Testament – Titans of Creation
Released: 4th of April, 2020
TESTAMENT Line up:
Chuck Billy | vocals
Eric Peterson | guitars
Alex Skolnick | guitars
Steve DiGiorgio | bass
Gene Hoglan | drums
These are strange times indeed, the world around us more and more reflects the plot of a Stephen King novel. As life imitates art imitating life we hear the sad news Testament front-man Chuck Billy, his wife Tiffany along with several crew members have tested positive for Covid-19. I can speak for all here at Wall of Sound when I say, get well soon Chuck, Tiffany and crew we are sending all the good vibes we can.
So while Chuck is in quarantine with no physical contact with the outside world he’s left us with a gift. Twelve tracks of unrelenting thrash metal. Titans Of Creation was not created with the current pandemic in mind, but the timing is tragically on point.
Speaking of tragic Chuck and co take on Heaven’s Gate, one of the more infamous and down-right crazy religious cults. The opening track ‘Children Of The Next Level’ explodes out of the blocks with a galloping thunder of thrash brutality. This is pure unadulterated Testament, a warning shot across the bow to the listener. What you are about to experience is going to be heavy, brutal and not for the faint of heart.
The impending doom continues at break-neck speed on the next track ‘WW III’, a thundering maelstrom of distorted guitars and Gene Hoglan’s insane drumming. The master of the blast beat effortlessly transitions between machine-gun thrash and swing infused beats. Lyrically you’d have to think the line “forever raining blood” is a nod to fellow thrash legends Slayer. While I’m referencing other metal bands, and bear with me here, the chorus to ‘Dream Deceiver’ has a real Dokken vibe about it. The whole song is old school, it’s thrashy as fuck with 80’s metal woven throughout. To me it’s not a stretch to imagine Don Dokken harmonising with Chuck Billy – that’s not something I thought I’d ever write.
A highlight is the brutal ‘Night Of The Witch’. The fourth track not only features influence from the spooky as fuck horror flick The Witch, but also has axe-man Eric Peterson stepping up to the microphone and dropping some evil as shit black metal style vocals. In the mix is Alex Skolnick’s trademark mad shredding guitar work and, I kid you not, a Theremin. But it’s 2020 and what’s old is new, so if you want to throw up something fresh nothing touches a Theremin … (I’ll see myself out). The band throw a musical curveball with ‘City Of Angels’. Shifting away from their usual sound they venture into territory I’ve not heard from the Berkley thrashers before. Peterson and Skolnick’s guitars take on a sludgy early Black Sabbath vibe, Steve DiGorgio’s bass is dirty, menacing and heavy as fuck. Speaking of menacing, Chuck Billy spits some deliciously gruesome lyrics re-telling the story of the Nightstalker killer. ‘Ishtar’s Gate’ sees the band back in familiar territory digging deep into Babylonian history. One thing I’ve always loved about metal bands who take influence from history is it gives me an excuse to learn about places and points in history I’d previously never knew about. Back in the old days I’d go to the library with a bunch of lyrics in my head and discover new worlds of savagery and wonders. Now I find myself I spending an afternoon disappearing down a Wikipedia rabbit hole while Testament thrashes in my head. History class was never this fucking heavy or cool.
The seventh track is designed to bring you crashing back to earth by tackling the all-important issue of mental health. ‘Symptoms’ is a classic technical thrash track. At times it feels like there’s almost too much going on at times but somehow the band keep it together. Much like the subject matter, it’s a swirling rollercoaster of dizzying guitar work and off the chart double slap beats. Snake oil salesmen have been a happy hunting ground for many metal bands. With ‘False Prophet’ we are warned once again to avoid those who have one hand offering salvation while the other is accepting money. Musically the song is a combination of furious thrash and slow stomping grooves with enough timing changes to make your head spin like Linda Blair.
Track nine sees Chuck Billy digging deep into his Native American heritage with ‘The Healers’. A story of connection to the Earth and the power it delivers all set to a classic thrash soundtrack. Hoglan outdoes himself again with furious double kick drums we are lurched back once again to ancient Babylon and the ‘Code Of Hammurabi’. It’s a galloping history lesson with the genre defying Steve DiGiorgio’s intro once again showing why he is one of the best bass players of a generation. It’s not hard to imagine this song played live with audience participation at fever pitch screaming “Eye for an eye for an eye!”
This album is as unrelenting as it is heavy. ‘Curse Of Osirs’ is a delve into Egyptian mythology at break neck speed, with Peterson’s devilishly evil vocals once again perfectly complementing Chuck Billy’s gruff yell. It honestly feels like I’ve been hit by a freight train. Thirteen albums in and these trash legends are still delivering the goods.
Testament have unintentionally delivered the soundtrack to the pandemic we all find ourselves in. Titans Of Creation is an adrenaline filled apocalyptic masterpiece, ignore it at your peril.
Testament – Titans Of Creation tracklisting:
1. Children Of The Next Level
2. WW III
3. Dream Deceiver
4. Night Of The Witch
5. City Of Angels
6. Ishtars Gate
8. False Prophet
9. The Healers
10. Code Of Hammurabi
11. Curse Of Osiris