LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Titans of Creation' - Testament
When it comes to thrash metal, Testament have been one of the biggest names around since the genre’s inception in the San Fransisco Bay Area during the mid-eighties. Three and a half decades on, and Testament have twelve studio albums under their belt and a reputation for being one of the most fearsome and technically gifted bands in thrash. Indeed, Testament have found themselves in the news of the metal press a fair amount recently. Partly this has been deliberate, as their tour with fellow Bay Area thrashers Exodus and Death Angel in celebration of the genre they all helped bring about got a lot of hype and attention; but partly this was through circumstances beyond their control, as lead singer Chuck Billy tested positive for Covid-19 and thankfully is now in recovery. And now they are back in the news again for the release of album number thirteen Titans of Creation, which fans have had to wait a little longer for than previously planned (Brotherhood of the Snake having been released in 2016), yet despite this there has been a definite sense that this would be something worth waiting for.
As it turns out, long-term fans of the band will not be disappointed with how the record kicks off, as the opening track Children of the Next Level is absolute unapologetically classic Testament. Starting with a sharp heavy riff, some excellent vocal work by Chuck Billy in the chorus and lyrics which take aim at Heaven’s Gate, bringing Testament’s long-standing interest in the darker side of human history back to the fore. This was Testament’s second single to be released before the album’s released, and even though it is maybe one or two minutes longer than would normally be expected, it packs such a ferocious punch that it is easy to envisage it on many a live set-lists in the future. Much of the same classic thrash metal formula that made Testament so successful is repeated for the next two tracks WWIII and Dream Deceiver, which both provide some terrific headbang fodder as well as some tightly constructed verses and choruses.
The first single from the album Night of the Witch comes next, influenced by the 2015 horror film The VVitch and featuring some piercing screams by guitarist Eric Peterson, this song takes the band outside its comfort zone a little bit for the first time on the record, but is still made up of the great riffs and tight rhythm section that categorises so much of Testament’s music. Indeed, though they are often the unsung heroes of bands, it is very much the rhythm section here comprised of Steve Di Giorgio on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums that give the band so much power and forcefulness behind their music (Code of Hammurabi being a particularly good example of this, with a cool added bass intro). Special mention also has to go to lead guitarist Alex Skolnick whose solos and riffs structures remain at a consistently high standard throughout the record, with some particular standouts on tracks such as City of Angels and False Prophet.
It is through this combination that Testament are able to construct a record of twelve songs, many of which are over the six-minute mark, in a way which follows a predictable formula to make sure that their fans get what they want, but without ever feeling like the music is tired or repetitive. Despite being thirteen albums in therefore, Testament are always able to somehow bring a modern edge to their music and not make it feel like they’re simply going through the motions. There is real venom in many of their songs such as Symptoms and Curse of Osiris injected by vocalist Chuck Billy which demonstrates the passion that is still there for them, and this is infectious to those who listen to them. Added to the fact that they undoubtedly have some of the most technically gifted musicians in the genre, and you have a band with an ability to release successful albums with astonishing regularity. Titans of Creation will probably not turn many heads outside of thrash fandom and does not necessarily stand above and beyond other Testament output, but it is nevertheless a very solid addition to the band’s catalogue and one that fans will definitely take to.
'Titans of Creation' is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.
Check out the recent day-in-the-life style video from vocalist Chuck Billy here: