The names of metal’s Big 4 are indelibly etched into the DNA of anyone who’s ever held up the horns, but if the net was just cast a little wider then who would be next in this heraldic headbanging line?
Well, whenever conversations turn to the four metal giants of the apocalypse – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax – the other name that usually crops up most frequently is that of Testament.
Cut from the same Bay Area denim cloth as Metallica, Testament have made few wrong turns in a 30+year career and new album Brotherhood of the Snake merely reinforces the feeling that when it comes to lung-busting thrash metal they can still dish it out to venomous affect.
While invariably the line-up has gone through a few changes down the years – often necessitated by health issues – this current line-up does now consist of five band members who have all played their part in the Testament story down the years.
In man mountain Chuck Billy Testament are blessed with one of metal’s great showmen, instinctive, with his own inimitable style and a voice that would take the hinges off a barn door.
Brotherhood of the Snake is the band’s 11th album and the opening title track is a barbed wire attack with riffs that almost shred the clothes you’re standing in. Testament make thrash interesting in a way many fail to do.
The riffs are purposeful, well directed and rarely overlong. When the hooks come in you better hold tight otherwise you’re likely to fall off the edge while Gene Hoglan’s drumming is pumped full of raw energy. Collectively the Bay Area veterans have a real depth to light their sonic fuse, which I guess is to be expected having been doing it since the mid-80s.
Tracks like ‘Stronghold’ emphasise what a terrific lyricist Chuck is with Erik Peterson and Alex Skolnick providing the perfect platform for his well penned words with an ever-changing carpet of undulating riffage.
With Steve DiGiorgio keeping his bass tighter than his mobile phone, Testament mix up the tempo with aplomb, at times raging with full on bombastic thrash but equally inserting more measured passages such as ‘Born in a Rut’ to maintain focus across the whole album.
Billy barks away like a baddass but on choral cries such as on ‘Seven Seals’ his imperious vocal talent is given the space to shine through and take the spotlight on its own.
‘Neptune’s Spear’ is near template Testament, an infectious riff opening things up with the song surging forward, tempo increasing, with even a ceiling licking solo at the midway point.
A machine gun drum kick opens up final track ‘The Number Game’ which quickly races off into something approaching textbook Testament, rapidfire blasts, scissored snarling riffs and Chuck raging in his own inimitable style, fingers racing up and down his mic stand in his own traditional style, but with a tasty hook big enough to hang a truck off mid-song.
Part of the inspiration behind the album was the story of a Sumerian race around 6,000 years ago whose driving goal was to rid the earth of as many religions as possible.
It’s fair to say that if Brotherhood of the Snake was being pumped through their earphones there would have been few left standing.
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