Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

15May/0910

Metal Horns Up: Talkin’ Testament

Bay Area metal gods Testament return to Cleveland on Sunday night with the fan favorite lineup of singer Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, bassist Greg Christian, and drummer Paul Bostaph (Slayer, etc.) Armed with additional artillery in the form of openers Lazarus A.D. and Unearth, the ingredients combine for another must-attend Cleveland metalhead summit.

testament.jpg

Local metal rippers Chris Akin (Pitriff.com and The Classic Metal Show) and D.X. Ferris (Scene Magazine, author of 33 1/3: Reign in Blood) had an impromptu discussion that wound up in my email regarding many different subjects, including the latest Testament album The Formation of Damnation.

I thought that you all might enjoy reading this in advance of Sunday night’s show:

D.X. Ferris: What’s everyone think of that last Testament album? I don’t get it, man. I’ll argue all day that the first album ruled, and the next few blew dog. “Trial by Fire?” more like “Trial by Sh*tting Songwriting.” Ironically, I prefered Zetro’s lyrics, but prefer how Chuck Billy Milano handled the vox.

Also, random note: The Legacy was thrash's only real, hardcore Dungeons-and-Dragons moment. Sure, it had realist songs like "Over the Wall," but stuff like "Alone in the Dark" were some real Dio sh*t. Which I mean as a good thing.

Chris Akin: My God, D.X.! Doesn’t Scene have some kind of drug program you can look into? Testament is and continues to be the single best band to come out of that Bay Area Thrash scene that never saw worldwide dominance. They should have, without question, been bigger than Megadeth. They should have, without question, been a close to equal to Metallica when Metallica was at their best. Had The Ritual not been thrown in there, I would almost stack their early career up next to Slayer. Yet, I don’t think that most even consider them ahead of bands like Exodus or Anthrax.

The first albums are classic, although the production is a bit dodgy. The Ritual was a label forced attempt to make them successful. After that, all brilliant since (although a few may question Demonic because of the vocal direction change). The Formation of Damnation was quintessential Testament - in your face, smashmouth thrash that’s unrelenting all the way through.

Don’t believe me though, D.X. There’s a whole new wave of great thrash out right now - Mantic Ritual, Lazarus AD, Warbringer, Hatchet, Havok, etc. I’ve interviewed each and every one of them over the last year, and they all claim Testament as one of the main influences on what they do. These are all kids that weren’t more than diaper-bound when Testament debuted, if that. And they all found their way to this band being one of the key bands that made them pick their musical direction.

Ferris: Wrong! The Legacy is a classic. It has that whiplash groove that they never came close to capturing again. And it’s their only album with real lyrics… as opposed to “Hey / This is what the people say / a new way / A trial by aiissss!” New Order is kinda heavy, I guess, but it’s just a bunch of chunky riffs. And, again, no lyrics.

Formation of Damnation was a worthy successor to New Order, but that ain’t saying much. It’s a one-trick pony that had none of the flare we saw in Legacy.

Respect where it’s due, tho: After Tha Ritual, the band was the only A-lit thrash band to get heavier.

Yeah, all these new cats love Testament. Maybe that’s why all the new wave of metal sounds the same. All chunky riffs, no hooks.

Except Warbringer, who totally f*cking own.

Akin: Warbringer - definitely great. Not as good as Mantic Ritual in my eyes, but damn solid. They kicked ass with Exodus a few weeks ago…even if they were missing their drummer and had to put in a member of that total sh*t band Epicurean to play the songs.

To me, your statement right here says why they are superior to all the rest - ” Respect where it’s due: After Tha Ritual, the band was the only A-lit thrash band to get heavier.” In other words, they were the ONLY band that had the integrity to continue to live and develop the musical style. Metallica sure didn’t. Exodus disappeared for awhile. So did Death Angel. Vio-lence broke into pieces to make the more modern bands that sort of kept the tradition (Machine Head, Skinlab (I think)). Dave Mustaine decided it was more important to write pop hits, wear flannel and be a “Rock The Vote” analyst before losing his mind completely with Risk. Laaz Rockit died off for awhile (although their album last year was brilliant). Slayer stayed heavy, but became somewhat of a genre jumper, and now in more recent years wants nothing to do with the genre (which is emphasized by their choices of touring mates time and time again).

Not only do I disagree with your statement about them being 1 1/2 albums of goodness, but I’ll go all the way to the other side of things and say they are the sole torch bearers of Thrash, and the band that kept the entire genre alive in the 90s…well, them and to some extent, Overkill.

Sadly, staying true to their guns got them to be headliners to such “major” tour stops as the World Series Of Metal, Ron’s Crossroads and the like over the years. It’s a shame when you look at the list of bands that gave up on it - Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Death Angel, Exodus, etc. I love them, but it’s no wonder Pantera rose to dominance…the path was cleared out for them.

Ferris: You are correct, sir. Exodus’s Atrocity Display C totally owns Formation of Tarnation. The fact that it’s not as popular only supports my argument.

Exodus - Riot Act

Akin: This I will not argue. In fact, I would probably take all three Exodus comeback albums over the Testament (Atrocity, Shovel Headed Kill Machine
(arguably the greatest title ever) and Tempo of the Damned). Exodus now is better than Exodus then.

Editor’s Note:

At this point, like many of the email conversations between these two about metal that find their way to my inbox, the talk shifted to a different subject: in this case, the music of Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and Overkill. Which is another conversation, for another day.

For now, I'll leave you with one of my favorite Testament picks, from First Strike Still Deadly, a worthy collection that revisits the best parts of the Testament catalog with re-recorded versions that actually don't suck.

Testament - Disciples of The Watch

Testament lands at the House of Blues in Cleveland on Sunday night with Unearth and Lazarus A.D. offering maximum metal support. Tickets are still available.

Check out the entire tour schedule for Testament right here!

Click here to visit the official Testament website.

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