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Testament was probably the best (and the biggest) thrash band to never have an album go "gold" (500,000 copies sold). Some people see Testament as a cheap Metallica rip-off, but while there are some similarities, I think that the band is unfairly overlooked because of the poor production on their early (and best) albums.
Thankfully on this live DVD from 2005, these production problems are non-existant. The DVD is mixed perfectly so that every instrument is audible. This is probably the best aspect of this live set. I think that watching this live DVD and listening to the live CD of the same concert completely changed my opinion on Testament. Take "The New Order" for example, the main riff is awesome, there's no other word to describe it, and that thrash breakdown in the middle is so powerful it rivals anything that Overkill has done in that area. The fact that these other portions of the song are much more enjoyable make Alex Skolnick's solo that much more sweet. A true thrash classic that I overlooked until I heard it here. And it isn't just this song that is helped by the production job, nearly every song here is as good as or better than the studio version. Skolnick stays true to all of his solos, just adding or revising certain areas to take them from amazing to perfection. His guitar tone is unbelievably good as well. Just hearing him shred sends a tingle down my spine.
Eric Peterson's riffing, along with Skolnick's, is so much more brutal as well thanks to the great sound. Check out "Into the Pit," another song that I was indifferent to until I heard it here. The two songs from "The Ritual" are much more enjoyable because the guitars aren't as watered down as they were on said album. Surprisingly, Peterson also has a few leads, such as the first solo in "Sins of Omission" and a short intro lead to Skolnick's towering solo in "Practice What You Preach." Peterson even contributes some black metal screeches, similar to what one would hear on his Dragonlord albums.
John Tempesta does a fine job, as usual, on drums, and it's disappoitning that he has to be replaced in the second half by original drummer Louie Clemente. Clemente is competant, but in thrash "competant" just doesn't cut it. I would rather have had Paul Bostaph or even Nick Barker (both who have played with Testament at some point) come out, but I can't complain too much.
The setlist is another highlight. The band sticks to songs from when Skolnick was in the band (which I see as a positive) and pretty much all of the essential songs are here. The band probably was forced to do two songs from "The Ritual," which would explain the inclusion of relatively unknown "Let Go of My World," but even though it isn't great, it isn't bad either and the production makes it much better than the studio version. Kudos for their addition of their incredible, sadly overlooked ballad "The Legacy." Damn, Skolnick's solo is so good in that one.
I have a few small complaints, though. First off is the editing. The angles are always switching too fast. During Alex Skolnick's solos I want to see Alex Skolnick playing. I don't need to see a close-up of ugly fuck Chuck Billy making faces at the crowd. Nor do I need to see three different views of the drummer. That is only necessary during when he is doing something interesting on drums. And yeah, Chuck Billy is an ugly fuck. I only want to see him when he's actually singing or growling, it gets annoying seeing him play air-guitar on the pole that holds his microphone. His "THRASH, DIE" crap during "The New Order" would have been better left on the cutting room floor as well.
Even so, the concert itself is incredible. It's great to see Skolnick get so into it when he's doing his solos. Even though his main focus is Jazz, he hasn't completely abandoned the genre that gave him his name in the first place, in stark contrast to Vivian Cambell, who mocks anyone who has heard Dio's "Holy Diver" album with the shit he puts out in Def Leppard. A worthwhile DVD for even mild Testament fans, because hearing this concert gave me a new respect for this band and made me appreciate their contributions to thrash all the more.
This DVD is fairly straightforward. You can either watch the concert, or the 10 minute interview that shows the band passing out beer to the crowd or Chuck Billy doing a beer bong. It also shows Alex Skolnick's prowess at playing more than metal on his guitar, not to mention explains about why they came back together and their plans to record an album in the future. Not only that, but Louie's surprising exclaimation that after leaving the band circa 1992, he hasn't played in the 13 years since then (instead selling furniture in NYC). Which is why John Tempesta is also on the DVD.
The concert audio is amazing, and I have to agree with what Chuck Billy said. "With Alex back, we finally sound like Testament again." Beyond that, Eric Peterson displays some sick picking skills doing all downstrokes on some of the fastest palm muted riffs I've ever seen. And amazingly he and Alex are in time with each other for the whole album. And Chuck Billy's voice is spot on, as is Greg Christian's bass playing. The drumming, while changed from the original sometimes, it still just spot on. Gives it a new flavor, I believe.
The DVD starts with The Preacher, which features a great guitar harmony with Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, and then goes full on thrash. Cut to Alex Skolnick guitar solo, and then back to song. Overlay awesome singing, and you have the first track. Then it turns into The New Order, which features some really insane extended reach on the high e string that Alex plays with ease.
Then it goes through The Haunting, Electric Crown, Sins of Omission, (intro, thrashy riff, guitar solo, return to thrashy riff, and repeat for the next song) and then it comes to this awesome bass intro from Greg Christain into Souls of Black, for which Eric Peterson does some unique sounding backing vocals for. Then comes Into The Pit, for which the crowd goes nuts on. A very high energy performance.
Then you get the great intro to Trial By Fire, which is Eric Peterson playing this arpeggio while Alex Skolnick does this crazy sweep picking intro and then melodically plays his way through the song. Then comes Practice What You Preach, which features a great guitar solo and a very neat part where Eric is playing the riff and Alex punches in (you can hear the amp come to life, a great moment), and then Let Go of My World.
Next comes the shining point of the DVD, The Legacy. Surprisingly not on the album of the same name, this track is a great accoustic intro to which Alex plays the most insane melodic lead over and fills for the whole song until it gets heavy.
After that comes a great thrash track, Over The Wall. An insanely fast and complex riff that causes everybody to go nuts that is in the crowd. Then after Raging Waters and a very heavy version of Disciples of the Watch; all three songs containing this insane guitar solos full of sweep picking and mild, yet tasteful, melodic shredding - the DVD is over.
My only complaint is that the DVD was too short! It was about 70 minutes long, and I really wish Testament had played Alone in the Dark, but I know they didn't because Steve Souza wasn't with them to sing it, but other than that this DVD does not disappoint. For a band line-up that hasn't played together in 13 years, the energy they can create is astounding. Not to mention how flawless their playing is, and you can just tell that they're all glad to be back together again after all this time. So if you get the chance, definitely pick this up, it's always a good watch - and the band interview is quite insightful.