Review Summary: My apologies to the Testament fan-legions out there...Review re-written from my material on www.globaldomination.se/
...but I’m not too keen on this band any more; besides a few choice songs ("Into The Pit"!!!), their first two albums never struck me as anything other than vanilla thrash records with too-weak rhythm guitar sounds, and the less said about Low, Demonic, or The Formation Of Snoreation, the better. Souls Of Black and The Ritual are better, but still didn't quite live up to the band's full potential, so the only Testament records I now feel did
are The Gathering and Practice What You Preach, a rock-solid, all-around satisfying thrasher. Of course, the band pissed away most of the momentum they briefly gained with this one over the course of the next two decades, but I can always make-believe that there’s a parallel universe out there, one where Testament stayed as good as they got on Practice; a metalhead's allowed to dream, isn't he…?
Anyway, the Testament albums prior to Practice had plenty of energy all-throughout, but could often get overly flat and generic with their songwriting, with too many riffs failing to grab me at all. For Practice, however, Testament drastically upped the catchiness factor, as well as increasing the songwriting complexity, and while they did slow down their tempos a bit, the songs here still have plenty of energy, and anyway, a choice between faster songs and better
songs is no choice at all, right? Of course not, and Testament never was the most intense bunch of thrashers around, so no big deal. Furthermore, not only did Testament write catchier, more intricate songs here, they also kept every single one of ‘em flowing extremely smoothly and logically, and while the songs here really aren't the most amazing ones ever written, all their pieces just fit
, and for what this album is, I really can't deny its songwriting is basically flawless.
Production-wise, Practice is one of Testament's finest moments, and an improvement over the first two: the drums have that classic, reverb-y “thump” you expect from vintage 80’s thrash, the lead guitar sounds good, and I love how high in the mix the bass is, almost as high as the rhythm guitar, even! I like to imagine it was Testament’s response to the near non-bass of the previous year’s And Justice For All: “So you don’t want bass on your album, Metallica? Fine then, we’ll just DOUBLE the bass on ours!!!”. Most importantly of all, however, is how Eric Peterson’s rhythm guitar was finally given the thicker, punchier sound that it needed, having been disappointingly thin before hand, especially on The Legacy. I guess producer Alex Perialas finally came to his senses, eh? Sadly, the band would go right back to a disappointing rhythm guitar sound the very next year, but still, this was nice while it lasted.
Performance-wise Eric Peterson does a good job of playing the slower, catchier riffs of Practice, generally not going all-out with teh shred, but doing very well for the record nonetheless. However, Peterson’s skills are definitely upstaged by guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick’s incredibly intense, energetic solos; Skolnick’s always contributed good solos to every Testament album he’s been on (regardless of their overall quality), and Practice is no exception, and may even have the finest guitar work of his career. And even when Skolnick isn’t taking center-stage with a solo that lasts for forever (I mean that in a good way), he still adds plenty of spice to the songs with little dabs of lead work here and there. But seriously, fast-forward to the big solo at 1:10 of “Nightmare (Coming Back To You)”, and just try telling me Skolnick isn’t an awesome guitarist. Liar liar pants on fire. Extra kudos for how much energy Greg Christian puts into into his bass playing, and how he does more than just match what the rhythm guitar’s doing, as well as for the tuneful acoustic guitars at the beginning of “The ballad”, a song which kicks more a ss than its title might suggest.
So, Practice What You Preach occupies a unique place in the history of metal; though it doesn’t really have any surprises in store, and isn't the most speedy or brutal thrash album out there, there’s no denying it’s an under-appreciated, satisfying-as-hell album, and I consider it to be Testament's finest hour. If you're in the mood for some awesome mid-tempo thrash, it's hard to do better than this.