Testament are quite easily one of my favourite thrash bands, and like the majority of them, come from the Bay Area. That could be because I was introduced to most of them by a kid from Oakland that was over in South Africa as an exchange student in ’89. and with their thirteenth offering you’re in for a thrash treat.
The album opens with a blast and before “Children Of The Next Level” has finished we’ve had Chuck Billy’s clean but angry vocals, Eric Peterson’s ferocious guitar riffs complemented by Alex Skolnick’s magnificent guitar leads as Steve DiGiorgio slaps the hell out of his bass and Gene Hoglan keeps them all as tight as a drum with his metronomic timing signatures.
The popping bass cuts through the guitar and drum battery as “WW III” speeds along, with characteristic Chuck roars thrown in when the chorus needs that extra kick.
“Dream Deceiver” has ultra-melodious vocals over the 80s thrash riffs and catchy drum tempo, but it’s the leads that take us back over 30 years to when there was no reigning them in.
I heard “Night Of The Witch” at the end of January when the lyric video was released and as expected it whet the appetite for this release and then I had to wait 2 months before I got to hear the rest of it. We get to hear Eric’s black metal screeches for the first time on the album and when combined with Chuck’s growls and the vicious guitars it’s not hard to understand why this was chosen to herald the album.
I really like the way Gene changes the tempo and Chuck’s voice becomes all sultry to give “City Of Angels” an even creepier vibe than during the heavier guitars and vocals, add to that Steve’s bass solo at the midpoint of the song along with the brilliant guitar leads traded off by Alex and Eric.
The wonderful undercurrent of the bass being slapped and popped as Chuck sings the mid-tempoed “Ishtars Gate” flows perfectly into the fluid leads and doesn’t miss a note along the way.
It’s quite easy to tell that “Symptoms” was written by Alex from the amount of detail that’s gone into all the guitarwork, but that doesn’t stop Eric from being crushingly heavy on his guitar while still allowing Alex the room for flair when required.
“False Prophet” is fast and intense, with Gene’s constant rolls over the toms and snapped snare emphasizing the sheer speed of the guitar riffs as Chuck manages to combine his clean vocal melodies with the hint of aggression required.
Gene’s feet are nonstop in their pedal abuse on “The Healers”, where the heady riffs are only matched by Chuck’s powerful roar.
I’m reminded a bit of “Urotsukidoji” by the bass intro of “Code Of Hammurabi”, but that’s where the comparison ends as the guitars flail and the heavy stomping rhythm plods along giving a great explanation for the song title.
Moving from the Babylonians to the Egyptians, “Curse Of Osiris” may not be as heavy as “Dog Faced Gods”, but it’s a hell of a lot faster and Eric’s black metal vocals, which are also great on Dragonlord, work perfectly to complement both Chuck’s clean and death vocals.
The album ends with the short instrumental “Catacombs”, and fittingly leaves you wanting to roam through the passages some more.
This album should easily convert any occasional listeners into devout fans, if there are in fact any members of the first group that is.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)