Testament / Unearth / Lazarus A.D. Live in Vancouver – May 4, 2009


Monday, May 4, 2009

The Commodore Ballroom

Vancouver, BC  Canada


***Live Review By Lord of The Wasteland / Thanks to Scott Alexander/Abort Magazine for saving the day with some photos to accompany the write-up.

Thrash metal is alive and well in 2009.  A new breed of bands like Evile, Municipal Waste, Mantic Ritual and Warbringer have brought thrash back from the dead for a new generation to embrace.  But one cannot have a new-school without an old-school and the godfathers of North American thrash metal—Exodus, Metallica, Anthrax, Overkill, Testament—drew first blood by combining the aggression of punk with the melodic riffs brought stateside by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands in the early 80s. 

It is the last band from that list whose Bay Area reign began with 1987’s THE LEGACY and continues on with last year’s brilliant return, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, that took centre stage for an evening of metallic grace—the mighty Testament.


With a 7:30PM set time as the opening act to an empty club on a rainy Monday night, Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Lazarus A.D. had a lot going against them, but the Midwest thrashers certainly won over those people looking to bang their heads and get busy in the circle pit early on.  Metal Blade Records just re-released Lazarus A.D.’s 2007 debut, THE ONSLAUGHT, and the record is generating plenty of good buzz.  As vocalist/bassist Jeff Paulick pointed out, this was Lazarus A.D.’s first time playing in Canada and only about 20 people moved up front as the band hit the stage but their 30-minute, six-song set was filled with all the best tracks from THE ONSLAUGHT.  Paulick and drummer Ryan Schutler locked into some deep grooves on “Thou Shall Not Fear” and the double guitar solo Dan Gapen and Alex Lackner synched up for on “Revolution” was metal at its finest.  The KISS-like, choreographed moves that finished up “Rebirth” was a real treat, too.  Paulick’s affinity for dropping f-bombs seemed a bit forced but Lazarus A.D. definitely left its mark.


Last Breath

Thou Shall Not Fear

Absolute Power






Unearth’s performance suffered greatly due to horrible sound.  For whatever reason, the drums were way too high in the mix and entirely drowned out Trevor Phipps’ vocals.  Even the guitars of Ken Susi and Buz McGrath were barely audible for the first half of the band’s 40-minute set.  That didn’t seem to matter to the crowd who quickly took to going berserk and moshing to favorites like “My Will Be Done” and “Black Hearts Now Reign” (including a wicked drum solo by Derek Kerswill to close the track).  The band itself was energetic as always, putting on a great performance despite being a bit of the odd man out on this bill.  In his patented moves, McGrath spun his guitar around his neck and scaled the stack of amps next to the drum riser twice before scissor-kicking his way into an eight-foot drop.  Susi, though, continues his own disgusting shtick of spitting on the crowd and himself (a particularly endearing sight saw Susi launching loogies in the air then catching them with his palm and slicking down his retarded faux-hawk).  Phipps did his best to incite the crowd into forming circle pits and his relentless headbanging made him look like a less hulking George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher.  Overall, Unearth got the job done despite a bad sound guy who turned their set into a garbled mess.


My Will Be Done


Crow Killer

Sanctity of Brothers



We Are Not Anonymous

Black Hearts Now Reign



When Testament hit Vancouver last July opening for Judas Priest (read review HERE), it was a mere teaser for what was to come on the inevitable headlining tour.  Buoyed by the success of THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION (voted #1 album of 2008 in our year-end staff poll HERE), excitement was high to see the Bay Area thrash veterans do a longer set of classics and new material.  Testament’s 90-minute set pulled songs from each of its nine studio albums except 1992’s THE RITUAL, leaving anyone hard-pressed to complain about those that made the cut.  Sure, “Trial By Fire,” “Alone In The Dark” and “Low” would have been nice but getting rarely-played gems like “Dog Faced Gods,” “Demonic Refusal,” “Raging Waters” and “First Strike Is Deadly” in their place was a real treat.  Chuck Billy’s booming roar on tracks like “D.N.R.” and “Practice What You Preach” is still incredibly strong, as are his raspy shrieks but hearing his rich croon on the often-criticized ballad “The Legacy” proves what a skilled vocalist Billy is.  Of course, seeing Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick squaring off for one of their speedy guitar solos cannot be forgotten, either.  Anyone who thinks Skolnick has turned his back on metal by playing jazz and with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is sorely mistaken as his godly, pitch-perfect leads during the intro to “The Legacy” and shredding during “Three Days In Darkness” attested.  In between playing air guitar with mike stand, Billy dedicated “Over The Wall” to the stage-front security personnel prior to an endless string of moshers and crowd-surfers making them earn their pay for the night.  To say the crowd was ready for action would be an understatement as it was basically an endless chain of circle pits from beginning to end.  Old-schoolers mingled with the barely-legal young ‘uns, each group rejoicing in the fact that Testament’s brand of thrash metal has been given a second lease on life 22 years after it first began.


For The Glory of… (Intro)

Disciples of The Watch

Practice What You Preach

Into The Pit

Dog Faced Gods

Raging Waters

More Than Meets The Eye

Demonic Refusal

True Believer

First Strike Is Deadly

The Legacy

Over The Wall

The New Order

Souls of Black

The Persecuted Won’t Forget



Three Days In Darkness

The Formation of Damnation

Following visits by Destruction, Kreator and Exodus over the past six weeks (and Megadeth and Slayer coming up!), Vancouver’s thrash maniacs have had a full plate, but that didn’t stop the throngs from heading out in droves for Testament.  A surprisingly good turnout and a killer set by the headliner will surely make this show one of the most-talked about of 2009.

***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.

TESTAMENT—Official Site

UNEARTH—Official Site

LAZARUS A.D.—Official Site



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