TESTAMENT - THE LEGACY - ATLANTIC
Testament’s debut is titled The Legacy because the band’s first name was Legacy. After all, a legacy and a testament are pretty much the same things.
Right from the start, Testament was compared to Metallica, given the fact that they were both from the Bay Area, they both had a guitarist who had been a student of Joe Satriani’s (Kirk Hammett and Alex Skolnick), and the singers (James Hetfield and Chuck Billy) had similar voices. Yet still, Testament is different from Metallica in more than one way, especially on this album. Chuck’s vocals are a bit more fierce and less sloppy I don’t know how else to put it. Alex Skolnick clearly is the better guitar player, and the songs feature more breaks and tempo changes than Metallica’s debut album.
The whole album is great, but a few songs stand out. Over The Wall is the musical _expression of determination, C.O.T.L.O.D. is pure speed, and Do Or Die with its dragging chorus sounds unlike any other thrash metal band of the time. The Legacy is closed by the longest song, Apocalyptic city probably a pyromaniac’s fantasy ("Burn apocalyptic city").
Other Testament releases may have better compositions (at least the ones with Alex Skolnick), but none of them own the aggressive, yet skillful style of The Legacy. - Andreas Herzog
TESTAMENT – THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION – NUCLEAR BLAST
The Formation Of Damnation is not only the first Testament studio album since The Gathering (1999), but it is also the first studio recording with original lead guitarist Alex Skolnick since The Ritual (1992). The sound comes across as a mixture of Practice What You Preach and Souls Of Black, although somewhat more aggressive. Chuck Billy’s vocals are back to a medium range, and he just occasionally drops into some deep grunts. The instrumental For The Glory Of sets up the opener More Than Meets The Eye, an up-tempo song with a galloping main riff. The lyrics deal with a psychotic person who manages to overcome his or her psychosis. The Evil Has Landed (nice pun on “The eagle has landed”) has melodic main leads and a staccato riff with many breaks. The song looks back on September 11. The title track is a fast thrasher with excellent lyrics about war and resistance with deep, dark vocals. Dangers Of The Faithless is a slower tune with distorted vocals in the verse and clean vocals in the chorus. It is reminiscent of Souls Of Black material not only because of the music, but also the religious motifs in the lyrics. The Persecuted Won’t Forget starts with a frenzy of drums and guitars, but soon slows down. Overall, it is somewhat simplistic. Henchmen Ride is one of the album’s highlights and really traditional in its structures. Killing Season has a modern groove touch and does not really fit in with the rest of the songs, but Afterlife is a lot better. Its vocals follow the main riff and set up a slow-rolling, controlled mood. F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real – maybe a comment on the “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq? The song itself has some nice breaks and interludes. Leave Me Forever closes the album with some jazzy melodies and brutal outbursts.
It is hard to judge the album as a whole when you compare it with the band’s back catalogue. Recorded, engineered and mixed by Andy Sneap, the sound is brutal and intense. The band has adapted to modern standards, but very rarely uses elements of nu metal. Alex Skolnick has brought some much needed creativity back, and a few songs (opener, title track, Henchmen Ride, F.E.A.R.) fit well into the long row of the band’s classics. Fans can buy the album without hesitation, but new listeners should check out some older stuff first – most of all, The Legacy. – Andreas Herzog
In the thrash metal scene of the mid-'90s, there is no middle ground. Select few, like Slayer, make the leap to established fixtures in music. Others fade away: victims of massive indifference from former fans of the genre who have defected to the more brutal sounds of death metal. With the release of their sixth full-length album, Testament singer Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and James Murphy, bassist Greg Christian and new drummer Jon Dette find themselves in the aforementioned purgatory. The future of the band is about to be decided, based on the merit of their latest effort, Low. Ali “The Metallian” interviews guitarist James Murphy in 1995.
METALLIAN: This album is promoted and marketed as ‘heavy, heavier, heaviest.’ Why?
JAMES MURPHY: Marketing people can’t do their jobs unless they have something to say. There is some truth to every marketing campaign and this is the truth. They didn’t want us to write a heavy album. They wanted us to write an alternative album and be hip and trendy, but we ignored them.
METALLIAN: What makes Low Testament’s heaviest?
JAMES MURPHY: Power and aggression. Low has a great feeling, and a groove. It’s not contrived or phoney. It’s a very catchy album with memorable hooks and rifts. We didn’t sit down and meticulously plan it. We just let it happen. There was no influence by the label on the album.
METALLIAN: Tell me the meaning behind the title.
JAMES MURPHY: It’s the catchiest song on the album and it conveys best what we want to put forth. Chuck sings on the lower register ‘cause we’ve tuned down the guitars - to C sharp on side one, and D on the rest of the album. We tune to whatever seems right.
METALLIAN: P.C. complains about corporate America. However, Atlantic is a corporation for which you earn money.
JAMES MURPHY: I think you are misinterpreting it. I would also challenge you on the notion that we are earning money for them (laughs). We are not complaining about corporations in general. We are talking about those, which control the textile and fuel industries. They put pressure on the government to keep alternative sources of energy out of the way - we are talking about hemp. The music industry has nothing to do with that.
METALLIAN: Apart from James Murphy, ex-Evil Dead drummer Jon Dette is also new to the fold.
JAMES MURPHY: John Tempesta departed to join White Zombie. It turned out that Evil Dead, now called Terror, were jamming at the same place as White Zombie. As John was passing by Terror’s rehearsal he heard Jon jamming some Testament tunes. John stuck his head in and told him he should audition for us. Terror were upset at losing their drummer, but they understood.
METALLIAN: Since you have a background stemming from the underground metal scene, I wonder what you think of the big black metal influx currently.
JAMES MURPHY: I don’t see it getting huge. It might be bigger because of sensationalism, but Satanic metal is only sensational to those people who are shocked or offended by it. I am agnostic. I can’t be shocked by anything they do. They run around with make-up and they have fake blood and swords - it doesn’t impress, frighten or intrigue me. I’ll listen to a black metal band if they are good. Although, very few of them have anything to say musically. They range in age from 12 to 15 and they think they are really bad and evil: ‘Oh, we’ve got the black metal mafia, and we’ll kill you.’ They live sheltered lives. Bring them to a tough urban neighbourhood in the U.S.A and leave them there on their own. Then see how long it takes for them to shit their pants and cry to go home to mummy. See if Satan’s gonna help them in a crack neighbourhood!
METALLIAN: Finally, what were the difficulties in your release from your Roadrunner contract and what are the chances of a second Disincarnate album in the future?
JAMES MURPHY: Roadrunner was actually going to release me. The Disincarnate album did OK, but it didn’t make me any money. It cost me money! When they heard about Testament’s interest in me, they decided not to drop me! Now I have a suspension contract to be in this band. Should I leave Testament, I still have to pay them advances I owe them. They are allowed to recoup off any money I make with Testament. Basically, they have me. Maybe I’ll do another Disincarnate or solo album on Roadrunner!
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 13.