TESTAMENT – Brotherhood Of The Snake
TESTAMENT Line Up:
Chuck Billy | vocals
Eric Peterson | guitars
Alex Skolnick | guitars
Steve DiGiorgio | bass
Gene Hoglan | drums
Welcome to Brotherhood of the Snake. Welcome to thrash metal heaven.
Stand aside pretenders, the godfathers of thrash are back! Not that Testament really went away. The quintet hailing from Berkeley, California been making music for over three decades. Whereas other bands who’ve been around as long can boast upwards of twenty studio albums, Brotherhood of the Snake is only Testament’s eleventh, the band choosing (quite wisely) quality over quantity.
Following 2012’s quite brilliant Dark Roots Of Earth was always going to be hard work, but if there’s one thing Testament is good at it’s consistency. They also do things their way, so when you think back to the 90’s and early 2000’s when others of the thrash genre seemed to be chasing mainstream success, slowing down, loading, and reloading, Testament stuck to their guns and released some of their heaviest and brutal work. More than once they danced around the fringes of death metal’s dark world.
Testament are first and foremost a thrash band. They’re also one of the genre’s early pioneers and certainly one of its most respected. With this latest release that authority is more than stamped, it’s burned in like a brand for all time. Lyrically, the album delves into a mystical brotherhood, an ancient society of aliens led by a scientist called Ea who created humans to do their dirty work. According to legend they invented religion as a distraction so we wouldn’t go looking for them and ultimately find the truth – like a 6000 year old version of Fox News.
Myth and legend aside, it’s musically where this album comes into its own. From the opening bars of the title track you know you’re in for a treat. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson’s crunching riffs lay to waste all those before them. In particular, Skolnick’s guitar tone is phenomenal! It’s not something that can be created with huge Marshall stacks and a dozen pedals. Tone comes from the heart and soul of the guitarist’ it’s delivered through fingers on the fretboard. Listen to players like the late great Randy Rhodes (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot) Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society) or Rich Ward (Stuck Mojo, Fozzy) ‘cos these guys have created a tone that’s all their own. Alex Skolnick is the same and his tone’s stamped all over this album. Take nothing away from Eric Peterson, though. His guitar work is the sound of Testament and has been since its inception in 1983. On this album, as on others, Skolnick and Peterson work together seamlessly, swapping lead breaks and crushing riffs with ease.
Added to the mix is Steve DiGiorgio’s insane bass, switching between a metallic rumble that brings groove to songs like ‘Seven Seals’ and beating the utter shit out of his custom fretless bass for the insane ‘The Pale King’. DiGiorgio and master-of-the-blast-beat Gene Hoglan are the engine room of the band, an engine room of technical insanity. Although Testament have had more drummers than Spinal Tap, I for one hope Hoglan is a permanent fixture into the future, with a technique and technical ability that’s a perfect fit for this band.
Front man, Chuck Billy’s voice is more weapon than vocal instrument, a brutal battering ram. The first sound you hear from the big man is a guttural scream that’s enough to send shivers up your spine and tear your fucking head off! Chuck is the voice of Testament, more than that he is the voice of thrash. On Brotherhood of the Snake he uses his raspy guttural vocal range to its full potential, dipping into his high register on ‘Born In A Rut’ and getting down to just plain brutal on ‘Centuries of Suffering’
There have been some quality thrash releases this year, none as good as this from Testament. The boys from Berkeley have done it again, releasing a true metal masterpiece destined to become a classic. Brotherhood of the Snake will be spoken in the same breath as Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Anthrax’s Among The Living and for that reason I’m giving it a perfect score of 10 evil cults out of 10.
Brotherhood of the Snake Tracklist:
1. Brotherhood Of The Snake
2. The Pale King
4. Seven Seals
5. Born In A Rut
6. Centuries Of Suffering
7. Neptune’s Spear
8. Black Jack
9. Canna Business
10. The Number Game
Reviewed by Gareth Williams (@notgareth)
[photo by Stephanie Cabral]
Check out a couple of tracks from Brotherhood of the Snake below: