The fifth and final full-length record from Swedish band Burst is a bit of a Metalcore anomaly. More on that in a second. When a couple of the folks from Svbterranean mentioned the idea of doing a Metalcore column series my initial reaction was that I very much wanted to participate, but then it dawned on me: I’m not exactly up to speed with the genre these days. I think the last Metalcore release I actually listened to was Hot Damn by Buffalo legends Everytime I Die. So I did what any middle aged music nerd would do, I started googling “classic Metalcore records.” Much to my surprise, Lazarus Bird made many appearances in best of lists. It’s surprising because Burst to my ears heavily leans towards the progressive rock/metal sphere with their “song within a song” aesthetic (one that very much reminds me of Norwegian masters Enslaved.) Be that as it may, trying to dispute genres and pigeonhole music is a generally futile endeavor and Lazarus Bird is a bloody gem of a record. Complex, varied, and completely memorable.
Lazarus Bird begins with “I Hold Vertigo.’ This song gives the listener the general context of the band: two very unique vocalists trading lines back and forth amid complex arrangements. The aforementioned Enslaved aesthetic begins around the 2:35 mark when the song begins a complete shift in sound and approach. The strength of Burst‘s songwriting provides plenty of space for sonic curveballs which the band can deploy in the blink of an eye. The staccato guitar section at the end this song is a stroke of genius.
The stop/start dynamic of “I Hold Vertigo” segues into “I Exterminate the I” one of the best songs in the Burst canon. Just listen to the guitar break at the 1:21 mark. Absolute brilliance. The section is brief but Burst cleverly reintroduces the theme, albeit slightly varied, later in the song. Then at the 4:42 mark, the band introduces a completely new theme. This time it’s a descending guitar motif with stunning snare accompaniment. Countless bands have and will introduce new sections in songs seemingly out of nowhere but something about the way Burst does it resonates with me. The ideas are always epic in scope and memorable.
Track 3 “We Are Dust” is also among the finest tracks the band ever conceived. A woozy guitar arpeggio begins the song. Track 5 “Cripple God” is arguably the bands best song. The first minute is a busy yet catchy dose of metalcore which turns into one of the band’s most beautiful moments at the 1:12 mark. This passage is just stunning. I can only imagine how it would’ve stopped the show when played live. Along with stark moments of beauty, Lazarus Bird is unflinchingly progressive in scope. Perhaps nowhere as apparent as 2nd last track “(We Watched) The Silver Rain.” It seems like virtuoso tendencies of acts like King Crimson and Yes was inspirations for much of the playing on this record. Not only are the songs quite long but there are no shortages of variations, change ups, and subtle yet effective songwriting tricks.
Hopefully, the band reforms in the future and continues down the path they were forging for themselves. They were really on to something with the challenging yet exceptionally rewarding Lazarus Bird.