Review Summary: Testament aren't reinventing the wheel, but they do a great job integrating their early material with the more modern sound of their previous album, "The Gathering".
Anyone into Testament knows that they are definitely a resilient band. Actually, anyone into Testament knows that it’s vocalist Chuck Billy and guitarist Eric Peterson that are the resilient ones. They’ve had to deal with original members jumping ship during hard times, a revolving door of (highly talented) session musicians, horrible label support, death and cancer. Despite these hurdles they continued to release quality metal albums proving that they were fully capable of maintaining the band on their own. Based on that, it was a total surprise to hear that they were bringing back original members Greg Christian and Alex Skolnick, with Paul Bostaph rounding things out on drums. With eighty percent of the original band back in the mix fans had to wonder what direction this new album would take.
All early interviews with the band had them calling it a mix between The Gathering
and The Legacy
, but I don’t see that as accurate. The reference to The Gathering
is accurate due to the great drumming and frequent bursts of speed as well as the occasional riff and growled vocal part, but The Legacy
just doesn’t fit. If anything, the other album this could be compared to would be Practice What You Preach
due to the catchy and structured nature of the riffs, the increased use of melodies as well as the memorable choruses contained within each song. Another factor in comparing this to Practice What You Preach
as opposed to The Legacy
is due to the guitar solos of Alex Skolnick which are of the classy and highly developed variety found much more on Practice What You Preach
Actually, when I first read that Alex Skolnick was returning to his lead guitar duties I was a little worried due to his past denouncement of metal, but that fear is easily forgotten by the time the short opening instrumental is over. He brings back the melody that the post-Alex albums were missing, and also brings back the awesome solos that he is well known for. In addition, he also contributed two songs to the new album. The song “Dangers of the Faithless” even manages to bring something new to Testament’s sound due to sections being written 5/4 time. His other contribution, “F.E.A.R.”, is actually one of the best songs on the album managing to mix a little bit of influence from The Ritual
into an otherwise fast, aggressive, yet wholly catchy song.
Even though Alex Skolnick contributed a few songs, a majority of the writing was still handled by Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy. Their songwriting encompasses everything from their earlier era (More then Meets the Eye) to material that could have fit perfectly on The Gathering (Formation of Damnation), with the rest of the songs falling somewhere in the middle. There’s the mid-paced Practice-influenced songs such as “The Evil Has Landed” with its bouncy riffs, classy solos, and catchy choruses and there’s the faster, more aggressive material such as “Henchmen Ride” full of double bass and forceful vocals, but all of it is good.
In case it isn’t obvious by the fact that this album can be described almost exclusively through references to their past, Testament do not reinvent the wheel here. What they do is take a consolidation of most their past albums and create a new offering that should sit well with anyone that’s ever been a fan of theirs. Consequently, this album will not appeal to most of those people that found this band boring, generic, or unlistenable already. With that said, it should be approached with a fair bit of caution by those in the latter group, but not ignored completely because you may find yourself surprised. This album is also an obvious starting point for those that are new to the band as it definitely does a good job of representing their back catalog through new material.