Review Summary: Low's shift to a darker sound set Testament on a somewhat tumultuous path, but as a start goes, it's not too shabby.
Testament's shift of character over the 90s from being a highly accessible thrash metal band up to and including The Ritual to a death/thrash outfit by The Gathering saw its start with 1994's Low. Despite being categorized as one of their most death metal-ish releases, Low is actually one of Testament's most accessible releases, and the shift towards death metal is mostly signified by the vocals and the guitar tuning rather than the riffs. Chuck Billy's vocals diversified into death metal growls, and the lead guitar work became less extravagant, but the core of the musical package remained more or less the same.
That's not to say that Low doesn't make its differences obvious. The opening title track, besides sounding like it should have come 10 years later from a band like The Haunted, implements thuggish chugging and stop start dynamics like that of groove metal, albeit without coming off quite as brainless. Following tracks like Legions (In Hiding)
and Hail Mary
generally stick to a more traditional formula, with Chuck Billy's new death metal vocals and the lower guitar tuning providing a new weightier edge but mostly unchanged songwriting.
Low also successfully diversifies its sound much better than the more singularly dark albums following it. After the opening barrage of the title track, Legions and Hail Mary, Trail of Tears
provides the token metal ballad, albeit to a standard much higher than on prior Testament releases. The presence of Dog Faced Gods
, certainly a classic Testament track and the closest thing to a legitimate death metal track on the album, as well as the bass driven instrumental Urotdukidoji
also helps to keep the songwriting variety to an appreciable level throughout. Besides disappointing with the closer, Last Call
, most of the intermediate tracks like All I Could Bleed
, Shades of War
deliver successfully with the basic "catchy thrash tuned down to C" formula established by the first few tracks, ultimately leading the album to be much better rounded.
Whilst not terribly ambitious and certainly not an immediate shift into death metal territory, Low still satisfies the core requirements of a thrash metal album, with catchy riffs, great solos, and Chuck Billy's dynamic vocal performance driving the experience as well as any other Testament album. Whilst there aren't many truly classic Testament tracks present, with the title track and Dog Faced Gods no doubt being the main highlights, the overall runtime of the album never really experiences any significant hiccups, and comfortably delivers one of the band's better musical efforts.