Monday, April 13, 2020

Full Length Review: Testament "Titans of Creation" (Nuclear Blast Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Testament
Location: Oakland, California
Country: USA
Genre: Thrash metal
Full Length: Titans of Creation
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Format: CD, vinyl box set, digital
Release date: April 3, 2020
Since Metallica broke aboveground, Testament was one of the first bands to expand thrash metal as a viable musical statement, with longer songs, complex guitars and perceptive, even socially conscious, lyrics. With Anthrax, Pantera and Sepultura, they ensured the thrash genre would be taken seriously rather than considered an 80s adolescent novelty. Testament always retained the gasoline that fueled their first four albums (“The Legacy,” “The New Order,” “Practice What You Preach” and “Souls Of Black”), considered by many the classic run of their thirty-nine year career (including their time as Legacy).
Since its April 3 release, Testament’s latest full length “Titans of Creation” has received mixed fan responses, from phenomenal to average to disappointing. It was described as being titanic and triumphant to being mediocre and overlong. While reading fan reviews at Encyclopedia Metallum I took in what people had to say with a grain of salt and then I listened to “Titans” for myself to see if it spoke to me as much as past Testament classics. While it would be difficult to recreate “Over the Wall,” “Trial by Fire” or “Practice What You Preach,” in many ways “Titans” calls back the unremitting energy and precise songwriting that created a stir for them at the start.
The opening track “Children of the Next Level”, about the 1997 mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult, establish Testament as still fully capable of delivering those qualities. “WWIII” is a wise choice to follow that song, featuring gratuitous thrashing and crunching to go with a dire warning of nuclear holocaust that would have worked for them in their heyday and is as relevant today as it was then. The appeal of those songs leans heavily on the guitar duo of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson besides Chuck Billy who carries through as one of the most distinctive, commanding vocalists in thrash. Steve DiGiorgio and Gene Hoglan are likewise extremely strong backup.
From there on the band’s musicianship is veracious, driven and vigorous, though the reasons for the mixed fan responses I mentioned (at least partly) are incorporations of groove, death metal and black metal, besides production that was described as being too polished and riffing perceived as having been done. Whether those additions were good ideas will, as always, depend on the tastes of whoever is listening, and admittedly some riffs lean toward being repetitive. But overall these songs show how seasoned Testament is after many years of recording and touring together, and I personally got a sense that they put their all into this album and mean every single note.
Favorite songs were those I mentioned above, along with “Night of the Witch” (partly inspired by Robert Egger’s “The Witch: A New England Folktale”), “City of Angels” (about serial killer Richard Ramirez), “Ishtar’s Gate,” “False Prophet” and “Curse of Osiris.” –Dave Wolff

Chuck Billy: Vocals
Eric Peterson: Guitars, vocals
Alex Skolnick: Lead guitars
Steve DiGiorgio: Bass
Gene Hoglan: Drums

Track list:
1. Children of the Next Level
3. Dream Deceiver
4. Night of the Witch
5. City of Angels
6. Ishtar's Gate
7. Symptoms
8. False Prophet
9. The Healers
10. Code of Hammurabi
11. Curse of Osiris
12. Catacombs

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