"The Legacy" is the debut album from Bay Area thrashers Testament. Prior to the album's recording in '86, Testament was known as Legacy. Their lineup consisted of singer Steve "Zetro" Souza, guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, bassist Greg Christian and drummer Louie Clemente. Singer Chuck Billy was a member of another local band named Guilt, who had performed with Legacy on a few occasions. Billy was asked to be the band's new singer after Zetro left to join Exodus. In 1986, the band changed their name to Testament after finding out that there was a jazz band named Legacy, thus the name of the album, "The Legacy".
"The New Order" was my introduction to Testament. I heard "Trial by Fire" on some metal radio show and picked up a cassette single of the song. Of course once I found out that Testament covered Aerosmith's "Nobody's Fault" I had to own it. The entire album shreds, from beginning to end. "Into the Pit", "Disciples of the Watch", "The Preacher" and "Eerie Inhabitants" are all concert staples and fan favorites. These are all prime Testament tracks, as is the aforementioned "Trial By Fire". The thing that Testament seemed to grasp was a sense of melody and hook, that a lot of thrash bands were missing. They also weren't afraid to slow things down, or add in an acoustic interlude or even a jazz solo to spice up a song. Two other things that stand out on this CD, other than the songs themselves, are Chuck Billy's strong vocals and the shredding lead work throughout. The guitar tag team of Skolnick/Peterson is legendary and was most certainly an inspiration for many thrash acts that followed.
"Practice What You Preach" is a groundbreaking metal album proving Testament to be one of the best "Second Wave of Thrash Metal" bands. Whereas the band's debut was all about speed and intensity, and their follow-up had a lot of recycled riffery from the debut, "Practice" takes the trash metal of the first two and combines it with even more melody and more memorable hooks. The band also slows things down slightly, giving the songs even more variation in tempo. A song like "Envy Life" is mid-paced but still manic and crushingly heavy! Also, "The Ballad" actually is a ballad, but features a jaw dropping guitar introduction and some skillful soloing. The song has a dark and morose vibe and builds up to a heavier number. Of course the guitar wizardry of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson are still firmly in place. "Sins of Omission" has an extended solo section, revealing the brilliance of Skolnick's soloing. Likewise the solo work in "Envy Life" is absolutely killer. The title track is a monster thrasher with a hook that could catch a whale. "Perilous Nation" is a scorcher as well, fueled by a mixture of adrenalized speed, infectious groove and more scorching solos. "Blessed In Contempt" is pure thrash metal with an ultra-heavy riff. It is the one track that easily could have fit on either of the band's previous two albums. Overall, the album is a bit more technical than the past two albums as well. The production is still raw and a bit flawed, but for the first time the bass guitar is actually audible in the mix. The band's third album also finds them taking on a different lyrical approach, moving away from darker themes and focusing more on social and life issues.
"Souls of Black" is more standard, straight-forward thrash than "Practice What You Preach". The album isn't quite as memorable as any of the band's previous three albums. I read somewhere that Chuck Billy said that "Souls of Black" was "rushed" and written and recorded under pressure to get out a new album so that they could take part in the European "Clash of the Titans" tour with Megadeth, Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies.
Testament - The Ritual (Atlantic) 1992
1."Signs of Chaos"
"The Ritual" seems to be one of those love it or hate it albums. Nearly every fan I have spoken to seems to think this was the end of Testament's classic sound. For some strange reason many metal fans seem to think "The Ritual" was a sellout album for Testament. Check reviews on Amazon, classicthrash.com or metal-archives.com. Most of them seem to rate this album very low. Many even claim that this was Testament's attempt to sound like Metallica's black album. Granted the production is a bit more mainstream sounding and there are a few more midpaced songs, but this still sounds like Testament to me. For the most part this is one heavy album. How one can listen to songs like "Deadline" and "So Many Lies" and accuse Testament of going soft is beyond me. There are a few mellow moments, like the classic "Return to Serenity" and the ballad-ish title track, but even these songs are a far cry from the commercial slop people seem to think it is. "Electric Crown" is a killer song and probably one of my favorites on the CD. Chuck Billy sounds as amazing as he ever has. His signature wail is firmly in place. Also, Alex Skolnick's guitar-work is brilliant. The guitar solo in "Return to Serenity" alone is worth the price of admission. If this was Testament's attempt at riding on the coattails of Metallica's commercial success at the time, it didn't really work for them.
Testament - Return to the Apocalyptic City (Atlantic) 1993
1."Over the Wall"
"Return to the Apocalyptic City" is very cool ep, although a bit short in my opinion. The live material is heavy and raw, but still as tight as their studio material. Paul Bostaph (ex-Forbidden) is the drummer on this one. (Man, from this point on, Testament will become like Spinal Tap with their drummers.) The two studio songs are outstanding, but the BALLAD, "Return to Serenity" is a real standout. I have been told that "Reign of Terror" was released as a b-side to the "Trial by Fire" single, which I use to have on cassette. Can't remember that song being on there. Anyhow, the song is from their Legacy days when Steve Souza (Exodus) was the vocalist, however, this version features Chuck Billy. The album cover kind of sucks as it gives the album a bootleg look.
Testament - Low (Atlantic) 1994
HEAVY!!! That is the only way to descibe this speed metal masterwork. I love this disc. Of course I do get sick of hearing thrash bands complain about religion, and Christianity in particular, a subject that Testament seems to dwell on quite a bit. Alex Skolnick quit at this point and was replaced by Obituary's guitarist. (Skolnick went on to play with Savatage for a short time) John Tempesta of Exodus fame filled in for the drum position for the recording. In any case, together they created a wonderful speed metal classic with hints of death metal creeping into the mix. Even Chuck's vocals took on a more growly style for a few songs. I actually think this improved the bands sound as it gave them a better mix and the album didn't get boring.
Testament - Live at the Fillmore (Spitfire) 1995
A nice live album that is produced well. As thrash bands go, I hate most of their live albums. (for examples check out Death Angel or Nuclear Assault) For some reason most of them just sound crappy as compared to their sonically and musically tight studio albums. Testament's live offerings have both been stellar, however. Thankfully, this live album includes alot of early material. As an added bonus, Testament recorded three acoustic versions of three of their classic tunes. I read somewhere that they were recorded live in the studio. OK, so who could tell.
Testament with ex-Dark Angel/Death drummer Gene Hoglan are outstanding and heavier than they have ever been. I must admit I like Chuck's voice better when he sings, rather than growls like every other death metal band on the earth. However, Chuck tends to mix up vocals styles a bit which makes it a lot more interesting than your run of the mill death band. The music is HEAVY! but a bit more technical and thrash-oriented than most death metal bands. Well, this is a great album, but soon will be blown out of the water by "The Gathering." Oh and one other thing, despite the deceiving album title, it seems that Testament may be warning against insipid Satanic dabling rather than supporting it.
Testament - Signs of Chaos: The Best of Testament (Atlantic) 1997
Notice it does not say "Greatest Hits" in the title because Testament has NEVER been concerned with making "hits." Testament have been crusaders for the Heavy Metal fight from the beginning. Since I have all but one of their albums, I would not have needed this disc except for the fact that the brilliant marketing execs at Atlantic decided to include two exclusive cover songs, "Sails of Charon" (originally by the Scorpions) and "Draw the Line" (another Aerosmith song. Testament knows their roots!)
Testament - The Gathering (Spitfire) 1999
1. D.N.R. (3:34)
Testament regroups once again retaining only original members Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson. James Murphy who has been with Testament on and off for a few years also makes an appearance on this disc. The band, however, becomes somewhat of a superstar group adding bassist Steve DiGiorgio (ex-Death) and drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer/Grip Inc.). The Gathering continues in a similar direction as "Demonic" pushing the band in the heavier direction yet still retaining their status as a thrash band. This is MUCH heavier than their earlier discs however, and at times the band sound closer to death metal than the melodic thrash that they mastered in the early 90s. Unlike Metallica, who were at one time considered the same style as Testament, they have continued to earn the respect of their fans for staying true to the music style despite trends. "The Gathering" is THE BEST Testament album thus far, in my not so humble opinion. From beginning to end, the intensity never lets up. Dave Lomardo's drumming is so fast and tight, it's hard to believe any human being could play that fast. Who would have thought that Testament would still be making music this good so many years after thrash metal's heyday. Metal forges ahead!
Oh and on more thing, I recently read where Alex Skolnik criticised Testament for "going backwards" rather than moving forward with their music. Translated: "I have decided to be a glowing solo artist now and those guys have decided to stay true to themselves." Here is one review I read of his new band Attention Deficit, "For those who have lost track of Skolnick since his days with thrash metallists Testament, his playing now resembles more of King Crimson's Fripp and Belew... Attention Deficit is more about atmospheric songwriting than technical shredding." Why is it that some former metal musicians have to critisize those who stay true to the music. If you don't like metal any more, fine, move on and play your solo crap, but don't downplay your contribution to the greatest music in the world. It's something to be proud of, not something to mock.
Upon first listen all I could think was, "Oh my! This is KILLER!" Take the fiery and intense production value, guitar tones and pummeling drum sounds of "The Gathering" and put it on all these classic thrash songs and that is what "First Strike Still Deadly" is. On top of this, several past members including John Tempest of Exodus fame (drums), Steve DiGiorgi (bass), Chuck Billy (vocals), Alex Skolnick (lead guitar) and Eric Peterson (rhythm guitar). Another surprising addition was Steve (Zetro) Souza, also of Exodus fame, handling the lead vocals on "Alone in the Dark" and "Reign of Terror." Of course Steve was a member of Testament when they were called Legacy. Anyhow, this disc is essential for fans of Testament or real thrash metal. Every song is BETTER than the original, and that certainly is a hard task to accomplish.
Finally in 2008 we get "The Formation of Damnation", the first Testament album to feature Alex Skolnick on guitar since 1992's "The Ritual" and the first to feature bassist Greg Christian since 1994's "Low". "The Formation of Damnation" is a brilliant album combining the classic thrash sounds, some classic heavy metal influences and a heavy, raw, modern production. Unlike the "The Gathering", Billy returns to using a cleaner style vocal for the most part, with the exception of the title track where Billy breaks into a full death metal growl. The music, for the most part is up-tempo, with lots of fast parts and a few slower moments. Peterson comes up with some heavy riffs. He has a staccato picking style that comes from the Tipton/Downing school of heavy metal. As well, both Peterson and Skolnick unleash some wicked guitar solos throughout.
One of my favorite songs is the "The Evil has Landed", as song about the evil that used airplanes as bombs to kill innocent people in the U.S. on 9/11. Perhaps the lyrics are my reason for liking the song so much, but I actually do think it's a standout cut on the album. There are a few songs criticizing the Bush administration as untrustworthy.
"Formation of Damnation" will probably not replace long-time fans favorite Testament albums, but it's a very good modern thrash metal release and a welcome return to one of the original West Coast thrash metal machines.
Testament - Live at Eindhoven '87 (Prosthetic Records) 2009
Testament - Dark Roots of Earth (Nuclear Blast) 2012
1. Rise Up (4:18)
2. Native Blood (5:21)
3. Dark Roots of Earth (5:45)
4. True American Hate (5:26)
5. A Day in the Death (5:38)
6. Cold Embrace (7:46)
7. Man Kills Mankind (5:06)
8. Throne of Thorns (7:05)
9. Last Stand for Independence (4:43)
10. Dragon Attack (4:46)
11. Animal Magnetism (5:58)
12. Powerslave (6:53)
13. Throne Of Thorns [extended] (7:41)
DISC TWO (Bonus DVD)
1. Documentary: The Making of "Dark Roots of Earth"
Live At the Avalon
2. Disciples of the Watch [live]
3. Practice What You Preach [live]
4. Over the Wall [live]
5. Souls of Black [live]
6. Gear Talk with Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick
"Dark Roots Of Earth" is the tenth full-length studio album by the legendary San Franciscan Bay Area Thrash Metal band Testament. It is the band's first with drummer Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel) since 1997's "Demonic". (The band also worked with Lamb Of God's Chris Addler, but his tracks didn't end up on the standard version of the album, although his version of the track `A Day In Death' can be purchased online.) Like "The Gathering" (1999) and "The Formation of Damnation" (2007), "Dark Roots" was produced by infamous metal producer Andy Sneap.
I have to say, Testament are one of those band's whose new releases I always look forward to. Despite being one of the defining "Bay Area" trash band, they have a distinct sound and style that is unlike any of the other bands from that 80's scene. "Dark Roots" continues where "Formation of Damnation" left off. The band blends their brand of thrash metal with some death metal influences, some traditional heavy metal and some modern inspirations. The songs are mostly build around speedy double bass, chugging guitars and Chuck Billy's distinctive, mostly-shouted vocals and punctuated by Alex Skolnick's and Eric Peterson's creative licks. Opener "Rise Up" is an instantly like-able thrash anthem that is sure to be in the band's set for years to come. The nearly 8-minute long "Cold Embrace" is a progressive number that opens as a melodic acoustic track and builds up to a mid-paced heavy metal romp then descends again into the psychedelic side of early Black Sabbath. It is a great song! Likewise, the title track pushes beyond the the borders of thrash metal and proves that Testament are more than just a good thrash metal band, they are a great heavy metal band.
The deluxe version of the CD comes with four bonus tracks, including three cover songs; Queen's "Dragon Attack", the Scorpions' "Animal Magnetism" and Iron Maiden's "Powerslave". All three are fantastic, but the Queen cover in particular is spectacular. Much like Testament's early cover of Aerosmith's "Nobody's Fault", they put their own spin on "Dragon Attack" and simply own it! It's a brilliant cover. Along with an extended version of "Throne Of Thorns", these four songs would have made a killer EP all on their own. The deluxe version also has a bonus DVD with live cuts, studio footage. The entire thing is wrapped in a six panel digi and comes with a 24-page booklet.
Unlike some other bands labeled thrash metal, Testament has remained remarkably stable and solid over their long career.