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Testament is one of the greatest thrash metal bands of all time. Why they did not join the ranks of the "big four" is a mystery to me. They were a hell of alot better than Anthrax, that's for sure. They never released an album that truly compromised their original style (Metallica and Megadeth), never released "joke songs" (Anthrax), and never flat out released the same album over and over again (Slayer). Testament has always stuck to their guns, and while changing it up a bit in later offerings, could never be accurately called "sell-outs".
What we have here is a live album, and a damn good one at that, that captures the reunited original Testament line-up. This alone was enough to immediately take notice, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. Since everyone had left the band prior to the shift to a thrash/death metal style, save for Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson, the song selection completely ignores anything beyond "The Ritual". To put it more simply, this is a "greatest hits" type set list. The main draw here is the return of Alex Skolnick to Testament, and he doe not disappoint. The songs on this album have not been played like this in years, as no one could quite fill Skolnick's shoes. His crushing riffs and masterful solos really show just how talented this man is at his instrument. "Electric Crown", "The Preacher", and "Sins of Omission", showcase his great leads and blistering guitar work the best. Skolnick and Peterson support each other just as well as they ever have, and it is refreshing to hear them play together in a live environment once again. "Practice What You Preach" was made for the Skolnick/Peterson guitar assault, and they pull it off with finesse. Another vital part of Testament that went missing for a number of years, Greg Christian, also returns to the fold. Greg is one of the best bass players thrash would ever see, and once you hear his playing, especially on "Trial by Fire" and "Souls of Black", you'll find it hard to argue. John Tempesta is behind the drum kit for the first half of the album, and original Testsament drummer Louie Clemente, plays on the second half. As much as I like Louie's drumming, I can't help but to point out that Tempesta really stole the show. This could be due to the fact Clemente gave up playing after he left Testament, or maybe Tempesta is just a better drummer overall. Chuck Billy's vocals are still powerful and raw, but seemed to have suffered some due to his health problems at the time. He does have a little trouble hitting some of the higher notes, but overall he still commands every one of these songs, and his mix of old and new style vocals work very well.
The set list, as previously mentioned, is superb. I cannot complain at all about the songs that were selected. The only complaint it is possible to make, is the songs that were not selected. I would have really liked to have heard "Burnt Offerings", "Alone in the Dark", and "Perilous Nation" with this lineup and, had these songs (and one or two others) been included, the set list would have been perfection. As far as what was included, the songs sound just as good, if not better than, the studio versions. This album marks the first time both "Sins of Omission" and "Electric Crown" were included on an official live album, and were quite a treat for me personally. The sound quality on this album is about as good as any live album I've ever heard. There is a good bit of audience interaction, and in truth the band seems to really feed off the energy of the crowd. All these things combined make for a truly awesome live experience that shouldn't be missed.
In conclusion, this is the best live album Testament has put out thus far. As much as I would like to give this a full 100 I cannot bring myself to do so. The reason being Billy is not in his usual top form and the set list seems a bit too short. That being said, I give this a 95 as it's almost everything a fan could ask for. Crank it up and enjoy!