|» Testament 2009 03 25||
In January, thrash stalwarts Testament, in collaboration with Metal Hammer, announced a one-off gig in London, billed as "One Night Only", at which they would be airing their two first albums in their entirety. After first falling off my chair and then pinching my arm, I booked a ticket fast as a shark. Indeed, the opportunity to witness an exclusive rendition of such classic albums as The Legacy and The New Order - plus selected favourites - was bound to wet a metal head's leather pants with excitement.
After a brief introduction by well-renowned metal journalist Malcolm Dome, the Bay Area five-piece enter the stage, led by the mighty Chuck Billy, to loud cheers. The frontman and his cohorts are all smiles and greet the attendance, who is knocked off its feet straight away with the pummelling Over The Wall. When the crowd sings along to the guitar harmonies of third number Burnt Offerings it stands clear that this is going to be something special.
It is a delight to hear some rarely performed tracks, such as Do Or Die with its charming hooks - one of the highlights of the evening. Alone In The Dark is amazing, also accompanied by an enthusiastic vocal participation from the spectators. The sound is not perfect, but that matters less on a night like this. Looking around me I notice that it is not just me who is sporting a wide grin while singing along to the splendid tunes.
It does not take long for an intense circle pit to appear, although the sold-out venue is packed like a rush-hour underground train which leaves not that much room for moshing activities. Even if one does not immerse in such exercises, however, it is simply impossible to stand still when hearing this band play; your head automatically nods along while your feet stomp the floor to the rhythms. Unmistakably Testament, the songs offer not just power and aggression but also an irresistible groove and catchiness, Trial By Fire being a good example.
Cool bassist Greg Christian and energetic skinsman Paul Bostaph form a rock solid rhythm section, laying the foundation for guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick's outstanding thrash riffs. It is a treat to watch the duo trading solos side by side, clearly enjoying themselves onstage. While Peterson is a skilled six-stringer in his own right, his colleague Skolnick belongs to the upper elite in the business. Making his precise and tasteful playing look so ridiculously easy, the man is pure pleasure to watch.
After the performance of their debut album, the quintet launch straight into 1988's The New Order. That the songs are not played in the exact same order as on the LP does not matter. The band have a relaxed and cheerful approach, Skolnick stating that Testament beat Judas Priest to writing a song about Nostradamus, alluding to the frenetic The Preacher. Taken by the occasion I do not realise until later that Nobody's Fault is dropped from the set.
Instead, we get a devastating version of Reign Of Terror, a rather obscure track which has Peterson miming some of the lyrics to Billy. The vocalist, as usual radiating equal measures of authority and humbleness, expresses more than once the band's gratitude to finish their European tour in the company of their fans in London. Make no mistake, the apparent sense of joy in the venue reveals that the feeling is mutual.
The colossal Disciples Of The Watch rounds off a marvellous old school thrash feast, generating a rapturous ovation. After a short pause, the band return to the stage, giving a brief rendition of Priest gem Rapid Fire, and as Billy announces an encore of material from last year's magnificent comeback The Formation Of Damnation, the response is overwhelming. This, and obviously the fact that the numbers representing the album, the title track and More Than Meets The Eye, are on par with the old material is proof that Testament are as relevant, if not more, today as during the eighties.
Either way, those in attendance will surely cherish the memory of this
special night of thrash metal, delivered by one of the finest ambassadors
of the genre.
9 chalices of 10