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Brotherhood Of the Snake
Release date: October 28, 2016
If the Big 4 of thrash metal were to be expanded to the Big 5, Testament would surely be a shoe in for the open position. The California natives released their first album The Legacy in 1987, and quickly became a powerhouse among the metal community. Through numerous personnel changes, most notably the departure of guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick in 1993, health issues and changing musical landscapes, Testament remained hungry, relevant, and venomous. In 2008 the band released The Formation of Damnation, their ninth studio album, and boasted a return to their classic lineup, including both Skolnick and original bassist Greg Christian. Two albums later Testament has built up a head of steam that needs to be released.
Brotherhood Of the Snake features the core band members that fans recognize as forging the Testament sound: vocalist Chuck Billy and guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick. While the previous two releases since Skolnick’s return have been powerful albums, Brotherhood Of the Snake makes them seem like warm ups for the big game. The lineup is rounded out by drummer Gene Hoglan (Death, Devin Townshend, Dethklok, Dark Angel) and bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death, Iced Earth), both of whom are on their second stint as members of Testament. Each individual has more heavy metal cred than some labels entire rosters. The result is an album with teeth and groove that takes the listener on a walk through Testament’s musical history, and forges a path to the future.
Testament doesn’t deny their heritage. “Born In A Rut” has its roots in 1993’s Souls Of Black, while “The Pale King” hearkens all the way back to their 1987 debut. The title track channels the death metal laced energy of 1994’s Low. “Black Jack” swings between breakneck, racing verses where Gene Hoglan’s drumming shines, and a heavy groove oriented chorus. The perfect syncopation and harmonies of “Canna Business” prove what an effective team Peterson and Skolnick are. The guitarists lock in perfectly to create harmonized rhythms and frantic solos. Chuck Billy’s vocals sound better than they have in years, and maybe even more powerful than they did in his younger days. Testament mines the past, proving that their classic formula is just as deadly as ever.
The last few years have seen incredible outings by seminal thrash bands. Anthrax has been riding high since the release of the incredible Worship Music in 2011, and Megadeth’s Dystopia (2016) was a high octane return to their thrash roots. Add Testament’s Brotherhood Of the Snake to the list of exceptional recent albums from the fathers of thrash. This is the Testament album I’ve been waiting for since Skolnick’s return to the ranks. If you thought Testament was in their prime during the Practice What You Preach or Souls Of Black era, prepare to have your mind blown and your world rocked by Brotherhood Of the Snake.
Reviewed by Jim 1340