Review Summary: Heavy and atmospheric thrash done right. However the band shows little innovation in songwriting.
By 1990, Testament was one of thrash metal's Premier acts, easily standing tall with the Big Four of thrash. An early bay-area contender, the band has made three solid albums and were poised to make it big with their forth effort "Souls of Black". However the album did not have as much success as expected. The album peaked at #73 on the billboard 200 and reviews of the album were mixed. "Souls of Black" did moderately well, but was not the huge success the band was hoping for. Lets examine a few of the reasons why this album never broke the band into metal stardom shall we?
The subject matter is back to business as usual, with dark themes such as the occult and witchcraft dominating the album. Due to this, the album comes off as more menacing like the band's first two albums. This was also the first album recorded without producer Alex Perialas, who was responsible to some extent for the recognizable sound of the band. The album starts with an acoustic intro with Latin influences, and while it sounds nice it does not belong on this album. The intro is followed by three of the heaviest songs on the album, with aggressive guitar playing dominating the songs with blazing riffs and shredding solos. Sounds like business as usual for Testament right? Wrong. While the album starts off pretty strong, the second half of the album can be more or less bland and unmemorable, with a couple exceptions. All of the songs are of course very heavy and riff driven, but some of these tracks fail to distinguish themselves from each other and only a few are particularly noteworthy. Of course the albums first three tracks are brilliant, along with "The Legacy", which is a truly amazing ballad that sounds sincere and beautiful, and may in fact be one of my favorite Testament songs of all time. However some tracks sound like thrash-by-numbers with little innovation or change to the band's songwriting. Nevertheless, this does not stop the material from sounding very powerful and aggressive. What the album may lack in innovation, it makes up for in thrilling and atmospheric thrash. The band certainly had found their signature sound by the time this album was recorded, and the band managed to capture that sound even without former producer Alex Perialas.
Although the band recorded this album without the usual producer, the lineup remained unchanged. By this point in the band's career, each member had made their talent known. Alex Skolnick as always managed to crank out some really impressive and melodic guitar solos, and a few of the riffs were extremely memorable, though some were more or less bland. The drums and bass remain solid, if not a little overlooked, however there are some moments where the bass and drums shine but they are few and far between. The vocals on the other hand sound very nice, with Chuck Billy giving some of his best performances in tracks like "The Legacy" and "Falling Fast".
This album would be a precursor to more traditional styles of metal found on its follow-up "The Ritual", and this release marked then end of an era for Testament. Though it did not introduce anything new and nowhere near as good as "The New Order" the music found here is still powerful and heavy as hell. "Souls of Black" is an acceptable effort for longtime fans of the band.
- Face in the Sky
- Falling Fast
- Souls of Black
- The Legacy
Chuck Billy - vocals
Alex Skolnick - lead guitar
Eric Peterson - rhythm guitar
Greg Christian - bass
Louie Clemente - drums
Produced by: Muchael Rosen, Testament
Engineered by: Michael Rosen, Vincent Wojno
Mastered by: Tom Coyne
Released: October 9, 1990
Label: Atlantic/Megaforce Records