Review Summary: 21st Century thrash metal: 101
In a world where bands need to progress to continue to remain relevant, sometimes you just need to listen to some music which is nothing more than it ever has been. Contrary to the aggressive characteristics like rapid tempos, shredding guitar solos and straight lyricism, thrash is one of the most accessible genres of metal because it’s so simple to understand. As thrilling as it is to listen to death metal or black metal, it’s not until you dismantle these genres that you start to understand what is going on; whereas thrash has a very instant sound and just as immediate effect.
Another great thing about it is that the best thrash metal hasn’t dated, even after 30+ years, so when you listen to classic albums like “Master of Puppets”, “Reign in Blood”, “Bonded By Blood” or “Rust in Peace” etc, it’s not like you indulge in some sort of nostalgia trip-they’re still relevant now and still as intoxicating. Another album that still stands proud after 28 years is “The New Order” by Testament. Though not as renowned as The Big 4, Testament have remained firm favourites of the genre they belong to and have produced several defining albums while still remaining just as potent as they did three decades ago.
This potency is instantly affirmed in “Brotherhood of the Snake” as the opening title track slams into a full on thrashnado of rapid riffs, screeching solos and governmental lyricism and the rest of the album only continues to display Testament’s refusal to age. ‘Stronghold’ exhibits some brisk, jagged riffs that trample over anything in the vicinity and ‘Black Jack’ has a more rock ‘n’ roll feel to it but the furious pace of the song gives Testament that hefty metal muscle. As well as speed and toxic ferocity, the shimmering, melodious side of thrash metal is exposed during tracks like ‘Neptune’s Fountain’, which are the closest thing to a moment’s respite that this album has to offer.
With the typically masterful Andy Sneap mixing Testament’s eleventh album, you can be rest assured that the talents of each member are gleefully presented to their full potential. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson are all over the place, spitting out venomous riffs and shredding solos relentlessly, particularly on ‘Canna-Business,’ and Gene Holgan’s finest moment of the album is on the closer, ‘The Number Game’, where his rattling drumming leads an unstoppable assault flanked by furiously fast riffing from his colleagues. Chuck Billiy is arguable what makes Testament sound so distinct, compared to their peers. Whether he’s snarling on ‘The Pale King’, growling on ‘Centuries of Suffering’, his barking approach is flawless. The huge choruses that made previous albums so accessible are few on this album however the lack of sing along moments is totally countered by the eclipsing thrashy elements.
There’s absolutely no sense of progression from previous albums: this is just standard Testament being Testament-but at the top of their game. “Brotherhood of the Snake” is an entirely predictable album and perhaps that’s why it won’t be considered as victorious as their first 2 albums but it’s heartening to know that 30 years later they still know how thrash should be done.