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Most metal fans, I imagine, are familiar with Testament's tale. However, for those who are not, I'll sum it up in a single lengthy sentence here: Testament formed in the 1980s playing classic thrash, experimented with more commercial, more 'modern' sounds in the early 1990s, then triumphantly returned to thrash metal at the turn of the century, albeit much heavier and darker than before. This compilation provides us with a snapshot of Testament as they sounded in the early 2000s.
This is no lazy, thrown-together 'greatest hits' collection though. The first disc is made up of songs from 'Demonic' (1997) and 'The Gathering' (1999), while the second disc is the re-recordings collection 'First Strike Still Deadly' (2001) in its entirety. Yes, all of this material is available elsewhere, but it is refreshing to see a Testament collection that isn't simply tracks taken from the classic 1980s albums.
'The Gathering' material is the strongest here, with the incendiary 'D.N.R.' and the pulverising 'Fall of Sipledome' clear highlights. Viciously fast and oppressively heavy, yet also melodic and catchy, these tracks are everything Testament do best. The 'Demonic'-era tracks are somewhat lukewarm in comparison; a bit too much mid-paced bluesy groove here for my tastes. Disc two is more consistent than disc one, though perhaps with fewer highlights. The modern, heavier sound works well here, but you can never beat the original classics, I guess. Still, kudos to the band for going to the trouble of re-recording all these songs instead of just slapping together 'Over the Wall', 'Into the Pit' et al straight off the albums.
All in all then, this is largely a good album. If you already own 'Demonic', 'The Gathering' and 'First Strike Still Deadly', this album is pointless. That goes without saying; that's how compilations work. What makes 'Days of Darkness' superior to, say, 'The Very Best of Testament,' is the fact that it gives some much-needed exposure to Testament's more obscure, yet generally high-quality, material outside of the 'classic' era. 'Days of Darkness', complete with some decent liner notes courtesy of Dom Lawson, is Testament keeping one foot firmly planted in the past while keeping their eye on the contemporary scene. If you're under the impression that - like so many of their peers - Testament's only worthwhile material is 20-odd years old, you should seriously give this one a listen. Or just buy 'The Gathering' and be done with it. By doing the former though, you not only get to have your necked snapped by 'D.N.R.' but you also have the privilege of hearing Steve Souza absolutely destroy on 'Reign of Terror'.