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Monday, 2 April 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Testament (Live Review By Richard & Paul)

Testament, Annihilator & Vader, Motion Bristol

For the third and final in a trilogy of heavy metal shows in Bristol during the month of March, it was a return to Motion & The Marble Factory for an evening of pure old school thrash and death metal. It's rare that we get touring line ups this good in the UK so this was definitely not a show to be missed.

Kicking off the proceedings were Polish death metal masters Vader (9). It was interesting to see the most brutal and violent of the bands opening up the show but knowing that there was still plenty of metal yet to be seen throughout the evening the crowd were fairly tame for a death metal show and due to the early start time the crowd was a bit on the thin side. If you don’t know the band’s sound by now, they are certainly worth checking out with lacerating guitars and gargantuan riffs. This didn't stop Vader giving it their all and delivering a set of blistering death metal played with absolute precision and ferocity.

On the previous dates of the tour Vader have been playing the entirety of their classic debut album The Ultimate Incantation but sadly due to time constraints this could not happen tonight. Instead we got treated to a good chunk of the album mixed with some other Vader classics such as Sothis, Triumph Of Death and Wings. The rapid-fire drumming of James Stewart (also the engine room for Bloodshot Dawn) was as intense as ever and by the time the band closed with Send Me Back To Hell the pit was warmed and necks were already aching.

Having drawn breath and shuffled along slightly as the room had filled up rather quickly, it was time for the crazy antics of Canadians Annihilator (8). A huge moshpit erupting as soon as the band started the first song, it was great to see such a response to the band who proceeded to show the Bristol crowd exactly what they are made of with a fantastic eight song set which mixed modern and old school Annihilator. From For The Demented we got Twisted Lobotomy and One To Kill alongside classics like Set The World On Fire, W.T.Y.D., Phantasmagoria and the obligatory Alison Hell. Jeff Waters is coming on leaps and bounds as frontman and he has a very strong band backing him. Alongside Waters, Aaron Homa and Cambridge boy Rich Hinks steadied the ship with Fabio Alessandrini pounding the skins. Having Annihilator a few times over the years and this line-up is as strong as there's been.

Headlining the evening were Bay Area thrash titans Testament (9) who played a mammoth two hour set to a packed out room. I have seen Testament live countless times and they are always nothing short of outstanding with this performance being no exception. The band have a commanding stage presence especially frontman Chuck Billy who always looks like he is having the time of his life on stage. Guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolonick were leaping and bouncing around the stage with more energy than most bands a third of their age. With such a long set we were treated to songs off nearly every Testament album (except Demonic).

We were treated to a fine selection of new and old Testament songs with a bit of focus being on material from latest album Brotherhood Of The Snake as well as from Dark Roots Of Earth and The Formation Of Damnation. We were treated to a couple of rarely played songs off Low and The Gathering before the onslaught of old school thrash classics such as Electric Crown, Into The Pit, Souls Of Black, First Strike Is Deadly, The New Order and Practice What You Preach. The only thing which did drag the set down a bit were the self indulgent solos. Throughout the set we had long guitar solos from Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, a drum solo from Gene Hoglan and a bass solo from Steve DiGiorgio (who earned a plus point from Paul for a snippet of Cygnus X-1 from Rush’s A Farewell To Kings)

These were a bit excessive and could have been replaced by a couple more songs but then again I understand when you are playing a long set the rest of the band need a short break to grab their breath and a drink. My only other very minor complaint was the absence of Over The Wall in the set. That is the best Testament song and it should be the law that they play it every time. Still, a magnificent night from three bands who showed that when it comes to class, the old masters are still miles ahead of anything the current school intake can throw at us.

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