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Worth its weight in bruises and bad tribal ink - 55%

autothrall, September 5th, 2012

Almost universally reviled as the nadir of its existence, I have to say that Testament's seventh album Demonic might be the recipient of some arbitrarily overinflated argument and hatred. It's not a good album, mind you, easily the worst of their career, but it's wrought from a few 'what if' scenarios that might have worked well enough if implemented alongside stronger songwriting. As it stands, there are a handful of songs here I enjoy, and the rest are vapidly uninteresting; and yet, if we take this into perspective, and compare it to West Coast tripe like Cryptic Writings or ReLoad released in the same year, it practically becomes a manifest for good taste. Whatever its crimes, Demonic still sounds reasonably like Testament, rather than a new band entirely, compromised for ticket sales or radio exposure.

Demonic is the group's 'death metal' album, by which I mean it's not actually death metal, but possessive of guttural vocals. Chuck Billy introduced this style on songs like "Dog Faced Gods" on the previous album, so it's not as if they were unprecedented or surprising, but the fact that he uses them as the rule and not the exception might have evoked some dissatisfaction in those fans enamored with his more muscular take on the Hetfield style. In other words, you won't find much melody here aside from some chorus lines in "New Eyes of Old" or "Ten Thousand Thrones", and it might prove a deal breaker. While broadly guttural and abusive, Billy has a tendency to veer towards the monotonous with too many repetitions in this voice, and without might, memorable riffs to support him in this venture, the transition to the growls is not so successful. That said, the bigger problem for me on this album is the lack of truly great songs. The riffs feel more saturated with industrial nonchalance, and lack that ominous, larger than life impression I use to take from their classic 80s works. About 50% of the chugging note progressions on this album are dull as watching the text scroll by on your local town Cablevision channel.

It's not without a few positives. For one, the revolving door of the band's roster had spun once more, with percussion god Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Death) replacing John Tempesta's short-lived position as he flew off to a greener pasture (White Zombie); and you can tell, because while they're hardly the most complex or exciting beats and fills he's laid out for an album, they handle each leaden groove meticulously. Greg Christian had also disappeared, but they kept his bass slot 'in the family' by drafting up Derrick Ramirez (who had played with the band in their earlier incarnation Legacy). A few of the songs are actually quite decent, in particular "Demonic Refusal", with its faux-Satanic reverse countdown intro and incredible breakdown grooves. Both the chorus and the later rolling double-bass sequence in the bridge are incredibly slammable and entertaining, and it's no wonder such a strategy became mandatory for just about every metalcore act you could shake a Vegan jerky at over the ensuing decade. You can feel this song right down in the center of your stomach, where it repeatedly clocks you with combination punches, and the other highlights of the record, like the cheesy "Jun-Jun" succeed largely because they are similar in nature.

Unfortunately, Demonic is not a single or an EP, but a 41 minute full-blown album, and there are painfully few moments of it that earn their keep. If you're just seeking something caustic, unfeeling and pummeling like a giant that drags its knuckles through a mountain pass, then this might fit the bill for a few listens. It's heavy for heavy's sake, and it's chugga chugga bruise bruise all night long. The 'death metal' elements that so many credit to this record are primarily in the vocals, a few of the breakdowns, and an occasional spike of tremolo picked evil (as in "Murky Waters"), but they're not necessarily the dominant aesthetic, which is instead a sort of fist-balled brute-thrash made for pit fightin'. If your life consists of 'mosh first, metal second'; that is to say, windmill kicks and shoving girls and other man-children around to sate the blood lust you can't express at your warehouse or mall job, then I think you might likely consider this the 'greatest' of Testament. Otherwise, it's a crushing average, not nearly so inspiring as any of the albums that came before or after, with a well of cute gimmicks that runs dry all too quickly.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

The Demonic Seasons - 88%

Tlacaxipehualiztli, August 11th, 2012

Middle of the nineties was a very hard time for Testament. After changing the label, after some musicians departures (Murphy, Tempesta, Dette, Christian, Kontos), after some ideas to create another band (called Dog Faced Dogs), Billy and Peterson, two main persons in the band, overcame the difficulties luckily and created seventh album in Testament career. As a diehard thrash supporter of this band I was very curious all the situation with the band, my worship to the first albums was (and is) unlimited, so I decided to give them a chance without any problems. And just like in the case of previous album “Low”, the same was with the first seconds of “Demonic”. However my shock and astonishment were much bigger. And nothing is changed till nowadays.

So, let’s leave the worst front cover in Testament life, and let’s dive into the opening song “Demonic Refusal” ... yes, it takes me to completely different metal land. After several seconds of sinister introduction, new Testament shows his face. How does it look like? The song is very heavy, strong yet slow and monumental with rather simple groups of riffs and lack of traditional solo leads. Simply: I can’t write that Testament plays pure thrash metal! But can I write ‘an act of bravery’ in this case? I’ll try to answer later. The next element: Billy doesn’t use his clean vocals, only growls. And this is almost (because “Murky Waters” song is faster) complete synopsis of the album. Of course I find here also clean vocals which are really great here, as well as successful guitar leads. The best example is “Together As One”, the third song, where Billy uses both vocals. In turn “Jun-Jun” has great riffs with very interesting solos, just like preceding song. The next “John Doe” is probably the best song on “Demonic”: with only clean vocals and cool chorus. Although it is maintained in the album vein, there is something enticing. After three exciting quick minutes “John Doe” gives a place “Murky Waters”. Aforementioned song is the fastest, brutal and full of ravager growls. This song has also three minutes (of pure devastation I must admit) and “Hatreds Rise” enters the stage. In one word, this is killer: amazing riffs, many tempo changes and superb solo leads (especially the second one kills!). And maybe next three songs don’t keep this superb level of “Hatreds Rise”, I think they just good songs. Good songs for “Demonic” of course… Unfortunately my overall impression is disturbed by the last “Nostrovia”, one and a half minute outro that completely doesn’t fit here. It is much better to finish the album after “Ten Thousand Thrones”.

That’s true that “Demonic” is very controversial album, leaving the world of pure thrash and showing to the fans a deep bow to the modern sounds of death metal can be read as a real betrayal. And I can understand such persons, but… I can see another good aspect of this album as well. Comparing to the other thrash bands, Testament is the only one which encouraged to record so heavy and almost death album (and this is ‘bravery’ I mentioned just above …). Although I consider their two first albums as a base of thrash and metal music in general, I find here many memorable moments (especially “John Doe” and “Hatreds Rise” songs). “Demonic” defends staunchly its metal walls, although many years passed. It still spits the metal venom, their mix of death and thrash causes severe injuries of the senses. In spite of lack of speedy tunes (with one exception), Billy and company show a real brutality with demoniacal and monumental atmosphere. Vocals again on top notch level, but this is not a surprise. Even we can forget about many guitar leads, Peterson played some really good riffs. So, what can I advise to the other listeners? Nothing, but who really cares??? “Demonic” is completely different album when I compare even to “Low”, it is a good omen or introduction for the next ripper from the band. “The Legacy” golden times are gone, that’s obvious, but Billy/Peterson show swinging steps to cross over the hard reality. And I am with them.

Gimme Back My Money! - 15%

marktheviktor, February 20th, 2009

When this album came out, Testament should have been sued for falsely impersonating a death metal band. Sign me up as a petitioner for a class action suit against this fallacy from a band that was already an overrated American thrash outfit. Of all the death metal albums out there, why would anyone want to settle for this? You mine as well just listen to Dethklok if this is what satisfies you. By the way Gene Hoglan, I will get to you in a minute, you’re not off the hook yet, bud.

With Demonic, one nagging thought of mine is that Testament also confuses groove metal with what they think they’re supposed to be sounding like. Eric Peterson’s riffs try to be dark and catchy instead of any real time signatures or solos that might go towards thrash style. Together as One is a perfect song to demonstrate in where the groove metal confusion comes into play. But even when trying to go all Exhorder on us with a song like that, they still fall short. Jun-Jun is another track that suffers the same misdirection. The rough rambling groove laden riffs try to sound like the ones in Slaughter in the Vatican and they are lame.

Any song called John Doe must sound as lame and boring as its title. And those vocals! Talk about more groove metal suckitude of the throat. But let me back up to Chuck Billy’s main vocal style with an example from the first song of Demonic Refusal (oooohh so evil!). The song just chugs with a mid paced rhythm and down-tuned guitars. Chuck’s vocals come in at about the minute mark with mid to high death metal growls. Ok, now skip to the song Murky Waters. You will hear basically the same formula in the opening chords as the first song. Those growls sound like lobotomized Glen Benton. And then everything just speeds on up to utter predictability.

Hatreds Rise is the worst song on this album. It goes right back to the post-thrash sound that curses this album with failure. It sounds like Prong and Machine Head and is just as shitty as a result. Listening to Distorted Lives will make you wonder why a thrash band would even want to sound so watered down. It’s worse than half-thrash. The band loads every full-bass stack and all the mids west of the Mendoza line and it sounds like a stone wall of disinterest. Alex Skolnick’s presence is sorely missed but I am glad he didn’t play on here.

Gene Hoglan’s drumming is that what you would expect of a journeyman smash-for-hire: a predictable and boring display of hits and whipping on slower speed. Ok, he doesn’t do a horrible job but it’s not exactly a bang up job either. On this album, he definitely sounds like he took this gig for the paycheck. To his credit, he’s the one who is setting the pace for this whole thing; not the bassist as you would be lead to believe despite Derrick Ramirez’s forefront presence.

New Eyes of Old starts out somewhat promising for about the first 30 seconds and devolves into complete shit. Chuck does more death-y growls underpinned by bad groove metal laden singing kind of like White Zombie or some shit. The only kind of good track is Nostrovia which is thankfully at the end of this mishap. It’s not very long and it is more of an instrumental than anything else. It’s actually an end song that is filler but when the filler is better than the other songs, you know the album sucks, believe me.

Demonic in a lot of ways represents everything that sucked about thrash metal bands in the mid to late 1990’s; revolving line-ups, ill-advised switching of styles and overproduced catchiness that might disguise itself as progressive but with the opposite effect. This album by Testament should be forgotten unless you have a bad taste for a washed up thrash bands with bad ideas.

Well it's alright if you ask me - 72%

Cheeses_Priced, January 21st, 2008

This is where Testament got fed up and went death metal, supposedly. Maybe this is what death metal sounds like to Testament fans. To me (a death metal fan) it sounds pretty much like Testament, only slowed down, tuned down, and with less melody. And that's what it is. There's also much more vocal melody than you'd hear from almost any death metal album, but it's delivered in a very gruff voice, without much range, although the majority is straight cookie monster singing.

It also tends to be more rhythmic and groovy, which may deter thrashers on principle alone. The rhythms are too involved for it to come across like nu-metal; it might be more accurate to call it “churning” than “groovy.” Another sticking point is that there is very little soloing, which doesn't seem very remarkable or objectionable to me, but disciples of the old-school metal sound demand solos or else a written apology. I don't miss it and James Murphy isn't a favorite of mine anyhow.

The songs tend start off in the album's typical groove/churn mode, then go into a big breakdown, then come back to the main idea. Opening track “Demonic Refusal” does it best, with a totally monstrous breakdown that makes me think of Metallica's “One” right before the ending solo kicks off. “Murky Waters” does variation of the formula, starting off with a faster, thrashier riff and then going into a slow-motion watery breakdown.

This is my favorite Testament album, although that is admittedly much more an indication of my quirks as a listener than its relationship with the rest of their catalog. It's hard to say if this album would be better or worse known if it was put out by a different band that wasn't expected to sound a certain way. Nor recommended either for Testament fans or death metal fans, but still, recommended.

Sucky sucky - 1%

morbert, October 11th, 2007

Not even worth five dollars. This is by far the biggest abomination ever released under the Testament moniker. Talking about that name, ‘Testament’, everything that refers to that once glorious band is completely absent here. No more powerful thrash metal vocals with either some melody or high pitched screams. No more raging sloppy drums, no more thrash metal riffs and no more mind blowing guitar solos. Yes, all four of those key elements in the original Testament sound are missing.

Billy and Peterson for that matter are the only members from their most famous line-up left here, being 40% of what once was. This 40% however does not do what they became famous for. I’m not saying they are obliged to do so as individuals but I do think you much honour the name and style of a band concept. If you want to do something else, use a new band name, create a project or whatever. Chuck Billy refuses to sing and just barks his way through the album. Peterson has forgotten he once wrote about 100 thrash metal riffs each year? I cannot call anything he wrote on this album a riff, just down tuned chugging here and there. This album does not sound anything like Testament.

Why on earth did they release this crap under their old name? Peterson releases his black metal imitations under the name ‘Dragonlord’, so why not this crap? Did they realize this was so bad it would not sell if they didn’t use the name Testament? ‘Demonic’ is a huge disgrace to the name. For God’s sake even the album cover is hideous! The band themselves must have realised this as well two few years later they started playing thrash metal again on the ‘Gathering’ album and in 2005 they welcomed back Skolnick, Christian and Clemente.

Solid release from Testament - 91%

ozzeh, April 5th, 2007

Damn! I've always been a fan of Testament, especially their more thrash oriented stuff, but this is a fucking good attempt at switching gears for them. Eric Peterson absolutely takes no prisoners on guitar here, holy shit! Delving into death metal was not a bad idea at all for these guys and Hoglan makes sure the transition is as heavy as possible. While this is obviously not death metal per se, this is the most death metal related Testament has or will ever sound. They hinted at this transition on "Low", but here they go all out with heaviness. I honestly think this is a much better album overall than "Low" (except for the song "Trail of Tears" that is one of my favorite Testament songs ever).

"Demonic Refusal" has some very technically awe-inspiring guitar work and drumming. Chuck Billy's vocals are fucking awesome as always. He has always been one of my favorite vocalists and for good reason, he can vary his vocals as necessary and is always on point with his delivery. "The Burning Times" is another kick-ass offering of crushing heavy metal with death metal influences. An excellent song which is as heavy as anything this band has ever made. The riffing is especially great from Peterson and he really knows how to keep a song flowing with his guitar prowess.

Throughout the album the guitars and drums seem to be the focal point for this release. An interesting note is that since Hoglan took over for John Tempesta, Testament's sound got considerably heavier. The drumming on this cd is one of it's strong points and should not be overlooked. The drumming on "Together as One" could seriously be some of the best of Hoglan's career. "Murky Waters" is an impressive song technically speaking. The combination of thrash and death metal is really great. The chorus on this song is especially crushing, Chuck Billy does a great job on vocals.

Most of the songs are in the 3 minute range but they are all memorable. One of my favorite songs on the album has got to be "Hatred Rise", completely badass riffs and Chuck Billy sounds possessed. Really though, this whole album is memorable with tight performances from every band member. This could be Testament at it's peak (which is odd considering how talented they were with Skolnick and Murphy), and this is quite possibly my favorite album from this great band.

Their worst - 32%

Mungo, March 25th, 2007

This is often mistaken for Death Metal, which it is not. This album is about as groove as it gets. Just because Billy uses growling vocals doesn't make it death metal. This album also isn't very good either. On their previous album, Testament incorporated more groove into their sound with the arrival of guitarist James Murphy. While he would not appear on here his style of playing influenced what Testament would later become. On 'Low', there was a fine mix of groove and thrash, with neither really taking over as being dominant. 'Demonic', however, takes the newly found groove of 'Low' and makes it fill up the whole album, with nary a thrash or even fast paced riff at all.

The riffs that are on here are, for lack of a better word, shit. They consist of badly done, downtuned groove riffs that for the most part are unimaginative and even painful to listen to at times. It's not that I hate groove, it's just that it is hard to use it correctly without overusing it or boring the listener. Of all the riffs on offer only one or two of them have any speed to them, with the vast majority being mid to slow paced. There are some claims of Death Metal riffs, and while there are a few they sound like your generic Morbid Angel clone slowed down. If this is not bad enough, there is the grand, mind blowing total of one (1) solo on the album in Hatreds Rise, and even that is too slow to be properly considered a solo as opposed to 'some instrumental section'. Some people may say that they are not necessary, but when the songs consist of badly done groove riffs at least one per song would be good.

Chuck Billy growls pretty much the whole time. His vocals are competant, but nothing special and they just sound like every other Death Metal band out there. When he does do clean vocals they are poorly pulled off and just plain laughable, as he is trying to sound 'tough' or something like that. This is another disappointment, considering that his vocal performances on earlier albums at least had some aggression to them and he could sing properly. He wasn't bad on 'Low' either, and sounded nowhere near as bad as on here, so I don't know where the drop in quality came from.

There are a few shining beacons in this sea of shit, however. Gene Hoglan provides spot on drumming (one wouldn't expect any less) with some great double bass peppered with some fills here and there. 'Demonic Refusal', 'The Burning Times', 'Hatreds Rise' and 'Murky Waters' all have somewhat decent riffing and the latter has pretty much the only riffs on the album which are faster than mid paced. They all would be the worst songs on 'Low' had they been on it, but on here they hold up well to the rest of the album. Finally, the production job is alright, and you can hear all the instruments clearly.

In conclusion, this album marks the low point of Testament's career being worse than 'Practice What You Preach' and 'The Ritual'. Thankfully they would improve on the following album and stop with the sound displayed on this album. Not recommended to anyone except avid Testament fans or people who really like groove metal.

Fucking kick-ass Death/Thrash! - 90%

algolauslander, March 1st, 2007

A good friend of mine bought me Testament- Demonic recently. It was exactly what I was looking for, because on Scrubs, there are infrequent references to "speed metal" and when someone actually plays this "speed metal" it sounds a hell of a lot like this album. But enough of my pointless story; on to the review itself.

This album is, as said above, "fucking kick-ass!" It is among the most awesome things I have ever heard that doesn't genuinely fit under "extreme metal." That brings me first to Style. I did get another Testament album that day, and although I have not listened to that one very much yet, I know that Demonic is substantially different. First and foremost, the vocalist, Chuck Billy (who is the only member of the band that I can recall off the top of my head) uses sort of a semi Death Growl throughout about 90% of the album. The rest is what I would assume to be his normal singing voice, which I actually do not enjoy very much. This vocal style leads people to consider Demonic to be more Death Metal-ish. That would be correct. However, it's still Thrash in some ways. It is very slow for Thrash, but sometimes that doesn't matter. I'm no wizard of classification, but I call this one Death/Thrash. If you think about, Sadus or Strapping Young Lad are not fully Death or Thrash either.

Vocals: Aforementioned semi Death Growl interspersed with occasional singing which, although is not bad in any way, is not really my cup of tea. There's something I don't like about Chuck Billy's inflection or accent or something. But anyone who is reading this probably is already familiar with his vocals. Overall, because his growl sounds really fucking cool, 9/10.

Guitars: I honestly don't know enough about bass to really make a judgement about that, but I'll try for guitars. First off, let me say that the guitarists in Testament seem to have the same interesting ability of those in Cryptopsy of making a slow beat sound fast. I don't know how that works because I don't know a whole lot about music theory, but consequently, anything that is fast sounds really fast. Oh, and obviously, they're very, very good at what they do, but I would hope that anyone that's been in business that long would still be really good and getting better. However, the lack of solos was a little strange for them being a Thrash band. Also, in some songs, the guitars got kind of whiny and high-pitched, but not in a way that I found pleasing. Overall, 8/10.

Drums: My favorite part. Their drummer on this album was the great Gene Hoglan, also of Strapping Young Lad. We should all know how good he is by now, so I won't describe his skill. The drumming was mostly a little below midtempo, although it did get fast occasionally. This is all very forgivable because of the skill and style of the guitarists whose names I cannot remember for the life of me. Double bass drumming was very good, although I think Gene goes faster in SYL. The only major problem was that there were no Extreme Metal blast beats. Any band that experiments just a tiny bit with these extreme influences needs at least one of those. Also, there weren't really any more Traditional Metal-style beats either, such as i am usually used to in Thrash Metal. These are two things which I value highly on a Metal album, so overall I give drums a 7/10.

Production: At least as far as I can tell, it's about as good as that of any other well-produced album. The only problems were that sometimes the bass drum was not so audible, and I like drums so I tend to get kind of anal about stuff like that. Also, on occasion, Chuck Billy's growls seemed kind of muffled. I could still make out what he was saying, but it sounded quieter for some reason. That could have been intentional. Overall, a 9/10.

Highlight Tracks: 1) Demonic Refusal 2) The Burning Times 4) Jun-Jun
6) Murky Waters (but really, they're all good!)

There is my review (my first, in fact). I think that's a fair enough grade. There's nothing really inherently wrong with this release, although I've heard the style caused some uproar and confusion at first. Definitely one of the best or at least most interesting thrash albums I've heard.

THIS IS NOT TESTAMENT - 12%

meedley_meedley, December 17th, 2004

Contrary to popular belief, this is not Testament. Or at least this shouldnt be Testament. Sure, there's some parts that blow you up into a kajillion pieces. But almost everytime, it seems like there's something missing. Maybe it's the lack of solos, or the lack of pulsing speed and dexterity. I mean the friggin riffs are very simple. The only song that gets away with this and sound fucking heavy as hell would be lead track Demonic Refusal. From a death metal perspective, it fucking kicks ass. From a Testament, or even thrash perspective, it's odd. I mean the band was never a blast beat kind of band. But the song still delivers, even without any kind of lead.

But what sucks the most is that almost every song consists of Chuck Billy using growls instead of his more popular snarling voice. Plus he has a pretty clean singing voice. It's not here. And the few songs with the snarling vocals sound a little too grungy and still kinda suck.

Nothing gets your heart pumping to point of uncontrollably going insane. This is not the First Strike Still Deadly rerelease of the first 2 albums. There, the drums were as tight as your pants when a girl's feeling you up, and the guitars and vocals were crisp and above standard. Here, the guitars are choppy (not as much as The Gathering) and just plain boring. That and leads dont seem be anywhere in sight. I would absolutely HATE this band if they kept this up album to album. Luckily, if the new album features what FSSD feature, then there shouldnt be much of a problem.

Bottom line, i would still say get this if your a Testament fan, or a death metal fan. There are some decent songs, but you wont stay interested for very long...

Wrong Direction! - 63%

overkill67, September 25th, 2004

First off, Testament is a lengendary thrash band, and should be a household name that is recognized by all self-proclaimed metalheads worldwide. Their lengthy catalogue of molten thrash metal is an essential part of Bay Area history that is nostalgic to say the least. Unfortunately however, I don't quite understand the reasoning behind this album.
Death Metal? Why? Chuck Billy is obviously a vocalist who is well rounded in terms of his ability, but one has to wonder why he chose to "growl" through this entire album. I mean the guy can actually sing, so what the fuck is he doing? The biggest disapointment with this album however, is the guitar solos, or lack there of. This is the band that once featured Alex Skolnick for fuck's sake! Where are the guitar solos. OK , so Glen Alvelais does a few little embelishments on the fretboard here and there to these C# riffs, but for cryin' out loud, Glen can actually fuckin' shred. Just check out "Forbidden Evil" to see what this guy is capable of, or even "Return To The Apocalyptic City". I simply don't understand the logic in changing an already working formula.
The drumming on the other hand is arguably the best that's ever been featured on a Testament album, thanks to the incredibly talented Gene Hoglan. Unfortunately, it takes more than just killer drum patterns to make for memorable songs.
There are in fact a few decent tracks on this album, such as Jun-Jun, Demonic Refusal, and Jon Doe, but for the most part this album is lacking in the realm of Thrash and leaning strongly towards Death Metal. Yes, I do distinguish between both genres, I suppose that Death Metal can justify being redundant or monotonous, but you can't get away with this style of album if you're being marketed as a Thrash band.
Overall, I suppose I may be a little "hard" on this album, but only because of what this band is capable of. This is without a doubt their worst album and even though it offers a few decent songs, its not a great example of what this band is truly all about.
Worth owning simply to complete your Testament collection.