Brotherhood of the Snake

This latest Testament album has been out for a few days already, but first I waited for iTunes Russia to fix the corrupt files supplied immediately on release (duh, I had it on pre-order), and then I was busy listening and thinking how to describe this brilliance.

You see, I can’t exactly put my finger on why BotS kinda pwns DRoE, the previous one, or even TFoD, the 2008 studio recording (the album that came before DRoE, yup). It’s still Testament. And they are even sort of quoting themselves…

But it’s their young selves they’re quoting, those who recorded the LPs of the late 80s/early 90s, filled with I daresay headbangingly fast tracks – which have been largely supplanted by a more mature and generally slower approach by now.

Not that it’s bad. Testament have always known how to pen a thrash ballad; and when they started experimenting with doom, death and atmospheric rock, it was all very interesting.

But to be honest, if you do go on doing the same experiment for too long, it stops being an experiment, right?

And this time, a “back to the roots” execution also comes with something new: a very subtle change in the way the guys deal with certain harmonic/melodic passages. Testament has always been a very melodic band, but they never really sounded “European”. And on this album, there are times when you wonder if they have been listening to too much Blind Guardian, y’know =)

Some of these moments are found in the second track, The Pale King, which blew me away the first time I heard it, with all those changes, discoveries and perpetual motion. And now they’ve released a video that fits the music perfectly!


on the subject of Alex Skolnick…

…and handsome singers, why, I can’t leave you without a Testament fix.

Now, here is some scary cosmic balance at work here. Chuck Billy, the frontman of Testament, is one of the best singers in metal ever. His name may not pop up that often in various lists and ratings, but actually he’s got a crazy range and unbelievable technique (folk/jazz-based rather than “operatic”, but still).

And in his late twenties, he was probably the most good-looking male I have ever seen.

Sorry for the quality, it’s an old video and apparently not even the band themselves have a good copy.

An obligatory live version – the quality is about the same, and you can hear Chuck has always been more aggressive live. But I hope you know that successfully delivering it that harsh takes even more technique than just being nicely clean an’stuff.

Alex Skolnick’s “last…for a while” Testament album was less “thrashy”, so purists aren’t that fond of it, but I’m no purist.

Chuck started gaining weight in the early-to-mid nineties, but you can hardly blame him for that – as it turned out a few years later, he had some weird sort of cancer.
You know what, he lived through that and still performs.

Here’s a lovely song off their 1994 “Low” album (without Alex) – Chuck doesn’t exactly multitrack in the studio as much as Hansi Kürsch does (Hansi’s a fan, coincidentally), but quite a lot; and if you add up the range of all the vocal parts in this song, including the backing ones, it is frellin’ three octaves. No kidding.

And here’s a great live version of this song – audio only; you can hear it’s been simplified somewhat, but what remains is still beyond impressive: