It’s an early off tonight for the Polish veterans and the venue is steadily filling up when Vader take to the stage to give the Norfolk massive the full leather, studs and Satan experience. You’d think, given the other bands on this package Pete and the lads would play it safe with some more accessible material…..nope! Its 25 (and a bit) years since their colossal debut LP “The Ultimate Incantation”, and we’re straight off into “Chaos”, a blaster that certainly wakes the ambling throng up like a nail-bomb going off. Celebrating that epic death metal album continues with “Vicious Circle”. “Triumph Of Death” brings some welcome and more modern neck snapping Vader-chug to the set then it’s back to the old stuff with “Sothis” & “Dark Age” “Crucified Ones” from current banger “The Dark Age” goes over well then “Send Me Back To Hell” & “Cold Demons” finish us off in a suitably satisfying manner. In fact I’d have liked a bit more from the Poles but hey…. openers!
Pull on your skinny black jeans, strap on your Converse hi-tops, he acoustic strains of “Crystal Ann” ring out and Canadian thrash legends Annihilator explode onto the stage with so much visible joy and energy you just can’t help being swept up in Jeff Waters and the lads euphoric performance. Prior to the gig I figured Annihilator would be the weakest on the bill but fuck me, they stole it from right under Testament’s noses. For nearly thirty years main man and sole original member, Waters, has been constantly plugging away and now finds himself with a slew of consistently decent albums under his belt and with a band of young and obscenely talented musicians on stage with him…..they utterly kill it! From opener “King Of The Kill” through to “Alison Hell” (which made me touch myself I was so happy) the lads perform with such infectious enthusiasm I didn’t see anyone not grinning like a shot fox. Jeff Waters Is arguably the best musician to tread the boards at the UEA tonight but, instead of wanky (that’s a journo term) solos, he lets the riffs and the songs do the talking. Absolutely fantastic.
Which brings us to Testament. One of the best and most consistent of the old guard of thrash generals their last three albums have been absolute textbook thrash excellence and personally, if you take nostalgia out of it, I reckon the quality of those tracks are up there with “The Legacy” & “New Order”. The stage set looks amazing and the anticipation is palpable as Gene (former pie chaser) Hoglan stoles on to a hero’s welcome and sits himself down behind the kit. “Brotherhood Of The Snake” & “Rise Up” are perfect pulse raisers and the sound is amazing with Gene’s kick drums churning your guts like a dodgy chicken phall and man mountain Chuck Billy’s voice sounding as clear and as devastating as ever.
After five songs we’re treated to an Alex Skolnik guitar solo…..ok. Then “Electric Crown” is played which is one of my fave mid period Testament tracks and a cool surprise. “Into The Pit” really gets the crowd going but before the momentum reaches fever pitch we have an Eric Petersen guitar solo……now I won’t lie….. I raised an eyebrow here….. both guitarists are the absolute nuts and much loved, but this isn’t the time or place for lengthy indulgent widdle wanks. The band return for “Eyes Of Wrath” before…..fuck me….a drum solo. Again, Gene Hoglan is a legend but, personally I feel his skills shine through on every track anyway so…..no….stop it. Again….the band strut back on for a totally ripping “First Strike Is Deadly” and then….. like a total fun-sponge…..yep, you guessed it….. a Steve DiGiorgio bass solo….which seemed to go on for an age and, to be, honest gave me the hump.
“Souls Of Black” & “The New Order” are hung out and the band leaves to rapturous applause and is soon back for an encore of “Practice What You Preach” and “Over The Wall”.
We get it….. Testament these days are pretty much a thrash metal super-group with probably the best and most accomplished rhythm section in metal today but fuck me lads you kicked the arse out of the solo stuff tonight.