|Testament – ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ (Nuclear Blast Records)|
|Written by Nick Russell|
|Wednesday, 28 December 2016 04:30|
When Testament supported Anthrax on their ‘Among The Living’ tour way back in the day, I managed to catch them at Leicester De Montfort Hall and Hammersmith Odeon: two great nights of total thrash, there was to be no looking back.
From the thrash-tastic debut ‘The Legacy’ all the way through to more measured metal of 2012’s ‘Dark Roots Of Earth’, they’ve always had something that resonated with me. Thrashy with no small amount of melody and equally ultra-heavy when called for. Fast forward to 2016 and there are stories that their new album would hark back to that heavier sound they had from 1999’s ‘The Gathering’, things were looking good.
The title track sets out the intent of the whole record, a chugging thrash riff with Gene Hoglan battering the hell out of his snare drum, ‘Pale King’ is a faster tune, with hints of old school Metallica and Kreator in the riff department. That old school feel really comes to the fore with ‘Stronghold’, an out and out thrasher, one of the best tracks here. The riff at the beginning of ‘Seven Seals’ is pure Randy Rhodes, before it turns into a jagged juggernaut of a tune, very heavy. ‘Born In a Rut’ could be from their ‘Low’ era, a steady chugger with some mega double bass work.
Another fast riff follows in the form of ‘Centuries of Suffering’, a quality head banger, with a slight punky feel to the riffs in the chorus. If you want it faster, look no further than ‘Black Jack’, an absolute raging song, with blast beats and killer bass work from Steve Di Gorgio, very heavy, but countered with some fine melodic singing from Chuck Billy. ‘Neptune’s Spear’ was the code name given for the task of sorting out a certain Mr Bin Laden, a steady chugger here. The rather obviously titled ‘Canna-Business’ is all about the legalisation of da herb, another fast riffing song. Finishing off with ‘The Number Game’, with Mr Hoglan weaving his trademark cymbal work all over the place another fast tune, nice and heavy.
Chuck Billy is singing as good as ever, growling when needed but also very melodic, proper actual singing. And lyrically, he’s covering a range of topics from secret societies to gambling to serial killing. Apparently he didn’t enjoy the process of recording this album, having to do a lot of the work in the studio, which may go some way to explain the sometimes brutal delivery he gives the songs.
As for guitar work, Eric Peterson has written some killer music, with some of the fastest and heaviest riffs they’ve ever done, more than matched with Alex Skolnick playing his part, the pair of them riffing to the max. The solo work from Alex is also pretty stunning, the boy can play, but Eric chips in with a couple as well. And as for the rhythm section, that just takes them to another level. The Atomic Clock is equal parts a brutal destruction machine and a dextrous genius. And Steve Di Gorgio is the embodiment of Cliff Burton, a hulking hippy of a man but without the bell bottoms!
This album is loud, fast, and heavy, with an Andy Sneap in-your-face mix that brings the old school thrash vibe smashing into the 21st century.
A brilliant thrash album from yet another old band showing the young pups what it’s all about.
One of my albums of the year.