How am I supposed to classify this album? Death Metal? Thrash? Demonic
is a very strange album, but ironically, unlike many records receiving this label, it isnít really all that good. A strange mixture indeed, with old school thrash forming the core, downtuned (only a step down to D) guitars and growls enforcing a new death metal feel, and some use of the minor and major pentatonic scale and rehashed riffing in some songs that kind of make them soundÖ uninspired and recycled.
Guitar riffs have always been Testamentís strong point. In their early glory days Testamentís distinct and technically proficient riffs and complicated soloing was courtesy of the legendary Alex Skolnick, who joined the band while still a teenager. Eric Peterson, the rhythm man that has been with the band since the very beginning is also talented, as he shows on this record, though he comes no where near matching Skolnick in his skill. James Murphy, the replacement, showcases here the death metal skills he picked up with Death and Obituary, helping the album to feel fresh. Pinch harmonics pop in constantly which shine clearly despite the slightly muddy guitar tone.
The bass is more audible than on their previous album, Low
. Other than that there isnít much to say about it. It might have been a big deal to have tone like this on another bandís album, but Testament are known for not being content with letting the bass fall back in the mix.
Chuck Billy is certainly one of thrash metalís more powerful vocalists, and here he displays his extreme vocals, which previously werenít used. Again, the death metal influence in Testamentís music begins here. While his vocals on the follow up to Demonic
, The Gathering
, were much better, these are pretty good by comparison to other grunts and growls that were and have been around.
Gene Hoglan, another former member of the legendary Death plays on Demonic
. Hoglan provides probably my favorite part about the album, which is the drumming. It isnít mind blowing, but it really complements the songs perfectly. The double bass pedals arenít overused, utilizing their somewhat sparing usage to accent a songís climax or emphasize a verse/bridge/chorus etc.
is the first song. The beginning of this song begins with the satanic cheese. We hear the ď9... 8... 7... 6... 6... 6Ö" clip, which kind of ruins the mood to be honest. The rest of this song is pretty solid, but nothing to go out of your way to listen to. The Burning Times
is a song about wars and whatís going on in the world, much like some of the tracks off Practice What You Preach
. The difference being that this has that heavier death metal feel. Pinch harmonics were overused in this song, but then they form the songís lead structure. Not all that well written. It just doesnít get the juices flowing if you know what I mean. It makes me feel like a stereotypical black metal guy at a concert. The band is rocking out to the extreme, but there I am in the corner standing looking at the floor with my arms crossed.
Together As One
is certainly one of the better tracks off this full-length. The first riff is complicated and technical, yet plodding along slowly at the same time. Everything here fits well, and the vocals are complementary to the music. The guitarists make effective use of that wah pedal and other effects, harmonization, and just plain inspiration. It brings that creeping sensation to the table that the previous two tracks hinted at, but just couldnít deliver.
receives my vote for the best song off of Demonic
. Not only that, it is one of Testamentís best songs period. Like Together As One
, Murphy makes use of his wah pedal and kicks some buttocks. Double bass drumming assists in pummeling your worthless skull as more wah-accented assault and pinched harmonics show you the metal Testament is all about. Peterson and Murphy show what they are all about too, with leads popping up throughout the three minutes and forty three seconds that leave you ready to hit the seek button on your stereo to go back for one more listen. Or two.
has some fairly heavy percussion going on, but doesnít really stand and deliver despite the airy pinch harmonic overtones. The riffing is boring, and the song is thankfully quite short. Murky Waters
, on the other hand, starts out with some quite thrashy guitar work and soon progresses from mid-paced marching to a galloping onslaught driven by kick drum and six string power. The chorus part slows down, but stays heavy. Certainly one of the better songs to be found here.
is a good song with some classic Chuck Billy vocals and less of the growling. This song reminds me a lot of their cover of the Scorpionís Sails of Charon
, it has the same basic verse structure mixed with a different chorus arrangement and a solo that doesnít compare. Recycling old ideas? It sounds so, but let us just leave things with two words, ďabove average".
is another boring song with good drumming in the vein of John Doe
, only this song is marginally better and quite a bit heavier. Even though the riff is more interesting, it still seems kind of bland and gets old quick.
New Eyes of Old
is one of those songs that seem to make up the bulk of Demonic
. They arenít really good or bad. There are enjoyable parts, and there are enjoyable ones. Fortunately, unlike many of its brothers in art, New Eyes of Old
is mostly enjoyable.
Ten Thousand Thrones
starts off heavy, and then it slows down and loses the listenerís interest briefly, but long enough to be noticed, before throwing in a cool haunting section. Unfortunately it then returns to the ďlosing interest" sort of sound with the boring, repetitive, and recycled riffs. The haunting section returns with its muddy, semi-distored sound to peak your interest and spark your hopes. Will they build on this original-sounding guitar line? No, the song ends. And then with Nostrovia
, which is little more than the chanting of the title with some cool drumming and a droning guitar riff for about a minute, the album ends too. And youíre left with remembering some really good songs, but mostly average filler material. Fun times.
Certainly not Testamentís best, but a must have for a fan of The Gathering
, especially since this album was a definite improvement over Low
(easily their worst album, so I guess that isnít saying much). This marks the point in Testamentís career where the double bass and brutal drumming became part of their sound as well as where they really began to expirament. Instead of "selling out" and becoming softer with the change in the music scene like many of their contemporaries (Metallica, Megadeth) Testament forged their own sound and though forced deeper into the underground, refused to let up on the intensity. Plus this album has cool cover art.
Together As One 4.5/5
Murky Waters 4/5
Demonic Refusal 3/5