I love Lich King. If I had any musical talent, I’d beg them for an audition. I’ve dabbled with the idea of thrash-covering Sheer Heart Attack under the name Lich Queen. I would drive two hours to their Massachusetts headquarters to treat foot-out-the-door vocalist Tom Martin to a steak dinner and twenty minutes of hanky-panky if he agreed to stick around. Something about their brash, satirical thrash drills right into the soul of my metal obsession. The hyperthrash of The Omniclasm preys on all of those heartstrings, obnoxious, hilarious and utterly replayable all the while.
After a brief intro, “Lich King V: Stalemate” digs right into the meat with the latest iteration of our eponymous villain’s serialized conquests. The track keeps it simple: tight, chainsaw riffs played fast and faster, Mike Dreher’s suddenly full-bodied bass clanging with purpose, with just enough room for Martin to do whatever he wants. Riding a punky thrash wave born of Exodus and Vio-lence, the Lich King juggernaut seems impossible to stop once it starts rolling. “Preschool Cesspool” revives Martin’s hysterically true-to-life lyrics, combining the unique misery only children can inflict with whimsical, trampling Municipal Waste riffs. The track highlights how effortlessly Lich King can forge a joyful connection that lingers in the subconscious longer than its simplicity would suggest. “Cut the Shit” savagely lambastes metal’s potential for unblinking seriousness, while “Our Time to Riot” pumps Overkill and Slayer into a mosh tribute-turned-class war. The latter features choice solo work from Nick Timney that stacks moments atop moments without feeling overweight. When returning to the track’s central riff, now improbably stuffed with even more speed and venom, there is little doubt that The Omniclasm stands among Lich King’s best work.
Of particular note is how well Timney and Joe Nickerson match the mood of their riffs to the lyrics. “Preschool Cesspool” teases by nature, while “Cut the Shit” and “Our Time to Riot” are dutifully pissed off. It’s hard to listen to “Take the Paycheck” without feeling the mockery reverberating from their guitar strings. Drummer Brian Westbrook’s mix accentuates these characteristics, though his own kit loses its punch as a result. I’ve often thought Lich King would benefit from a Gama Bombian vocal clarity, given their focus on humor and messaging. The Omniclasm, unfortunately, changes little in this regard, as its verses can be quite difficult to follow. Track times tick up slightly overall, though the songs are so easy on the ears that the length is rarely apparent. The only weak link comes from downtempo whopper “Civilization.” Despite dalliances with southern rock stylings, this spiritual successor to 2012’s “Agnosticism” crawls more than it cuts. Finale “Lich King VI: The Omniclasm” fortunately provides lengthwise redemption, as seven minutes of face-peeling makes it Lich King’s best closer to date.
If the band is in rare form, then Martin is doubly so. Somewhere between the infectious gang shouts of “Cut the Shit,” Martin laments that “metal’s supposed to be fun.” Lich King based their career around rending maximum enjoyment from their work, as if permanently affronted by a community intent on the contrary. Nothing is more characteristic of that than the lyrics. Epithetical jeers of “joke band” and “pizza thrash” still haunt them, and the inclusion of laugh tracks like “Preschool Cesspool” and “Crossover Songs Are Too Damn Short” are unlikely to change that. But Martin deserves just as much credit for capably handling politically-charged sentiments on “Our Time to Riot” and “Offense,” especially in light of recent eye-rollers from Testament, Havok, and others. Even on “joke” tracks, detractors regularly overlook the scathing, understated truths present in Martin’s sardonic lyrics. “Take the Paycheck” might sound ridiculous at first, but who’s going to argue with its criticisms of metal’s upper crust (or its aspirations of Big 4 success)? “When can we stop doing our best… Are five solid albums enough?” bites all the harder when realizing that The Omniclasm is Lich King’s fifth release and they have nowhere near as many fans as, say, Amaranthe.
The Omniclasm won’t change the mind of the sneering curmudgeon who hated Lich King’s previous material. Nothing here is new. But Lich King correctly determined that their shit wasn’t broke, so why fix it? In turn, they’ve been rewarded with an album as riff-laden and deserving of praise as any in the genre. If you’re fond of all things fast and not afraid of a little tongue in their cheek, The Omniclasm will put a little love in your heart.