testament-2016

TESTAMENT – Brotherhood Of The Snake

testament-brotherhood-of-the-snakeOnce upon a time, this writer didn’t have much love for Testament. When I finally started to enjoy music that was harder than Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in the early 90’s, it was because I – like so many others – got into Metallica. I liked Megadeth as well, and the odd Anthrax song fell through my thrash metal filter, but that was it. Slayer came in a bit later, but Testament – no way. I thought they were lame, that they were nothing but Metallica’s sloppy seconds and that their songs just didn’t cut it. Sure, I always dug Alex Skolnick – because he’s a brilliant guitar player and I was always – and still is – very hooked on guitar players even though I couldn’t strike a chord if my life depended on it. That said, I always dug their most melodic album The Ritual (1992) and there was the odd song or two on Souls Of Black (1990) that struck a nerve with me, until something in me gave an urge to check out their comeback album The Formation Of Damnation (2008). It was that album that made me a fan of Testament and gave me a kick in the butt to go back and give their older albums a second a chance and when that was done I had no other choice than to think again about my earlier opinions of what Testament were all about. And in turn, when that was done, my earlier preconceptions of the band were erased. Sure, their two first albums – The Legacy (1987) and The New Order (1988) – are still albums that I find somewhat uneven, but as a whole, I really dig Testament nowadays and from their first era, their last album The Gathering (1999) is my favorite. Their last album, Dark Roots Of The Earth (2012) floored me completely and is today my favorite Testament album which meant that now, four years later, when Testament will release their 11th studio album, they really have a lot to prove – and the expectations from this guy are incredibly high.

Testament shows us that they mean business right off the bat. The title track that opens the album is a full blast heavy metal thrasher with a heavy groove, a striking melody and razor-sharp riffs that hits you right in the nuts and leaves you grasping for air. It’s an awesome song and exactly as good as I had hoped. “The Pale King” is a heavy as shit, but more groove laden and not as furious as the title track. It’s more in the vein of old school Bay Area thrash but with an updated production and with the brilliant melody they totally nail the tune – awesome! We get some brutality deluxe with “Stronghold”, heavy and ass-kicking with some aggressive vocals and mean and fast drumming by Gene Hoglan, but not without melodic and even memorable melodies – and again, I hear some old Testament in this. Another great tune. One of my absolute favorites on this album is “Seven Seals”. This is melodic thrash metal with an insanely big groove and some very memorable melodies that reminds me of their last album. The way that Testament mixed great, even catchy melodies with brutal metal is one of the things that makes me hold the band’s new albums higher than the old ones and this tune is just spot on. “Born In A Rut” is more heavy metal than thrash. It’s very melodic and even catchy but still very hard and heavy. It also sports some change in pace which gives the song a somewhat progressive edge and the striking chorus leaves you completely defenseless – how f**king brilliant!

“Centuries Of Suffering” is a hard and furious metal track that attacks with a vengeance. It’s a hard-hitting KO-song that reminds me some of “True American Hate” from the last album – you can’t really fail with a song like that. “Neptune’s Spear” is a headbanging friendly melodic thrash metal stomper with a big, chunky, fat and catchy rhythm that without any doubt will raise a lot of fists on the next tour – if they decide to play it live. “Black Jack” comes with a really thrashy rhythm but on top there is some rough but melodic hard rock, catchy arrangements and a stunning melody – this is some really ace shit! “Smoke ’em if you got ’em”, grunts Chuck Billy in “Canna Business” and it’s without any doubt that this is a pro-weed song but not in the “get wasted everyday” runt, but more a deeper look on the actual business behind it – a more thoughtful way of looking at things. Musically it’s very heavy, rough and ballsy thrasher that hits bull’s-eye on the spot. The closing track, “The Number Game” is also my least favorite on the album. It’s aggressive, hard and raw, but it doesn’t stick with me and, at least after the first couple of spins, a bit too easily forgotten. Maybe not the best way to close the record, but it really doesn’t matter when the rest of the album is as good as it is.

Because it is, again, a damn great album by a band that has grown to be thrash metal’s number one band for me. Compared to the two previous records, this one is a bit rawer and it’s not as hook laden, which truth be told, is a bit of a downer for me and at least for now, makes me hold the two previous ones a bit higher than this one. Not that it lacks hooks and memorable melodies, but on the two previous ones, almost every song comes with killer melodies and hooks that makes the songs memorable, where this album goes more for the throat with aggression and brutality at the top. Still, I’m clueless of how I will view this album in a year or so because the truth is, this album grows on me with every spin. The rawer vibe also comes with the production which feels a lot more back to basics and stripped than the last two albums, less produced if you will, but when it comes to thrash metal, I kinda like it when the sonics are fatter and the sound scape isn’t too dry. But by that, I still don’t feel disappointed in this album at all and I will listen to it many, many times in the future and I still feel that Testament of the 2000’s are better than they ever were before and to old fans, I really can’t see anyone become the least disappointed in this release. No matter how you rate this album, it’s very refreshing that Testament refuses to be a nostalgia act and keeps moving forward and there’s no doubt in the world that Testament are relevant in 2016. I’d go out and get this album if I were you.

8/10

Other Testament reviews:

Dark Roots Of The Earth

Tracklist:

1. Brotherhood Of The Snake
2. The Pale King
3. Stronghold
4. Seven Seals
5. Born In A Rut
6. Centuries Of Sufferings
7. Neptune’s Spear
8. Black Jack
9. Canna Business
10. The Number Game