Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Testament-One of My Favorites

"Friday, you will have the chance to party down in the church basement to the Jesus rock stylings of Testament. That's on Friday, 6 p.m. sharp."
-Reverend Lovejoy

"[scoffs] All the best bands are affiliated with Satan."
-Bart Simpson
I love that quote from The Simpsons. Testament was one of my early favorite bands. I first heard them on the local hard rock radio station in my hometown. At the time, the album Low was new and fairly popular. The band was really one of the first extreme metal bands I had heard and enjoyed as that album combined several influences from various genres, mostly thrash, groove, and some death metal. Upon getting that album, I was very impressed with the band and gradually added most of their other releases. I was a little surprised at the changes the band made in its sound over the years.

Testament is a band from the Bay Area thrash metal scene, along with groups like Metallica, Forbidden, and Exodus. The music at the time was not the most extreme, however the lyrical themes were. Testament has always had fairly dark lyrical content, dealing with Satanism and the occult. Even when they branched out more, they still dealt with topics such as rebellion and politics. The music was obviously Bay Area in origin, somewhat melodic. The band's best feature was the guitar work by Alex Skolnick, a classically trained guitarist. Chuck Billy possessed vocals similar to other bands from the scene at the time.

Testament's first four albums were fairly typical Bay Area thrash, however the band felt the pressure that other thrash metal bands from that time period did, thanks to Metallica's Black Album. Testament also scaled down the aggressiveness of their sound at the time they released the album The Ritual. They lessened the thrash metal sound and went for a much more melodic basic heavy metal sound. I still enjoy their music on that album, particularly since the song "Return to Serenity" appears on this album, and as mentioned earlier this is my favorite song.

Testament returned to a more aggressive approach to metal music in the mid 1990's with Low. Alex Skolnick left the band, along with a couple of other members, and as they were the members trying to push the band in a more melodic direction, the band reverted to a harder edged sound. This album features elements of thrash and groove metal, along with one ballad, and one song "Dog Faced Gods" which was much more death metal-oriented than anything the band had previously done. The band's next album featured more and more death metal style.
The band also released an amazing live album during this time period. Live at the Fillmore features my favorite version of my favorite song.
And, of course, we have The Gathering which was definitely a more death metal album. The lyrical themes were evil, the music was heavy and dark, and the vocals were extreme. It was quite possibly the band's best album to date. But then, cancer struck Chuck Billy and the band would not release any new material for several years.

The caption here is a reference to a Testament EP. The band finally returned in 2008, almost ten years after their last album. Their newest album is a nice balance of all of their prior metal styles. It was a good comeback album, not the best, but by no means a bad album. It's just great to have such an amazing and influential band back finally after all these years.

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