For Fans Of
For a genre as influential and as important as thrash metal, there’s a good amount of people that, for one reason or another, are not aware of any bands beyond the ‘Big 4’. If you just scratch beneath the surface level you will find some absolutely phenomenal old guard bands like Kreator, Death Angel and the subject of this review, Testament. These Bay Area band legends have had somewhat of a resurgence over the last decade with the release of two well-received albums in ‘The Formation Of Damnation’ and ‘Dark Roots Of Earth’. Despite several lineup changes over the years, the band seemingly is going from strength to strength. Now, we have their eleventh album ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ upon us.
The title track is up first, and it pulls no punches with some immense drumming from Gene Hoglan and some huge roars from venerable frontman Chuck Billy. ‘The Pale King’ follows, although I personally felt this would have been the better track to start the album with because the intro has a far better structure to it than the title track did. But in saying that, it doesn’t seem as memorable barring some excellent guitar work from Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick (probably one of the most overlooked and gifted metal guitarists of his generation. Yeah, I said it).
‘Stronghold’ is the first overtly “thrash” song on the album and has one of my favourite riffs on the record to kick it off. It’s immediately followed by the harmonised intro of ‘Seven Seals’ which sounds bloody fantastic. I must say that after listening to countless other heavy bands this year, it’s great to hear some audible, clear and punchy bass tones on this album. It’s not that the tracks are especially technical, just that it’s nice to actually HEAR it in a mix rather than have it buried below everything else. I’m sure this is also in some small part due to the return of long-time bassist Steve DiGiorigio. Also, just putting it out there, the tremolo picked, almost-death metal sections on ‘Centuries Of Suffering’ is a particular highlight of the record’s back half.
Speaking of the overall mix and sonic aspect of this album, it is top notch. Of particular note, the drum sound is unreal. Gene Hoglan is a phenomenal drummer, that much should already be apparent if you look at his extensive resume which includes Dark Angel, Death, Opeth, Strapping Young Lad and Fear Factory, to name just a few. The mixing and mastering duties here were handled by Andy Sneap, who the band has collaborated with numerous times before, and it really shows in the end result that having someone who knows what the band wants and how the band should sound is all for the better.
Now, thrash albums are a difficult one for me to talk about, as it is one of my favourite metal subgenres, and it directly influenced my taste in music when I started playing the guitar as a young lad. In fact, my teacher showed me the second riff in Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’ and I just wanted to hear more of whatever the hell that was. But I find that a lot of these bands and albums tend to blend together due to some vast song structure similarities. However, Testament is easily identifiable in my mind due to Billy’s unmistakable vocals and the interplay between Skolnick and Peterson. Even so, the last few songs on ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ tend to just be a bit…forgettable. It’s something that I noticed with 2012s ‘Dark Roots Of Earth’ as well; that their records seem to lose some steam towards their end.
With a new Testament record, there’s the never ceasing argument about bands like this that have been around for so long and their releasing of new music, and if they are even relevant to modern metal music or not. In my mind, I was a far more excited to hear this release and the most recent Death Angel album than I am to hear the new Metallica release. I think that really comes down to Testament and Death Angel releasing albums where they have stuck to their formula, but they have actually made an effort to make themselves sound fresh and, somehow, even heavier in doing so.
Overall, this is a pretty decent release from a band as well established as Testament, with such a strong legacy too. As for this album’s relevance after this far into the band’s career, I would absolutely see them live whenever it is the band returns to Australia. And simply based off of this record – let alone their solid previous output – I wouldn’t mind hearing more than a few of these songs live before they break out ‘Over The Wall‘. Man, what a song!
01. Brotherhood Of The Snake
02. The Pale King
04. Seven Seals
05. Born In A Rut
06. Centuries Of Suffering
07. Neptune’s Spear
08. Black Jack
10. The Number Game
‘Brotherhood of The Snake’ is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.