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To their credit, Testament was one of the first of the big named thrash acts in the 80s to concoct the idea of an album full of re-recordings, a process that has now been repeated by a fair share of others with such long legacies. In particular, the Germans have excelled at this sort of record, at least Destruction and Holy Moses putting out fantastic tributes to their legacies, but the West Coast US acts have had limited success. First Strike Still Deadly has its moments, but not enough of them to really justify its existence, or recommend it over the original albums from which the songs are drawn. It's not nearly so fugly and awful as that Exodus re-recording of Bonded by Blood with their mediocre, later front man Rob Dukes, but it's no spring chicken.
I mention Exodus partly because one of the highlights of this collection is Steve 'Zetro' Sousa's presence on the final cuts, "Alone in the Dark" and "Reign of Terror". Sousa was actually the original Testament vocalist back when they were known as Legacy, before signing to Atlantic and releasing their debut by that name; so to hear him bury the hatchet and belt out a few numbers for his alma mater is something special indeed, not that they trump the Chuck Billy versions by any means. In fact, I would not have minded the band pulling a few more rabbits out of its hat and just recruiting other friends from Bay Area thrash legends to front the other songs on the compilation. Russ Anderson on "Disciples of the Watch"? Steev Esquivel doing "The Preacher"? Sean Killian on "Into the Pit"? Tom Araya? James Hetfield? Such a lineup could have gone a long way towards increasing the value of First Strike Still Deadly, even if it meant Chuck had to sit out on the sidelines (I'm sure he'd have been smiling along with everyone else). Fans often seem to have a problem with newer singers in established bands (like Dukes) spewing their lackluster inflection over classics, but perhaps a vocal tribute with the core musicians wouldn't be such a shitty idea...
That is not what First Strike Still Deadly is, of course, and for the most part, Billy returns to his role. All of the songs here are taken from the first two albums (with the exception of "Reign of Terror", a tune that had popped up earlier on a single, as well as the Return to the Apocalyptic City EP). Naturally, the major difference here is one of tones and instrumentation. The guitars are presented with a chuggier, modern disposition than the originals, though I can't say they're an improvement, because they seem to lack the same level of resonance and atmosphere as they once did. In fact, the whole of this is surprisingly unpolished, like the band didn't do a whole lot of post-production, and it almost has the feel of a pristine rehearsal room performance. Bass god Steve DiGiorgio performs the bass here, and he adds a few minor runs to the older lines, but never goes overboard; while Skolnick's leads are a little more prominent due to the clarity of the rhythm guitar mix. Overall, the performances are rather spot on, and having Zetro bark out "Alone in the Dark" with his nasally tone is at least entertaining, if not his most vicious and memorable work.
The major problem I have is that these renditions of the tunes, due to their dryer production, lack almost all of the ominous magic that the originals once possessed once you'd put the tape or vinyl of The Legacy of The New Order into your deck or player for the first hundred times. The drums feel too clean, and while the rhythm guitars are fully on point, they seem almost too far in the forefront, and I dare say it, too punchy. I think the vocals themselves probably benefit the most from this treatment, since Billy adds some extra growls to classics like "Into the Pit", but even then, they're just a retread of his original lines. Hell, I would love to see the band perform this tightly at a live gig, but for my own listening preferences there is just no shot in hell that I'm going to put these on over the earlier albums, and aside from throwing a couple of bucks at them, it doesn't serve much purpose in my world, though it's far from the worst example of this sort of collection.
First formed as Legacy between 1983-1986, the band changed their name to Testament in 1986. This best of/Compilation features selected tracks taken from their first two releases "The Legacy" and "The New Order." The line-up here was Chuck Billy on vocals, Steve "Zetro" Souza on guest vocals, Alex Skolnick on lead guitars, Eric Peterson on rhythm guitar, Steve DiGiorgio on fretless bass and John Tempesta on drums. Not all of the original members were on this compilation. Their former bassist Greg Chrisitan and drummer Louis Clemente were absent from this compilation. Their replacements did a better job than the two previous members. They seemed to exhibit more talent and achieved a better outcome in their execution for these songs.
Thrash metal has always been Testament's genre of music. They've never changed their style even with the line-up changes over the years. So it's safe to say that they never "sold out" like Metallica did. Of course not their entire discography was entirely interesting but at least they stuck to their roots. This best of/Compilation was a good idea though because it brought listeners back to where they originally used to be in terms of the selections from the first two releases. Though they cut out some parts from the originals and/or tailored a few riffs, the ingenious songs still held precedent with this newer best of recording.
Songs held much more crunch tone guitar riffs to them with the exception of the introduction of "Trial by Fire" and "Burnt Offerings." They did take out part of "Disciples of the Watch" but the execution was still well played out by Peterson, et al. These newer recordings I developed a liking to because of the overall intensity of the main riffs, way technical plus reverb enhanced style leads, right on cue drumming and finally, the main vocals as well as the guest vocals. I'd consider this compilation to be very mature and the riff contents to be more fluent than the originals.
All of the tracks that the band selected to be on this compilation were very good choices. Knowing of this band for more than 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that "First Strike Still Deadly" is one hell of a great concoction of remakes. Not a step backward but a better and more fluent examination of the band to see what they seemed to reiterate with these newer thrash metal remakes. The rhythm guitar parts were better than the originals because of their technicality which weren't as affluent as was on the first recordings. Peterson tailored some of the riffs though for the most part his strategies with doing this fit well into a more solid foundation.
The production sound of course was so much more audible and every vocal output as well as the instruments blended very well to form this phenomenal compilation. The leads by Skolnick were of course technical and he enhanced some of his leads by adding reverb to them. That was something different than the originals and in turn fortified the release in an astonishing way. Heavily jazz influenced leads but they mixed well with the rhythm guitar riffs. Everything on this compilation was astonishingly accurate and well executed. The tracks were extravagant and the playing showed how talented this band was during this re-recording.
In terms of the lyrical concepts they seemed to focus mostly on religion, society and suffering. Very intriguing topics and well executed vocal outputs by Billy and guest vocalist Souza. Neither vocalist seemed to exhibit any high pitched screams or yelling at all. It was good that the insert came with the lyrics attached to them because it's difficult to understand Billy's vocal outputs. His style of singing reflects a more rough throat whereas Souza seemed to show a different approach and acquired taste. Both of their efforts fit the music well much more so than on the originals. The songwriting was entirely intelligent and appropriate in accompanying the musical efforts.
It's difficult to understand why many listeners concluded that the original tracks were better than this best of/Compilation. There's not a track on here to dislike. The intriguing guitar riff structures were so well compiled to a degree that has kept me listening to this entire compilation numerous times without it ever going stale. This compilation was so amazingly produced and well executed by all contributors. To give this compilation anything less than a perfect rating would do it a great injustice. If you are a fan of vintage thrash metal played to the point of perfection, then do yourself a favor and pick up this best of/Compilation.
Testament are easily the best thrash band just outside the "big four". While not achieving commercial success like Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, they have made themselves a force to be reckoned with. This album, a re-recording of songs featured on "The Legacy", and "The New Order" is worth checking out, especially if you are unfamiliar with these recordings.
As you may well know, Testament went under the name "Legacy" prior to about 1987. Originally the band was fronted by vocalist Steve Souza who, after recording a 4 song demo in 1986, left to join Exodus. It was around this time that Chuck Billy came on board as the vocalist and the band changed it's name to Testament. In 1987, the band released their first album, entitled "The Legacy". After receiving critical acclaim in the thrash underground, they quickly went on the road with Anthrax, and recorded and released "The New Order" in 1988. A string of successful albums and a few lineup changes, found the band moving in more of a death metal direction.
With this album, the band has gone back and redone some of the tracks from their first two albums, using the stylistic shifts that they have added to their sound (mainly the downtuned guitars and death metal style vocals) as heard on recent releases such as "The Gathering". Of course, Testament purists will either love or hate this album, depending on what era they prefer.
The good thing about this album is that the songs have more polish to them, and sound much cleaner than the original releases. A big relief was the fact that these songs were not destroyed. Another great thing about this disc was the selection of songs that were rerecorded. All 11 tracks are the best songs off their respective albums (Strangely, "Apocalyptic City" and " Eerie Inhabitants", have been left out). Also some of the songs seem to have been slowed down or changed a little. Alex Skolnick returned to the band to do the guitar tracks for this disc, which is very cool. Skolnick is easily the best guitarist Testament has ever had, and he still can play the hell out of the songs. He also seems to have added a few mildly noticeable changes to the solos and leads. Nothing too major, but enough to make any Testament fan worth their salt hear the slight differences. The mid section of " Burnt Offerings" is the best example of this, as it is now more of a groove than the speed attack it once was. It is refreshing to hear the Skolnick/Peterson guitar assault once again, as this has been sorely missed. As far as the drums go, John Tempesta easily out-plays Louie Clemente, and makes every one of these songs his own. Chuck Billy's vocals are killer as always, and his use of death metal style vocals work well with these songs ("The Preacher", in particular). The downside to this disc, due to the production, is that some of the raw sound has been lost, and some will argue that with this, much of the appeal has been lost as well. Ultimately, it just all depends on what version of Testament you like best or how much you like the original versions.
The real attraction that most fans will have toward this album is that the last two tracks, "Alone in the Dark" and "Reign of Terror", feature Steve Souza on vocals. This gives a brief speculation as to what Testament might have sounded like had Chuck Billy not joined. While it is interesting, overall it proves it was best Souza left the band, as Billy's vocals suit the songs much better.
My only real complaint with this offering is that with the originals, you could hear in the music that the band was out to conquer the world. This has been somewhat lost, as Testament seem to have released this to appeal to longtime fans, as opposed to breaking new ground; the main point of this disc was to release an album to hold over fans until the next original studio album, while possibly gaining a few fans in the process.
All in all, this disc is worth a listen. I applaud Testament for making such a brave move, as other bands that do this are usually met with fan backlash. Although not a bad disc by any means, fans will probably be better off buying "Live at the Fillmore", as this offers better current renditions of these songs. As for me, I will take the originals any day, and I give this disc a solid 70.
So you’ve heard about Testament’s First Strike Still Deadly album and are curious as to whether or not you might enjoy it. Here’s a quick quiz to test your compatibility with the album in question:
Question 1: Which of the following do you prefer?
A) The Legacy
B) Sludgy modern thrash - i.e. Demonic
Test over. If you answered anything but A, you might enjoy the updated versions of these classic (and semi-classic) Testament tunes. However, if you answered A you might as well forget it and go happily on your way having never heard this.
Basically, there isn’t a single recording present on this album, with the exception of “Reign of Terror” (which for some reason sounds like Sacred Reich’s “Death Squad” on here) with Zetro on vocals, that is made better through re-recording. The album is definitely heavier than either The Legacy or The New Order, but at the price of speed and the general song mechanics. The songs are technically reproduced to follow the originals, but certain things are just amiss here. Chuck Billy’s vocals aren’t bad, but he can’t do those crazy shrieks anymore like in the old recordings. There’s a slight toned back feeling in the tempo that makes songs that were previously fucking vicious drag and lose intensity. The lead guitar tone sucks, and while the rhythm tone is better, it is far too clean and processed. The originals were raw and fierce and just way better. This holds true virtually the entire way through this (again, excepting where Souza gets his hands dirty in it).
There are other nagging complaints (like some of the studio trickery employed throughout, some odd emphasis on parts that shouldn’t be emphasized, the wrong fucking solos/melodies) but it will suffice to say that Testament butchered their own songs on this record. It’s actually a good thing that they didn’t include more classic songs (like “Apocalyptic City” or “Raging Waters” in place of “The Preacher” or “Into the Pit) because that’d be even more reason to dislike this. As several other reviewers have wisely suggested, just buy the originals!
This is a form of rape which is unbelievable. One wonders why on earth a band would want to re-record old classic songs when nothing was wrong with the originals in the first place. In '88 Maiden re-recorded two tracks from their debut with Dickinson and those versions were pretty good keeping in mind that Harris has never been happy with the production of the 1980 debut album. This Testament release however is insulting and obsolete.
Testament used to be a thrash metal band, somewhere in the eighties. Chuck Billy once knew how to sing. Their debut album ‘The Legacy’ was in a way sloppy but extremely powerful and raging. What we have here are re-recorded songs that sound so utterly digital and clean that the whole thrash metal atmosphere has gone. I want to feel the sweat oozing from my speaker, I want to hear Chuck Billy scream his lungs out, I want to feel the energy of a band trying to conquer the world or at least deafening it.
There’s none of that here. Chunky Billy just barks along with the songs as if he’s always been a second rate death metal vocalist, making a mockery of himself. Have I already mentioned the sterile drums and hideously polished guitars? Oh yes, I did.
Fortunately two songs make it worth tracking down the album for 1 or 2 euros. You’ve guessed of course! The last two songs feature Souza on vocals and it’s great to have a decent version of “Reign Of Terror”. The version of “Alone In The Dark” is a bit slow however than the earlier album version.
All in all this album doesn’t do justice in any way to the originals and I advise people not to spend money on this.
The concept behind this album is a clever one: how much better would Testament's early albums sound if they actually had halfway decent production? This is something that I have been wondering myself; I had always thought that people dismissed Testament's work merely for the production, even though said detractors would probably blame it on some aesthetic aspect of the album. When I first learned of the existence of this album, I dismissed it as a money-grab. It wasn't until I was more knowledgeable about music and thrash in general that I decided to once again listen to the old albums. It was then I realized how weak the rhythm guitar sounded on every album up until "Low," and noticed the terrible lead guitar tone on "The New Order."
All of the sudden this album emerged as a must-have for me. I had always liked Testament, and it intrigued me as to how good they could be with a modern sound. It wasn't like a bunch of new members were re-recording old material; in fact, original vocalist Steve Souza of Exodus was brought in for a couple of songs (he was the vocalist back when the band was known as "Legacy"). The result is a new take on "Alone in the Dark" which is much better than one might expect. Souza doesn't necessarily give a better performance than Chuck Billy did on the original version, but merely a different one, his vocals add a sort of intensity to the song, replacing Billy's more melodic take.
Sadly, the rest of the album is nowhere near as good as I was hoping. The songs lack the passion of the originals; instead of a young group of kids showing what they have, they sound like a bunch of kids playing a piece at their piano recital. They are merely playing the notes without making any effort to add that extra "oomph" which made the original recordings so delectable. Alex Skolnick no longer seems to want to prove to the world that he is the best shredder out there, and he also uses this jazzy guitar tone that doesn't fit the music at all. Eric Peterson's riffing seems to be slower and less..."heavy." Granted, "heavy" is a subjective term, but when I hear those awesome riffs for "The New Order" and "Trial by Fire," I don't want to stand up and rock out. I want to sit down in a chair, pick up a Wall Street Journal, and sip green tea. The whole point of this album was for me to be able to rock out more to these songs, not make me lethargic.
Really, there's no reason to purchase this album, at all. The somewhat better production is canceled out by the fact that, aside from the Souza songs, the new versions really aren't worth listening to. Although I wouldn't go far enough to suggest that this should only be played in dentists' waiting rooms, it certainly doesn't belong in a car stereo being played at high speeds, either. The highest purpose that this album can serve is as a novelty. Listening to this would have given me doubts as to how intense the band's forthcoming studio album will be, but their amazing "Live in London" CD silenced those fears. The best approach to this album is just to pretend that it never got released.
I'm generally against such releases - they show nothing new and in most of the cases the reproductions are few times worse because of the band's inability to play as aggressively as all those years ago. However, there are little exceptions to this rule, such as this album. And though Testament's albums didn't need refreshing, this small experiment turned out to be a nice glimpse into the past.
The problem is: not all the songs got improved. Obviously, the thing to change was the heaviness of the songs as the latest Testament's releases reached a completely new level in sound, which made it sound very heavy and death metal-like. This let the classics like "Disciples of the Watch" or "The Preacher" far more "thrashy" than before. However, it also made the songs from "The Legacy" album less aggressive, a bit slower. Their value was also diminished by the vocals, which just don't fit the music. These are not good examples of high quality of the re-recordings.
Playing those old songs differently was a good idea and generally it went good, but the thing to change was the set of the classics so there would be less "The Legacy" and more "The Ritual", for example. Or play them differently, which seems hardly possible for a band staying alive for twenty years and collecting the old line-up again.
One measure of a good album, is will someone who is not a big fan of a band still enjoy it? Generally, I would rather watch paint dry than listen to Testament, so 'First Strike Still Deadly' came as a huge surprise. It's Testament, but it is not boring!
This is one of those "Aha!" albums. You know the ones, where a band comes highly recommended to you, and you want to like it, but you are massively underwhelmed by the band until one day, "Aha! I get it now!"
A re–recording of tracks from Testament's first two albums, and a demo track, this album is rendered in near–perfect neo–thrash style — punchy drums, crisp guitars, rock solid bottom end, and crystal–clear production. What was once bland and flat has been brought to life and given a new spark.
On initial listen, the only song I actually recognised was "Disciples Of The Watch", the most distinct track from 'The New Order'. It is hard to believe, but Testament seems to have become more aggressive as they have aged, and that added dash of aggro has really spiced the mix. Everything is just so much louder, heavier and more convincing than in 1988. Chuck Billy's voice in particular is grittier, more guttural, but at the same time more versatile than it was, but at the same time the vocals are easier to understand. John Tempesta, who has also served Exodus and White Zombie admirably, is a far superior drummer to what Louie Clemente was, and also suits the band better than Gene Hoglan did.
In the early days of thrash, the guitar pairing of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson were spoken of in the same league as Hetfield and Hammett, Hanneman and King, and Holt and Hunolt. It is easy to see why when Peterson's riffs are given the crunch they deserve, and the classical stylings of Skolnick's leads punctuate the entire package.
The final two tracks on the album, "Alone In The Dark" and "Reign Of Terror" are two of Testament's oldest tracks. Both are old school headbangers, of the style which made the Bay Area famous. Guesting on vocals on both songs is Testament's original vocalist, Steve Souza. Souza made his name with Exodus, and these songs demonstrate what a loss he was for Testament.
If only Testament had managed this sound in the 1980s, we would now be talking about the Big Five of thrash, rather than the Big Four.
When I first heard that Testament was going to re-record some old classic tunes, I laughed and simply thought it was the dumbest idea ever. Then again it has been a decade or so since the band probably played their classic tracks the same way. With a new line up it seemed like not such a bad idea. So when I popped the cd into my stereo I wasn't too impressed, there didn't seem to be the same energy that the origonal recordings had. Petersons guitars lacked revered and Tempesta's kits wasn't powerful enough. I didn't think too much of Billy's vocals cause it worked with the rest of the sound.
A few months passed and I began to listen to it again and realized that my first impressions of the album weren't doing it for me anymore. I grew quite fond of the album and quite frankly thought it was better than the "very best of testament" (yes I am lame enough to buy a best of album, sue me. it beats not knowing what album to buy and wind up with their worst work ever). The lack of energy I once heard was transformed into a meaty burst of adrenaline that screamed, "We can still kick your ass!!!" While the new sound may not be the same as the glory hay days of the 80's, it diffenately has a new form of energy from the east bay thrashers. There still remains a very solid and tight-knit level of musicians ship, in other words, no one is fucking around. The one thing I must say I like as an addition to the band is Steve Digorgio's bass work, his frantic fret-work (despite the fact that I think he plays a fretless bass) deffinately added a smoother element to the low ends of the mix. While the drums may not have the classic booming 80's reverb, tempesta's kit has a very nice full sound which compliments the heaviness of the guitars. And last but not least, I must mention Zetro's throat work on the final two tracks. Deffinately something different and not expected but I can't complain too much. Overall I enjoyed this cd very much. There are no indavidual highlights from the cd because lets, face it, they managed to get all the goodies onto one album (the zetro tracks might be in question, but the opening guitar work on "reign of terror" is fucking mind boggling). This is deffinately a good album to have in your collection. Go buy it (NOW!).
Thrash metal legends "Testament" keep the painting in the golden frame by producing this awesome release of re-recorded classics.
"First Strike Still Deadly", the title of their new album. When I first read about it, I was thinking; "Why would they touch those master pieces?' But then when I saw the line-up for this record...Alex Skolnick, Steve Souza, John Tempesta..and well, my expectations instantly grew into a huge metal boner.
All the re-recorded songs come off their first two albums, "The Legacy" and "The New Order".
What a great way to start off the record with "First Strike Is Deadly", the drum-intro obviously being done by Tempesta this time, instantly capturing attention. The guitars sound greater than ever, and Chuck did a fantastic job with the vocals, his screamy, clean thrash-takes from the early days mixed with his death-metal growls that make Testament what they are today.
Ofcourse, the entire record is filled with awesome classics, but there's this one song that really made me all excited about the whole thing. "OVER THE WALL" .. What more can you want?! In my opinion, Testament's best song, and it's being re-done with the superb production that they have nowadays. Alex's solo raping your stereo system!
Steve Souza (Exodus) put in his share aswell on the last two tracks "Alone In The Dark" and "Reign Of Terror". It's great to see the old foundation-members getting back into the room and producing this great fucking metal piece.
First of all, no one can say that there's a bad song on this album. Every single song is a classic thrasher that in some way or another will kick your ass. I can understand how old Testament fans may not care for these re-recordings. The songs are slowed down and the production is a LOT thicker. The lead guitar tone is also a lacking a little, it's not quite vicious enough. At any rate, I like the original versions of the songs, but I like these ones two, it has become apparent to me that Testament has really learned how to groove. They can still thrash it the fuck up, but they can really groove now.
So there's five songs off of THE LEGACY and five off of THE NEW ORDER, with the one remaining song being the incredible "Reign of Terror", which is definitely one of the best songs here, even with Zetro Souza's vocals. The other Zetro track, however, "Alone in the Dark" just stinks. They slowed that one down way too much, and it just doesn't slap you in the face like it used too. Zetro's vocals are also pretty weak on that one.
Of the other songs, the ones that work best are "The Preacher", "Burnt Offerings", "The New Order", "Disciples of the Watch" and "Over the Wall". It's no coincidence that those are pretty much the finest tunes off of the first two Testament albums, either. One thing that really stands out on almost every track is the drumming, one because it's fucking loud and sounds beautiful, and two because Jon Tempesta is about fifty times the drummer that Louie Clemente was. This guy can actually use double bass!
Overall, this experiment was a success. The songs work, and while they may not neccessarily be better than the originals, it's definitely a different spin on some great songs. I would have liked to see "The Apocalyptic City" and "Eerie Inhabitants" added to this, though. OR to the contrary, keep it to about three songs from each album and add songs from PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH, the best Testament album! Well, that would be plain over kill, I suppose.
This is just plain ridiculous. Just when you think that Testament couldn't fuck up any harder, they did. They manage to take songs off The Legacy and The New Order and strip away anything that was ever good about them.
For example, the opening track - possibly the best song on The Legacy. First Strike is Deadly - a beautiful fucking solo in the original, and here it is reproduced note for note, but about 85% speed, and buried in the mix. They then amplify that boring fucking riff, and also make the drumwork too loud. Does not work at all. Also, Chuck Billy's vocals just don't fit, and the rhythm guitar sounds completely off the mark. It's hard to describe exactly why, but the originals are less "bouncy" sounding - less accent on the single snare hit once per beat - here, you hear too much damn drums.
Then they throw in not one, not two, FIVE goddamn songs from The New Order in a row. Oh man, this is unbearably bad. It really makes you realise how similar those songs were originally. First, Into the Pit. Listen to the under-verse riff. That is the basic Testament Riff. It appears again in Trial By Fire, and AGAIN in Disciples of the Watch, The Preacher, and Burnt Offerings. Holy crap, it's pretty much the same song, five times. Wait, Burnt Offerings is off The Legacy? I couldn't tell. Sounds just like the rest.
Then, Over the Wall - finally, something a bit different, but again this sounds nothing like it should. Chuck's vocals just don't make any sense in this context - also the backing vocals are too over-emphasised, and in general the riffs are too choppy, with the drums too prominent in the mix. Oh and then the solo... Alex's solo is done pretty decently, but then what the fuck is up with Eric Peterson's "solo"? You know, the little Judas-Priest-like melodic part. It's out of key!!! What the fuck, it doesn't make any fucking sense!!! Also, they throw it into the stereo field slightly out of phase, just to give you a headache. Argh - you people completely fucking destroyed the song. Idiots.
Then, yet another fucking The Worthless Order song. Let us speak no more of it. The Haunting is a generic Legacy track that really doesn't do anything either. Here, they manage to make it do even less. The guitar tone is just horribly inappropriate.
Then... Alone in the Dark with Zetro. This one almost sounds better, because here Zetro is a better vocalist than Chuck. This is not true in general, but Zetro just sounds vicious, as opposed to trying too fucking hard. A bit annoying in the verses, but in the chorus, fucking awesome. FAUSTUS PREPARES THE LEGIONS OF THE NIGHT!!!!
The riffs are tighter-sounding in general than on the rest of the album, and almost as good as on the Legacy.
Finally, we have the ONE song that makes this album not entire shit. The obligatory Forgotten Song, Reign of Terror. Why this did not make it onto The Legacy is beyond me - the demo version is fucking awesome, and is the greatest song Testament ever did.
Make it the second-greatest. This version fucking kicks its ass. I have no idea why they didn't make the drums and guitars interact this way on the rest of the album, because here it's fucking powerful and raw as Hell. Excellent riffage - and man do these guys know how to thrash. You know that riff in the middle of the song - well, here, it's about 10 times heavier, and 100 times as effective. I never thought they could do it, but they managed to make the song BETTER!!! And Zetro is in top shape, absolutely fucking excellent. The highlight of their career.
In conclusion - download that one song, and to Hell with the rest of the album.
This album demonstrates that the old Bay Area 80’s thrash spirit returned to Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy’s veins and after all, they never forgot their early heavy roots even after some years of perfect experiments of death metal mixture with some 90’s progressive thrash as superbly seen and executed on the fantastic “Low” being followed up by the ferocious “Demonic” and next by the technically killing “The Gathering”.
Well, this, although being a re-recording based of songs that featured in the band’s first two albums “The Legacy” and “The New Order”, rightfully earns the spot for being one of Testament’s best albums, alongside “The Gathering” and “Low”.
And how is this possible being a re-recording album? You ask? Well, just put together the evil thrash rhythm god Eric Peterson with one of the best thrash vocalists ever, Chuck Billy and mix them with the fearless, fretless and unique style of Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Sadus, Control Denied, Iced Earth, want more?? Fuck …the list is never ending!!!!), the incredible thunder cracking drumming of Johnny Tempesta (drummer for “Low”, although not credited) and the incredible and frightening shredding skills of the now returned for this album, walking guitar god on this world, Alex Skolnick!!
The result of this mixing? 11 blasting killer cuts, starting off with the speed maniac riffage and double bass attack of “First Strike is Deadly” and going through some of the best Testament classics like the thrashing anthem madness of “Into the Pit”, the ruthless bass/guitar strike of “Trial By Fire”, the Arabic metal fusion masterpiece “Burnt Offerings” which has a brilliantly executed solo by Peterson (and this is for the ones who think Peterson can do nothing more than rhythm!!) and the evil riffs of “The Haunting”, among certain other classics…
The other peculiar situation of this one is the return of the original singer Steve “Zetro” Sousa for the re-recording of two of Legacy (Testament)’s ancient tracks. One of them is “Alone In The Dark” that figured in the first Testament album and the other is which I consider to be one of their best tracks, the amazing “Reign of Terror”, and I mean, this is absolute fuckin’ thrash, if you don’t headbang to the sound of this tune…something is definitively wrong with you!!!!
As for Sousa’s performance, he has a suitable voice for the songs, but nothing really compared to the aggressive power of Billy’s vocal chords.
This album also has a perfect production, making the songs have a cleaner and tighter sound than the originals and some of them had some speed decreasing, actually making these rearranged versions in some ways better than the first cuts. Peterson has decreased the guitar tones a little bit making the songs have a heavier, better and darker sound.
No negative points are to be found in this record. It’s a re-recording masterpiece, what are you still waiting for?? GET IT NOW!!!
So Testament decided to take a trip down the memory lane and re-record some of their classic songs from their two first albums, The Legacy and The New Order. Chuck and Eric have gotten Alex Skolnick back to play the lead guitar on the remakes. Even Steve Souza (Exodus), who used to sing vocals in The Legacy, a early version of Testament, does the vocals on two tracks here. Five of the songs appear on The Legacy, five on The New Order and 'Reign of Terror' is a song from their demo times (a live version appears on Return to the Apocalyptic City EP).
It is debatable if First Strike Still Deadly is worth of a release since all of the songs have already been recorded. For an old fan it is just an interesting album and not necessary since they already own the songs on other CDs. The album is more directed towards new Testament fans who this way have a chance to check out some classic Testament tracks which have better production and are otherwise up to date.
The production is top notch, if talking from a technical point of view. Everything is perfectly balanced and audible but somehow it just seems totally wrong. Bay area thrash was never meant for this kind of production. The guitars must sound sharp and raw, not clear and clean like on First Strike Still Deadly. Also Chuck Billy does the vocals like on The Gathering and while they fitted there, such harsh vocals don't fit these classics. I'm not sure if he is still capable of doing such thrash vocals as he did on The Legacy and The New Order but it didn't sound like that in Dynamo 2000 nor on this album.
Souza sings the vocals on 'Reign of Terror' and 'Alone in the Dark'. He has taken part in the making of those songs, hence he sings them. Souza used to be the vocalist of Exodus (and once again is), another very succesful Bay area thrash band. His versions of those two classics are rather intriguing since his vocals differ quite much from Chuck's. Souza actually sounds somewhat similar with Blitz from Overkill. The other visitor, Alex Skolnick, perfoms his solos well. He is definetly good but the fire of the original recordings is missing. I love Skolnick's solowork but it's only good at best on FSSD.
The tracks with Steve Souza sound rather interesting though they are only two. All in all it's a good album for new thrash fans to get acquinted with the past though I'd recommend getting the actual albums since they are cheaper than this one even if you both of them at the same time.
(Originally released in Tuonela Webzine (c) 2001)