Q: Who are Testament?
A: Testament are a metal band.
Q: Who is in Testament?
A: Their line has changed a lot through the years, but for this album Chuck Billy provided the vocals, Eric Peterson and James Murphy were on guitars, Steve DiGiorgio on bass, and Dave Lombardo on the skins.
Q: How hard do they rock?
A: Can you count to 100? Do it 1000 times! Lots.
Some years ago my friend hands me this CD and says, if you like Metallica you’ll love this. Everything about this album is imposing. The cover is a four headed, snake, lady thing with wings. The singing is a great combination of screaming, roaring, and anything else. The riffs cut you in half. The drums steamroll over you. The bass… is there, but does its job within the band.
This album has everything for the metal listener. The explosive album opener, DNR, starts up with a orchestra like build into the main riff, which leads into a blast of machine gun drums and fast guitar which will be reused as the chorus, which opens out into the verse. Here we are introduced to Billy’s vocals, which are deep and throaty without being all out death. He has some variation in his voice, in both style and tone (yes, no monotone vocals!), and you can understand him most of the time. This particular song grinds along and is reminiscent of album openers such as Strength Beyond Strength (Pantera) or Blackened (Metallica).
There are song constructed around articulate riffs like Down For Life, which has a Master of Puppets (Metallica) crossed with Spirit in Black (Slayer) feel to it, if that is possible. And it is, as there is plenty of palm muting action, and a nice lone guitar bit repeated throughout the song. Other songs in the same vane, being mid-tempo metal, are 3 Days in Darkness, Riding the Snake, Allegiance, and Sewn Shut Eyes. All of these songs are quite different though, with different riffing and vocal styles experimented and none sounding the same. These songs are the meat and veg of the album, in that they serve as the solid metal tracks which don’t take many risks musically. They aren’t boring by any means with excellent riffs and solos, and drumming, and the vocals are mixed up to keep it feeling fresh.
There are also the balls-out, speed metal songs on here. The two fastest songs on the album are Legions of the Dead and Fall of Sipledome. Despite being speed’s representations on the album, along with DNR, all are very different songs. Legions of the Dead starts takes about 2 seconds to smash your face in, and spend the next 2 and half minutes kicking you while you are down. The bridge part and first chorus are standout parts on the album. The vocals are roaring, the double kick drums are pounding, and the guitars are being slaughtered. The song has a small modern Slayer-esk pause in the middle before the solo and the abrupt finish. Fall of Sipledome is the album closer, and builds with a slower (still quite pacey though) part with some great tom rolls backed by the guitars. The song ramps up then and arcs up into the song proper. The vocals here are the most death-like, but suit the song. The song builds and builds through some verses and chorus not taking a breath, then out of nowhere it slows right down are we are shown an amazing solo. The solo acts to build the song back into the final fast part of the song to close the album.
They try their hand at a slower, more atmospheric song too. Eyes of Wrath is an album highlight. It starts with a guitar filled with moody effects, and Lombardo tinkling on the cymbals. There is a small burst of power, then the song settles into the first verse which is quite rhythmic. A return to the atmospherics in the form of an intermission between verses, then there is a bridge part (which kind of lets the song down) to get us into the faster part of the song to finish it up.
Finally, one more style is experimented with, which is a genre I have invented for this review only and will never be used again under any circumstances. I call it death-pop. The two songs two fall under this new genre are True Believer and Careful What You Wish For. Both have very catchy riffs, simple yet addictive drumming, and Billy’s distinctive throaty vocals accompanied by some attempts at singing. His singing isn’t abysmal, but only because it used for effect and is not relied upon. I used to hate both of these songs, but have can tolerate them now. They feel out of place on this album, but have two awesome songs in between them so they get away with them. Having said that, this album would not be the same without them. They are like the waterboy who cannot run 100 yards to save himself. The team needs them, and they need the team to succeed.
So there you have it. A great album where all of the songs sound very different, yet somehow gel together to make a superb album full of varied vocals, catchy riffs, some solos, and awesome drumming.
-Vocals, guitars, drumming, production, everything else!
-ummm, there must be something else if I look hard enough. May not suit everyone’s tastes. There, there’s one.
Loses its 1/2 point for not having a killer song (the only one which comes to mind is Slayer’s Raining Blood) therefore not a perfect album. Tough grading, maybe.
-Down For Life
-Eyes of Wrath
-Legions of the Dead
-Fall of Sipledome
But there aren’t any weak songs…