash fans were united by their hatred of "poseur" hair-metal bands like Poison, Bon Jovi, and Mötley Crüe. Ultimately, both genres came to an untimely end in 1991 thanks to the rise of grunge and the release of Metallica's self-titled (and decidedly non-thrash) "black album."
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Lazarus A.D. is scheduled to perform on Friday, April 10.
Fast-forward to 2009 and, once again, popular music is dominated by dudes sporting makeup and ridiculous hairstyles, this time under the guise of emo. Perhaps it's no coincidence, then, that thrash is experiencing a resurgence. Even the originators are getting involved. Last year saw Metallica revisit its thrash roots to release its best album in 20 years. Metal Blade Records, the label that introduced the world to Metallica and Slayer, is spearheading the thrash revival. The label is now home to retro-thrashers Fueled By Fire and Hatchet, as well as neo-thrashers Lazarus A.D., who meld classic thrash with modern metal's technical brutality.
Only one of Lazarus A.D.'s four members was even alive in 1986, and he was barely a year old, but the band has done its homework. Bassist/vocalist Jeff Paulick lists Exodus, Testament, and Metallica as influences on the band's sound, and the resulting music crosses generational lines.
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"We get everybody," Paulick says of the band's audiences. "The old-school guys, we can hang with them because we bring them back to when they were kids, and we're keeping things fresh enough to where the kids nowadays, they can appreciate what we're doing and, at the same time, look back to where the influence is coming from. It's a perfect mix right now for what we're doing. It's really cool to see a bunch of kids in the front row and a bunch of 45-year-olds in the back row, so it works out."
But Paulick is also wary of the "retro-thrash" label and the restrictions it implies. When asked if any of the current crop of thrash bands has what it takes to duplicate the success of thrash's original "Big Four" (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer), Paulick is noncommittal.
"I'm not trying to discredit any of the bands that are coming out now, thrash-wise, but I don't know. You've gotta look at what they're doing. You've gotta realize that it's kind of nostalgia. I think what we're doing is a little bit different. We have the old-school influence, but we totally have a new-school vibe, and you can hear it in the music. It's not just a look. It's not just attitude. There's something else going on in our music that isn't going on in some of these other retro, new-age thrash bands."
Maybe so, but don't tell the geezers in the back row throwing up the horns.