[full set of images on Flickr via this link]
A band that’s been there since the beginning of the thrash metal era, Testament were pretty big twenty or so years ago. But while the liked of the so-called “Big 4” went on to fill arenas, Testament joined the likes of Exodus on the sidelines. Still producing some great albums, but never quite getting the commercial recognition of their more successful peers.
So what does this means for the likes of you and I? It means that we get to see one of the best metal acts still doing the rounds in a nice, small venue.
If you’ve heard the new album, Dark Roots of Earth, then it’s no surprise they opened up with the first track “Rise Up”. After all, it does have built-in crowd involvement with lyrics such as “When I say ‘rise up’, You say ‘war!'” This was used to good effect to get the already excited crowd up and yelling from the very start.
1988’s The New Order then got a double unairing as its title track was belted out next, followed by “The Preacher”. The night followed a similar pattern as a handful of new tracks were mixed with some absolute classics, even going as far back as their debut album The Legacy. Trivia time: Testament were originally called “Legacy” before changing their name. Before it was released, their vocalist was Steve Souza, who went on to join Exodus leaving the position vacant to be filled by current long-standing member Chuck Billy.
Chuck makes a great deal of his Native American heritage (as he has every right to), and recent award-winner “Native Blood” received quite the welcome. It’s quite an achievement for a metal band to win something like “Best Video” at the American Indian Film Festival. The Formation of Damnation, Practice What You Preach and The Gathering also received recognition in a night that saw new material being welcomed as much as old. Deservedly so, in my opinion, as the current album is probably one of their best.
If there was a disappointment, it was a lack of material from Souls of Black. It was the first Testament album I got (won it in a competition, actually – on vinyl) and I’d have loved to have heard some stuff from it live. In fairness, they did play something from it when I saw then at Graspop a few years ago.
It’s great to see a band pretty much managing to maintain its original line-up from first album to current over so many years (with a couple of years of guitarists dropping out then coming back and a seemingly Spinal Tap-ish policy on drummers), and watching them on stage you can see why they’ve all ended up working together again.
No mucking about, little of the silly crowd antics and some great tunes. Their first British gig in a huge number of years, and – the best news of all – soon to be repeated. Billy announced on stage that they will be back (touring) in March. Testament-abulous!