Testament – Titans of Creation


Testament are legends. Now on their thirteenth studio album, they’re back once again with another dose of high-octane Thrash. Which means we get dazzling fretwork, pulverising drums and one of the finest voices in Metal in Chuck Billy. It’s also a who’s who of Extreme Metal with Gene Hoglan on the drum stool (Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory) and Steve DiGiorgio (Death) handling bass duties. 

‘If it aint broke, don’t fix it,’ is a common mantra with veteran bands, and Testament have a formula that works and cares nothing for what people think. This is the kind of intransigence we like and admire. Anthrax might be the blue-collar Thrash band par excellence, but Testament are the greasy mechanics getting down and dirty to provide a service we all need. When you’ve got two guitarists like Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, you have no choice but to lower your head, swing that mop of hair and strum your air guitar like a prowler on Viagra.

‘Children of the Next Level’ is the best Thrash song you’ll hear all year with Andy Sneap’s crunchy mix unleashing a flurry of palm-muted riffs and manic drum fills. ‘WWIII’ and ‘Symptoms’ throw in Hard Rock hooks among the metallic frenzy of Megadeth and Annihilator and dazzle like diamonds in a Sierra Leone mine. Yet the standout performer is Chuck Billy. Modern bands with Thrash influences eschew the art of gravel-throated snarls in favour of the Hardcore screams. Here’s a lesson how to sing. His voice sounds like he’s gnawed on a plate of chicken bones just as producer, Juan Urteaga, has shoved a pop shield in his face and hit record. It lies somewhere on the scale between Phil Anselmo and Kurt Cobain with word-perfect annunciation. 

Everything crystallises on ‘Night of the Witch’ with its Slayer undertones and Pantera riff in the chorus that’ll remind you of ‘A New Level’ in its modulation. This is the standout track and no wonder it was the main single preceding the album release. Meanwhile, ‘The Healers’ is pure stadium Thrash from the Clash of the Titans era updated with Death Metal tremolo riffs panned in each ear by the two guitarists. It’s hard not to raise a beer to this anthem and savour the thrill of it dribbling down your chest.

Few of the songs are plodders, although ‘City of Angels’ is a near filler with its crass narrative of Richard Ramirez’ killing spree in 1985 sounding like unintentional hero worship. ‘False Prophet’ is the trademark Testament sound of the late 80s but fails to raise the excitement to the same levels as penultimate track, ‘Curse of Osiris’, and never gets going. At 58 minutes in length, Titans of Creation could also have benefitted with a cull of at least two songs.

Overall, though, this is another vintage slab of Thrash Metal from some of the best musicians of the last three decades. More of the same is not always lame.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 03/04/2020

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Children of the Next Level, Night of the Witch, Curse of Osiris

Suggested Further Listening: Anthrax – Spreading the Disease (1985), Megadeth – So Far, So Good… So What! (1988), Kreator – Coma of Souls (1990)