4 years since their last album and over 30 years since their formation, Testament are stronger than ever. The current line-up, containing stalwarts Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy with Gene Hoglan recording two consecutive albums, has former member Steve DiGiorgio returning to the brotherhood for the first time in over a decade.
The unmistakable riffing of Peterson is joined by a mighty roar from Billy as title track “Brotherhood Of The Snake” opens the album with Skolnick playing a heavy melodic accompaniment to the riff before breaking out into his lead after the chorus sung with power and clarity only to be expected of Billy.
The sharp snare punctuates the pounding on the toms and kick drums as the guitars build their melody for “The Pale King” with the second guitar playing an additional riff for more flavour, but it’s Skolnick’s lead here over the constant kick drum battery on the outro that’s stupendous.
“Stronghold” has DiGiorgio’s bass popping through the heavy riffs as only he can do, but not nearly as emphatically as he does on “Seven Seals” where the bass runs are exquisite and the reason the man is seen as a bass god by many, ie: me.
Slightly more mid-tempoed “Born In A Rut” has a brilliant groove that works exceedingly well at the slower pace thereby letting the lead flow more freely without the need to be played at the speed needed for the lead on the much faster and heavier “Centuries Of Suffering”.
“Neptune’s Spear” slows things down again allowing for a more vibrant and dynamic lead along with letting Billy use the deeper more melodic elements of his voice.
The first blast beats on the album occur on “Black Jack”, as they aren’t necessary before this point but Hoglan still manages to keep the tempo changes airy and flowing putting the guitars through their paces as they work from blistering to soothing and back without effort.
Unlike on the early albums where the penultimate song was a ballad, “Canna Business” is a full on thrash number about the legalisation of Californian cannabis, for medicinal use of course.
The premise for “The Number Game” is almost as intense as the song itself and Hoglan’s subtle footwork adds to it when you can feel the speed hitting you as the guitars flail about during their leads.
What makes this album great is the excellent thrash feel it has and the sheer intensity that it is delivered with.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)