Testament is a name synonymous with Thrash Metal. Testament burst on the scene in the late 1980s and quickly became a formidable force in metal. The band released their debut album The Legacy in 1987 and immediately received adulation from fans and critics alike. Fast forward thirty plus years and Testament are still a formidable force. Now one of the “old guard,” the band is respected from their 80’s thrash metal roots, but also as an influence to countless bands and a band who is still releasing quality albums.
On the 28th of October Testament release their eleventh studio album, The Brotherhood of The Snake. The new album, whilst being true to their thrash metal roots has a quality that transcends the genre and is still very relevant today. I was lucky enough to catch up with Chuck Billy, vocalist, to discuss all , The Brotherhood of The Snake and where Testament fit in the metal scene in 2016.
Chuck how do you see the new album, The Brotherhood of The Snake, fitting within the back catalogue of Testament?
Well I think that every record has been unique in its own way and this isn’t any different. It is a natural progression, I mean, back to the old school thrash but still forward in its sound and in a lot of the delivery. I think it kind of sums up everything we have gone through over the past thirty years and really represents Testament in 2016.
It varies on different records. Eric took on all the song writing this time around and then we arranged all of the music. The other guys were busy with other stuff so they didn’t actually take part in any of the writing. They learnt the material and just kicked arse in the studio. Everyone has played so well on this record and we can’t wait to get it out there.
The new album, as part of promotion, has a game that can be accessed through Nuclear Blast, your label. How did this come about and how does it work?
It is something that the label came up with actually. It was talked about months ago and then we finally finished it. This was in time for the promotion of the record and it is just a fun way to get people thinking about Brotherhood of the Snake you know. A way to generate extra interest. It has been really positive for us.
What is the meaning behind The Brotherhood of The Snake title and some of the other songs on the album?
This is a total different flavour conceptually to the last album. Some of our earlier pieces have been more personal stuff and in this we have a story and we have developed our imagery around it. So Brotherhood of the Snake came about as I was fascinated with alien sightings from around the world over thousands of years and it makes you think if there is something out there, it opens your mind. That kind of opened up an initial door and then there was an article on line that I read about the Brotherhood of the Snake. This was a secret society that wanted to take down all religion. They were of the belief of having an alien king, and that humans were slaves to this alien king who used our minerals and gold that we mined. This was a good platform that created the story and all of themes of religion and power.
As a vocalist, how do you create your melodies and keep your delivery fresh within the studio?
As a vocalist I really listen to the music over and over and over. It is almost like, when you are a kid and you are learning how to jump rope with two kids moving the ropes and you need to time when to come in and not step on the ropes. This is how I see my role. It is to weave through the music and not step on it. Find my place within the sound and flow with it and not get in its way, that’s probably the best way to describe it.
Looking back on your career, what stands out to you as a highlight, or a turning point for the band?
I would say after I beat cancer and we had the First Strike is Deadly album and we did the Bay Area fundraiser. This was the first time of us all getting back together, and this opened the door of possibly jamming again. But it wasn’t until we had the offer of putting the band back together and go to Europe again. This was really to be one show and here we are twelve years later. This was a turning point to really committing ourselves to the band and go full on and keep busy. We all decided to do this from that point and it has turned the band around and we have delivered some good records and we are playing better than we ever have. So I guess this would be the main turning point that I see with us.
So now looking forward, how long will Testament be around? Is there a game plan or an end to this band?
We take it as we go you know, there is no real long term plan or strategy that we have. We know that we want to get another record out sooner than the last break as it took us four years to get this out. We aren’t spring chickens so we want to keep the albums coming and keep touring for as long as we possibly can. This really is our lifestyle and what we do so we just want to keep moving on.
Testament is an important band within the initial San Francisco thrash metal scene, as well as the whole international thrash scene, but where do you see Testament as fitting in?
I think we definitely made our place in the scene, where we had started as a band to where we are now. I think that is definitely something that we have bought to the table. All of those Bay Area bands at the time of the thrash scene made statements in their own right and we were a part of this. So you know we have made our mark and I am very happy with how our band has progressed and what we have achieved.
Looking forward now to promoting The Brotherhood of The Snake are there any chances of the band coming to Australia, because we missed the last tour?
Actually there is discussion with the agent trying to get us to Japan in February so we are trying see if we can fit Australia in at this time as this is usually what happens. We really enjoy coming down to Australia, we have a great time and we go over very well. So we definitely have this in our sights and hopefully we will be able to get over there sooner than later.
Testament is a staple within any metal fans record collection. They are a band who have outlived and beaten so many different genres within the metal scene and at the same time retained their value and relevance. The Brotherhood of The Snake is the bands eleventh release and is an indication that this band still has so much to offer the scene and metal fans alike. For any Testament fans, fans of metal, or just fans of true music, I implore you check out The Brotherhood of The Snake, you won’t be disappointed.