Monday, March 19, 2007

Testament - 'The Legacy'

Rating - 9/A

A whole gang of people are reviewing this album on their blogs, which of course inspired me to dust out and listen to my own copy and weigh in with my own review, as is my wont.

First of all, I'd like to say there will be no comparisons, after this paragraph, to the famous thrash bands everyone knows - y'know, Metallica, Megadeth & Slayer. I see Testament as their absolute equal in cumulative musicianship, songwriting and heaviness, and perhaps the superior of some of these in terms of sustained integrity and creativity. There, I've said it. I've always thought of Testament as The Little Band That Could (And Can), and I'll bet that the album being put together by the reunited original line-up will blow away anything any other thrash band (except perhaps Exodus) might release around the same. And I say this knowing that Megadeth has an album coming out soon. Hah!

Well, so much for my armchair bravado. Now to the review.

'The Legacy', titled in a nod to Testament's original name, sees vocalist Chuck Billy flexing an impressive set of pipes all over a bunch of songs mostly co-written by another thrash legend, Steve 'Zetro' Souza - and doing a bloody good job of it. To my ears, the vocal patterns and some of the intonations are more Souza than Billy, but Billy never falters. If anything, he has the throatier and more range-y voice, and brings a power and aggression to the vocals that ensure that Souza won't be missed. Listen to him bark out the title on 'COTLOD' (Curse Of The Legions Of Death) - brutal!

The rest of the band shines as well - the interplay between guitarists Alex Skolnic and Eric Peterson is downright preternatural and it's frankly terrifying to think that Skolnic was just 19 at the time. His playing is so intelligently conceived and lucidly executed, you'd never expect such accomplished playing on the debut album by a bunch of snotty heavy metal kids - until you heard this album. Check out those blinding runs on 'Burnt Offerings'! The rhythm section - bassist Greg Christian and drummer Louie Clemente are no slouches either, and the whole band succeeds admirably in creating that glorious wall of sound you always get with the best '80s thrash.

The music is unrelentingly heavy, a cornucopia of textbook thrash riffing, although time is taken to build things up from a clean, almost neo-classical opening on 'Burnt Offerings' and 'Apocalyptic City'. Old school gang vocals bolster Billy's already blasting vocals on songs like 'Over The Wall' and 'Do Or Die' , the only song co-written by Billy easily stands up to anything else on the album. 'Alone In The Dark' stands out a bit with it's soaring choruses and melodies, but thrashing riffs and those gang vocals ensure that it's as heavy as everything else on this album.

The Eiderdown-Stuffing Bottomline:
20 years later, 'The Legacy' has lost none of its intensity and sheer heaviness. It still has the power to take a listener aback with its sheer vehement aggression and the quality of the music. A thrash metal dream team of a belting vocalist, guitarists with huge chops and a slamming rhythm section delivers the goods - and not for the last time in Testament's career, either!


Hum do Harami do said...

Fantastic review of one of my faveoutire albums. Dusted it off for a few spins just a week ago coincidentally and my impressions of the album have only improved with time — for a while, I couldn't get over the rather direct 'homage' to the Four Horsemen during the first rhythm change in Burnt Offerings. The Zetro influence vocally was because he was apparently on the point of recording Legacy when he was lured away by Exodus. For more Testamental awesomeness, check out First Strike is Still Deadly, a bunch of re-recorded tracks with the4 'classic' line up AND with Souza coming in to lay down his vocals on a couple of tracks — he's certainly there on Alone in the Dark and I think he shows up on something else as well. The trade-offs between Billy and Souza on 'alone' are reason enough to buy this, but the rest of the album is rpetty brilliant too. I would've ideally liked the entire first and second album re-recorded and that's the only way I can really see First Strike being improved.

Metal Mark said...

Good review. This album has really held up very well. The music is surprisingly heavy for a major label release back then. I think Atlantic took a risk signing them, but it paid off at least enough.

JP said...

When I listen to thrash and early death from the 80s it always sounds heavier than anything else to me - this was certainly the heavinest music in existance at the time, and I think the bands knew it and that spirit comes through in the recordings. There are so many subgenres today that, while they may be faster and so forth, I don't get that snotty sense of 'we are uber heavy and will crush your skull' that much anymore, more a determined heaviness in the chosen metal format. Dunno if that makes much sense...

Hard Rock Hideout said...

Nice Review! This works quite well with our March Metal Madness!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

quite a good job here...this album has never grown old for me