Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nuclear Blast Reissues Testament

Despite the fact that I have long considered Testament one of my favorite bands (and, in fact, if pressed I would probably name them my favorite band of all time), I never picked up every single one of their releases.  It has only been over the last couple of years that I picked up The Legacy and The New Order, even though those are arguably their most popular albums.  I blame part of that on the fact that I grew up with their mid-paced stuff like Low and The Gathering and part of it on the fact that I had numerous compilations and live albums that covered most of that era.

Even after picking up those two early albums, I was still missing a few things.  Not any more.  Nuclear Blast reissued a bunch of Testament's stuff on cassette and vinyl and I was able to fill the holes in my collection.  There were three major releases that I had to grab, each with new artwork.

DEMONIC (1997)
I am honestly not sure how I never picked up Demonic.  It was the band's next album after Low, an album I absolutely adore and still consider my favorite by the band.  Demonic is probably the band's weakest release, and maybe that was part of it.  I enjoyed the title track when I heard it (it was on one of the aforementioned compilations), though not to the same level as any of their other stuff.  So I really do not know why I never picked it up.  After hearing it, I can see why it is not well-received, though I do enjoy it.  Testament was definitely trying to alter their sound to keep up with the groove metal style popularized by Pantera, yet also trying to get heavier to keep up with the rise of death metal.  What results is kind of a confused album with some decent tracks that call to mind thrash-era Testament ("Hatreds Rise") and other tracks trying to be more modern (the explosive title track).  Like I said, I do enjoy this album, but I would definitely pick up any of their other releases before it.

I stayed away from this one for awhile, mostly because it seemed so unnecessary.  This came out at a time when a bunch of bands were re-recording a lot of their early work.  It led to mistakes like Exodus's Let There be Blood, a re-recording of their landmark debut Bonded By Blood.  Testament re-recorded a number of songs from their first two albums with more modern recording equipment and techniques.  It is actually not all that bad.  A couple of the songs are not nearly as good, in particular "The Preacher" which has some questionable decisions.  The most unusual and interesting aspect of this release though is the last two songs "Alone in the Dark" and "Reign of Terror" which feature Steve "Zetro" Souza on lead vocals instead of Chuck Billy.  Souza of course made his name with Exodus but was actually Testament's first singer.  These songs are an interesting look at what might have been had Souza stayed with the band and are the major reason to check out this album.

Yes, this is a reissue of a reissue of the band's first live album released shortly after their debut album.  I think the reason I missed out on this way is a combination of my general disdain for live albums and the fact that I just did not know about it.  But, I do love Live at the Fillmore, and I have been enjoying going to concerts a lot more lately, so I took a chance on it.  This is early Testament and it is clear that the band is very raw, but the performance is nonetheless quite impressive.  Testament has always been a very good live act and it appears as if that was something they became very early on in their careers.  This is by no means an essential pick-up for anyone other than a huge fan of the band, but Testament is my favorite band, so I had to pick it up.

I would be hard-pressed to recommend any of these albums to casual fans, but for huge fans of the band like myself, they are definitely worthwhile.

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