Testament was probably the most overlooked thrash band of the 80’s and 90’s with none of their albums ever reaching a platinum status. Their guitarist, Alex Skolnick, was taught by guitar wizard Joe Satriani and was probably the most talented guitarist in the genre. He, along with Eric Peterson, formed one of the best guitar teams in all of thrash (if not the best). Their singer Chuck Billy was an excellent vocalist (especially compared to some of the other singers of that time), even though he never really broke new ground. They combined all of these elements and released several excellent albums before turning to death metal in the mid-90’s. This album only goes up to 1997 so there isn’t that much from that death metal period. Here’s how the songs rate:
1+2. Sign of Chaos/Electric Crown 9/10- The first is a thirty-second guitar solo which has a neo-classical sound to it. The second part is a so-so metal song, but a good song to start off the album.
3. The New Order 7/10- Decent song off of their second album.
4. Alone in the Dark 8.5/10- The lyrics and chorus are kind of weak, but the guitar is excellent.
5. Dog Faced Gods 9/10- A death-metal song that is saved by an excellent chorus and instrumentation.
6. Demonic Refusal 5/10- I knew that this death metal song would be lame when it opened with a space shuttle countdown “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 6, 6,…” This does have good guitar work but that is about it.
7. The Ballad 9/10- The first half is pretty much a rip-off of Metallica’s “Fade to Black.” Even though Testament was never known for its lyrics, these are terrible. The song isn’t even about anything (I guess that’s why they named it “The Ballad”). But of course, there are excellent guitar parts that make this song so good, but I dock a point because it is so much like “Fade to Black.”
8. Souls of Black 9/10- The setup of the song, as well as the main riff, seems taken directly from Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” That being said, this is still a memorable song, and the riff is terrific. Minus one point for being like Metallica though.
9. Trial by Fire 10/10- At first I didn’t like this song, but it grew on me. It has one of the greatest riffs I’ve ever heard, and has a specatacular solo.
10. Low 9/10- That chorus sticks in your head and while it is from their death-metal period, this is still a good song.
11. Practice What You Preach 10/10- Great song off of the album with the same name. Try not to yell “Preach!” every time that the chorus comes up.
12. Over the Wall 10/10- Another excellent song (noticing a pattern?), but what makes this song so great is the memorable drumming and the brilliant Skolnick solo in the middle.
13. The Legacy 10/10- An exceptional ballad from “Souls of Black.” Of course, there is an excellent chorus and solo. Builds up and up, and by the end you wish it could still go on.
14. Return of Serenity 10/10- Testament’s greatest contribution to metal is this outstanding ballad with a passionate, heartfelt guitar solo in the middle by Skolnick. Possibly Testament’s best song.
15. Perilous Nation 6/10- Unremarkable song. Not really anything bad, but nothing good either.
16. Sails of Charon 6/10- One of two previously unreleased songs on the album. Good riff, but I would’ve liked to hear a solo from Skolnick.
17. Draw the Line 4/10- So-so cover of the great Aerosmith song. Chuck Billy is no Steven Tyler which is what makes this song not worth your while.
Testament somehow managed to have excellent production on every one of their albums. This is great because none of them are hurt because they sound poor. My only complaint is that for some reason, the songs were mixed very low. This would not really matter that much, but I have to turn it up louder whenever this CD is playing and turn it down again after it is done, but still this is a small complaint. This is an excellent buy because this disc is almost 70 minutes long, and filled with excellent songs. I’ve actually found where Alex Skolnick went after Testament. After a bief stint with Savatage, he went back to school and is now a jazz guitarist. He currently is the leader of the Alex Skolnick Trio, as well as a member of the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I actually saw him play with the TSO and it was a shame. Even though he was the lead gutarist, he sat in a corner and just played his songs. There was no jumping around, no movement, and no passion. While the rhythm guitarist and the bassist where doing their pyrotechnics, he did nothing. It’s a shame because he was just nineteen when The Legacy was released. He could have been up with the ranks of Slash and Jimmy Page had he stayed on purpose, or maybe not considering the sad state of music these days. Anyway, this is an excellent buy. Testament was heavy, but is much more accessible than, say, Slayer. Pick it up just to hear Skolnick play, he’s that good.