Review Summary: Forget everything you know about Thrash Metal.
By 1988, Thrash Metal was flourishing across the globe. Metallica released their final album of their golden age, featuring their most progressive song-writing, while Slayer released their best album by balancing their carnage with melody with a very balanced release. Though some releases around this time did not quite match up to the other band’s releases, as So Far So Good…So What is merely a worm in the presence of the monumental Peace Sells, Thrash Metal as a whole was at its strongest point among the underground scene.
Testament, arguably the most remarkable Thrash Metal band not included in the Big Four, released their sophomore attempt. “Attempt” may be the wrong word for this, as it blows all of those previously mentioned albums out of the radar with a more diverse, focused, and all-around metal LP. At no point throughout the album’s ten songs does it dip in quality, as all of these songs are essential thrashers; containing blistering brutality and Chuck Billy’s distinct deep voice.
The titular song is one such definitive song; containing thrash mayhem across all the board by opening with a fantastic solo, only becoming more adrenaline pumping as it goes on. “Trial By Fire,” “A Day of Reckoning,” and “Into the Pit” are all further examples of this sound with high velocity instrumentals and incredible performances all around; combining these with bloodthirsty songwriting which is filled with adrenaline and excitement like none of their releases. In fact, those three songs can be considered highlights of Testament’s entire career; as they capitalize on what made Testament the formidable force of Thrash Metal in the 80s.
The band also decides to branch out a bit; as opener “Eerie Inhabitants” and “Trial By Fire” experiment with atmospheric and melodic introductions until sporadically crushing the beauty with a crash into thrash. The style shift may be a bit jarring, and maybe even slightly agitating to some, but these introductions take up almost no time compared to the duration of each song; and only enhance the metal the band refines. The band also decides to take a classic from the past for a unique spin: Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault.” Though this song was unnaturally heavy back in 1976, Testament takes it to a whole new level with the crushing atmospheres, heavy drumming, frustrated singing and the dark guitar tone; crafting a graceful successor to the Aerosmith classic of yesteryear.
The most surprising change of the album includes the two instrumentals “Hypnosis” and “Musical Death.” Both of these songs are very melodic and atmospheric by the band’s standards; working as breather sections from the metallic onslaught from the other eight ferocious songs. “Musical Death,” though some may consider it a bit of a breather song or even filler, just might be the best thing Testament has ever composed. The melodies throughout the short four minutes almost tell a story of life; from the slow calm beginnings until the sudden, horrifying moment that takes it all away. The final section of the song, a repeating set of calming riffs, shows it all repeating again; creating an idea of the mortality and sorrows of life. Though this song may be very different by the band’s usual standards, the song ironically works as a perfect representation of their musical talents by defying genre limits. Though the typical metal ballad may have been previously made, (Such as “Fade to Black” or “Children of the Damned”) this is the definition of how creative a Thrash Metal band can be; creating so much emotion with just a four minute run-time and the sound of two guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum set.
When the dirge of “Musical Death” weeps its last tears, it is apparent that Testament has written a new creed on how to make Thrash Metal. With a legacy now intact, this band will certainly strain the competition with a release of this magnitude, influence, and creativity. Now with an idea of what to practice, the band’s preaching will make sure that any competition will never come close to these souls of black.