Back in November Nuclear Blast announced they were going to reissue five classic Albums by the California thrash behemoths. The three studio albums, Demonic, The Gathering and First Strike Still Deadly, along with Live At The Fillmore and Live In Eindhoven. Live albums are always touched up, so I thought, with the arrival of Chuck Billy and Co in the UK next month, that it might be worth getting stuck back into these releases.
First up is Demonic and what a beast of an album this is. Huge riffs, malevolent growling from Chuck Billy and the drumming of the monster Gene Hoglan all add up to produce an album that started the move to an even heavier almost death metal sound for the band. Opening with the skull crushing Demonic Refusal, it is relentless until the final bars of Nostrovia. Demonic was the seventh album for the band and came amid a period of lineup changes and a struggle with their sound as grunge took the middle ground. Previous album Low had meet with a mixed response but Demonic grabbed the bull by the bollocks and boy does it hit hard. Jun-Jun, the bludgeoning John Doe, the thrash fusion of New Eyes Of Old and Ten Thousand Thrones all punch in the throat. An underrated release that always pleases. 8/10
Two years later and with more changes to the lineup, the band moved to a faster thrashier sound which really upped the game another level. Is there a better, more frenetic opening to an album that the blistering D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)? I doubt it. 1999’s The Gathering has long been one of my favourite Testament albums and holy mother of Mary does it deliver. Steve DiGiorgio and Dave Lombardo provided a formidable rhythm section, anchoring a blistering album which contained visceral riffage from Eric Peterson and James Murphy and an expansion of Chuck Billy’s vocal delivery with a wider range and diversity than on previous albums. The Gathering set the blueprint for future Testament albums and contains some massive tracks. I’ve always loved the prophetic imagery associated with 3 Days Of Darkness, a brooding stomping beast, whilst the frenzied Legions Of The Dead and the sheer power of Riding The Snake provide a demonstration of just how vital Testament were and still are to the metal scene. 9/10
Completing this trio is the compilation of reworked tracks from The Legacy and The New Order, First Strike Still Deadly is a strange affair with original vocalist Steve Souza adding the vocals on Alone In The Dark and the B-side Of Trial By Fire, Reign Of Terror. What was of most importance here was the return of Alex Skolnick as well as the last recordings with DiGiorgio until Brotherhood Of The Snake in 2016. With several compilations already on the market it was hard to understand the need to refine classic tracks. However, stick Trial By Fire, Over The Wall or Burnt Offerings on the headphones and crank the volume up and it’s impossible not to bang that head. 7/10
The Testament back story is a tale of ever changing personalities, infighting and health scares but this is a band who since 2008’s Formation Of Damnation have been a must see band if in town. Roll on 29th March and the arrival of Testament to Bristol.