For a band that helped put thrash on the map back in the 80s, it gives us here at Noizze great joy to tell you that the spirit of the bay area scene still rages on with Testament. Since 2008’s Formation Of Damnation, Testament have been on the form of their lives and with 2012’s ferocious and acclaimed Dark Roots Of Earth to lead up on, Brotherhood had some demanding shoes to fill.
Brotherhood starts with the title track which kicks your skull into gear, setting the adrenaline pumped tone throughout the rest of the album. Themes of religion, secret societies and extra-terrestrial over lords are hammered home as guitarists Eric Peterson [guitar] and Alex Skolnick [guitar] set their fretboards aflame with megaton riffs and finger-defying solos.
According to Peterson when talking to Metal Forces about the album: “It's different. This one is more thrash. I mean, this has got some of the fastest stuff that we have ever played.” He isn’t wrong either. Centuries Of Suffering is a slice of pure thrash that would leave a cheetah out of breathe, with some machinegun blast beats thrown in for good measure, courtesy of stickman Gene Hoglan. Much to the pleasure of their die hard legions, Brotherhood certainly sees the Californian quintet at their speediest in years, echoing their glorious Legacy days.
Born In A Rut and Seven Seals gives the album a melodic edge as well as slowing down the pace, adding dimension that shows they are more than a one trick pony. It’s not a complete U-turn, but it’s enough to give your brain a bit of a break before plunging back into the pit.
We don’t know how he does it, but vocalist Chuck Billy is a monster. From start to finish, he is nothing less than demonically brutal and is on top form. Being the 11th instalment in the Testament saga, he’s hurling his competition into the dust. With vocal chords of steel, the conviction of his performance is genuine, and to see a musician continuing to excel and evolve after 30 years is simply awe-inspiring. Ranging from deep gutturals of nightmarish proportion to his trademark melodic gravel, Billy still reigns supreme as one of metal’s finest vocalist.
The one question may halt this album in its tracks, is it bringing anything new to the table? The short answer, definitely not. This shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise, but by no means is this a bad thing. Brotherhood is the metal equivalent of a hot dog; you’ve had it a million times, you know what you’re getting, but god damn is it satisfying when inevitably and unashamedly scoff it down. However, this might not be enough for most metal fans today who are looking for something more challenging. This may be a deciding factor for a lot of fans looking to commit to this record and we can’t say we blame them. None the less, one thing is for sure: Testament have carefully balanced contemporary values of modern metal without discriminating their thrash roots - that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Rest assured, the disciples of thrash have returned.
Brotherhood Of The Snake is out October 28 via Nuclear Blast