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Taking into account the rather lukewarm reception received by most of their 90s records, it's a miracle Testament never felt the urge to fuck off and write to the Korn audience. After The Ritual, an album I happen to love, which streamlined and simplified their 80s output into a pure heavy metal chassis, I had half-expected the Testament Black Album. Yet Low was actually a reversal of paradigm, a modernization of their 80s sound clad in the muscular progression of production values, and easily more aggressive than its predecessor. It also saw the first shift in the Californians' classic lineup of the first five albums, with John Tempesta (Exodus) replacing Louie Clemente, and death metal mercenary James Murphy (Death, Disincarnate, Obituary) filling in the surprise vacancy left by Alex Skolnick. All things considered, Low represents a fairly smooth transition.
If the sorry 90s rubbed anything off on Testament, it might have been the slight influence of groove metal circa bands like Machine Head or Pantera, but while I've met people who consider this their 'groove' album, I am driven to disagree. There's even more of an emphasis on the mid-paced chugging guitars, and they sound a lot more massive than, say, Souls of Black or Practice What You Preach, yet at their core the rhythm progressions follow similar patterns, they've just got a lot more meat on their bones in cuts like "Low" itself, or the caustic "Shades of War". Sure, there is some bounce to "Hail Mary", "All I Could Bleed" or "Chasing Fear", and you could jump da fuc up to those if you were so inclined, but it's still the same dark thrash metal, with a not dissimilar, atmospheric grandiloquence coursing through its veins as the older works. Where a lot of people turned to this group for the impressive leads of emergent guitar guru Alex Skolnick, the focus here seems even heavier on the mechanics of the rhythm guitars. Murphy is, of course, a seasoned shredder himself, and it was interesting to hear him experiment on the instrumental "Urotsukidoji" (named for the perverse tentacle porn anime) alongside some of Greg Christian's bass acrobatics.
Elsewhere, Low is business as usual. I didn't notice a huge difference between John Tempesta's style and his predecessor, though the guy was certainly rigged to provide a harder pummeling for the 90s audience. While Demonic is generally considered the album in which Testament foraged further into death metal pastures, you certainly hear a bit of that here through Chuck Billy's increasingly guttural inflection on a tune like "Dog Faced Gods", which is one of the most impressive and brutal on the album, with some Vio-lence like picking sequences dowsed in the big man's guttural abuse. There's also the requisite 'ballad' here, "Trail of Tears", above which Billy implements the clean, melodic timbre of "The Ballad", but while its not one of my faves on this album, it's at least smooth enough to forgive, with a nice lead tucked into the chugging bridge, and lyrics that serve as a foreshadowing to their latest effort, Dark Roots of Earth. There's not a lot of faster material on this album, but then there hadn't been for years; nonetheless, I did feel that there was a bit too much of a cantering tempo to much of Low that often feels samey or repetitive in tone, if not precise riff structure.
Also, very few of these tracks have had an impact on me in the long run. Like Souls of Black, I felt as if there were about 4-5 really good tunes, and the rest are disarmingly average, whereas The Ritual has had me glued to much of its run time for the past 20 years. Though they do tackle a few interesting subjects like ancient Egypt ("Dog Faced Gods"), a lot of the political, psychological, conspiracy lyrics were admittedly bland even by Testament standards. Still, I should point out that, while it was for me the least impressive of their full-lengths to its day, this is no steaming pile of shit like Slayer released with Diabolus in Musica, or Megadeth's Risk, or Metallica's Load. Though not quite as successful as they might have desired, Testament managed to weather its mutating roster and the questionable influences of the prevalent trends without losing its sense of identity. When you compare Low to The Legacy or The New Order, it sounds like a mild evolution of the same group, rather than some disconnected abortion of a career. Not one of their best records by any means, but it proudly keeps its head above the water.
One very important thing needs some words of explanation before writing about this Testament’s sixth release. Well, I consider their previous work “The Ritual” as one of the best metal album in my collection. Even if there are some no thrashy sounds and no furious and rapid tunes well known from their two first albums, I put “The Ritual” exactly next to these cds. Thus I had big expectations as well as some grave apprehensions due to Testament changed the lineup: no drummer Clemente, and no guitar master Skolnick as well (especially the absence of Alex was like a shattering blow for me!). Of course the band prepared some kind of foretaste, but it was the only live Ep. Reading many interviews with the band, they felt a real strong desire to make a heavier album. “The Ritual” was just a past woven by the compromises (as they said), so the main creators Billy and Peterson were looking at the upcoming future with optimism, although thrash started to die or change its musical face. So, as the musicians stated, “Low” had to be a return to the glorious roots of Testament past…
With entire trust I went to the local musical shop and bought the tape… The first seconds with “Low” was a real shock. I was just smashed in to the ground. The perfect drums and guitar cannonade made my eyes open really, really wide. For sure the production is more powerful than on “The Ritual”, but one surprise is yet to come, namely with the chorus and the words “…show some mercy…” Chuck shows a new way of singing: growl! And this is the beginning of the new road definitely, however this kind of vocals are not used here too often. The second newness: James Murphy on lead guitar, well known death metaller (Death, Disincarnate, Obituary) joins the crew just like John Tempesta on drums. Both musicians stamp their mark on the first track (and whole album), especially solo lead is first class. “Low” attacks with heaviness, aggression and anger, this is absolutely great song on the start. The second “Legions (In Hiding)” isn’t such a mad track, the mid tempo dominates here with very interesting dialogue between two guitarists in solo leads. The next “Hail Mary” (or “Hell Marry” as it was written in Polish Metal Hammer during Testament’s interview he, he…) is like a electric shock – probably the best one with very thrilling guitar motives, Testament didn’t used to play in this way, but this is still crushing thrash metal: powerful riffs, rhythm section, fine solo and superb vocals. It ends suddenly to give place “Trail Of Tears” which is a… ballad. Yes, it’s true, the band shows lighter sounds, just like on “The Ritual” (“Return To Serenity”). It is some kind of surprise because musicians were willing to play only hard and heavy stuff. This ballad is written by Peterson himself and what can I say about it? This is absolutely ripper in their discography even if I talk about ballad song, “Trail Of Tears” undeniably joins the big two from the glorious past “The Legacy” and aforementioned “Return To Serenity”. The structure is rather conventional, we have lighter sounds in stanza and heavier in chorus plus many great memorable and heart-ripping solos. Another interesting fact: this is the last ballad recorded so far, of course I do not count acoustic versions on the next live record.
“Low” is raging in these first four songs, but suddenly the moments of break down arrive, which dominate in “Shades Of War” and “P.C.”. And I do not know why, maybe it refers to rather average riffs, which simply they don’t convince me… Fortunately this temporary benumbment passes away, when “Dog Faced Gods” enters the stage. This is almost death metal killer with paralyzing opening, quite fast riffs, double bass attack and Chuck growls (clean vocals only in chorus). As the title says, I can also find there oriental-like guitar lead by James. The structure of the song is like a presage to the future musical trials of the band. The next “All I Could Bleed” is interesting too, with some speedups in the middle and memorable as always guitar leads. In turn “Urotsukidōji” stands here as instrumental remembrance of glorious days of „Hypnosis” or “Musical Death (A Dirge)” from the second album. But even there are flashy bass lines and guitar leads, nothing is going to dethrone these masterpieces from “The New Order”… The end of “Low” is close, but fortunately one song has a strong position. Its name “Chasing Fear”, one of the best “Low” tracks with excellent opening and furious chorus, in the middle there is a bright, ‘climatic’ slow down, I also admire killing guitar show of Erik and James. Really good work! Before the last very calm outro, “Ride” (simple yet energetic song) is rather in the vein of two weaker tracks I mentioned somewhere above.
To put all the things together and say something on the end: Testament wanted to record heavier album and they did it undeniably. But also they told about “Low” as their best work so far. And here I can’t agree with them. Maybe this is better than “Practice What You Preach” and “Souls Of Black”, you know, maybe, but that’s all. When I think about their cult 80s records, “Low” fails utterly. For sure they had to face many problems in those days, but lack of Alex Skolnick is very perceptible and significantly lowers the final mark, even if the guitar works (riffs and leads) are very good (but only ‘very good’). I would like to describe “Low” just correct and right stuff with some excellent moments, but this album is a kind of disappointment after “The Ritual” and its majesty. Of course I was full of understanding, because I knew about the problems with the line-up and I think that this isn’t the most important fact, for sure the main argument to praise the band is that they didn’t give up. The decisive proof was born in 1995, when “Live At The Fillmore” saw the daylight. With no Skolnick, no Clemente, no Tempesta, and no Atlantic records finally, they recorded a genuine thrash live album, a real masterpiece of superb metal, but this is another story to tell…
The notion of Testament without their chief attraction Alex Skolnick burning up the fret board might be a tough thing for old school fans of said Bay Area thrashers to comprehend, but after the very middle of the road oriented, Metallica-like “The Ritual”, that is what everyone was face with. Combined with the eventuality of the recording industry suddenly becoming hostile to guitar solos and crisp heaviness, one could very well assume that this would spell the end of Testament the thrash metal band. It is a foregone conclusion that any viable 80s band would be impacted by the changes going on in the mid-90s, but it is with great pride that I say that this band did not go the route of Robb Flynn or Scott Ian.
Just to keep everything in perspective, “Low” is by no means a conventional thrash album, nor is it an attempt to bring the 80s back into the 90s the way Iced Earth’s “Burnt Offerings” did. This is more along the lines of a compromise between the better elements that were being brought forth by Pantera (which was dependent on a lesser known and superior band in Exhorder) and the slowed down character of “Souls Of Black”. It’s flavor is definitely within the context of the grooving, bluesy rocking character of the 90s, but still hard edged, technical and respectable. Bassist Greg Christian and newly recruited drummer Joey Tempesta both make a hell of a racket on this thing, and newcomer lead guitarist James Murphy proves to be very capable, though not quite as flashy as Skolnick.
Song for song, this album is a predictable and logical successor for the band’s previous work with a few occasional surprises. In keeping with the more intense vocal style brought out by the onslaught of death metal in the early 90s, Chuck Billy takes a few occasions to release some toneless barks of the Chuck Schuldiner persuasion, and the overall heavier and darker guitar tone sounds like it took a few cues from “Human” along with the 2 Exhorder albums that everyone heard in Pantera’s early 90s work. The obvious candidates for solid, mid-tempo heaviness include the title song, “Shades Of War” and “Chasing Fear”, while a few songs including the frenetic riff fest “Dog Faced Gods”, the instrumental shred fest “Urotsukidoji” and the Pantera on steroids speed fest “Ride” take the metronome up several notches.
While definitely not an out and out classic, “Low” displays that there was definitely some room for a harder, nastier version of thrash that could be down tempo, yet not dumbed down. It probably won’t appeal as much to the crowd that look to their first two albums as what the band ought to sound like, but anyone who has any appreciation for the stuff they’ve done since 1990 will find a solid album in a year mostly dominated by hypnotic proto-mallcore drivel. Picture what Machine Head might have sounded like had Robb Flynn injected a bit more of his past with Forbidden and Vio-Lence into their otherwise modern sound and kept the first two songs on “Burn My Eyes”. And also picture Flynn sounding a bit closer to James Hetfield and not like a crappy Layne Staley knockoff.
As a huge fan of the early thrash metal scene, I admit that Testament's popularity could've skyrocketed had they made some smarter choices in the 80's. In retrospect, It's a bit surprising how they didn't establish themselves alongside the likes of Metallica and Megadeth as one of the true heavyweights of the thrash metal genre. Every ingredient is there, staring you, right in the face, the songwriting, the talent and the charisma, Testament had it all.
The biggest hurdle this band faced was their reputation for being a decent second rate Metallica clone rather than a band with it's own identity. I think "Low" is finally where they forged an identity for themselves but this came way too late for their own good. The 90's was an age dominated by grunge and a band called Pantera. "Low" sees the band expand their sound while still keeping their root elements intact. This is far from being a pure thrash metal record, The band adopts a refreshing, modern approach with some clear death metal influences brought in by new guitarist James Murphy.
Chuck Billy does his best James Hetfield impersonation every once in a while but has fully developed his own unique personality by now. Despite the departure of Alex Skolnick and Louie Clemente, the new members fit in quite comfortably and the band sounds reborn.
The album is helped by a nicely balanced, potent production job that gives this album a fairly distinct sound. "Low", The title track makes for a crushing introduction with massive riffing and Chuck's brilliant, soaring vocals. Testament waste no time with a punishing opener to kick things off in style. "Legions (In Hiding)" marches on with some huge, catchy grooves and Chuck's experimentation with new death metal style vocals. Worth mentioning also is the drumming, A more active and varied style of drumming that accentuates the brutality a bit more than their previous records.
"Hail Mary" is where perhaps Chuck Billy sounds most like James Hetfield "I am alive, I feel dirt in my eyes". The riffing has a flavor that is sometimes quite reminiscent of James Murphy's work with Death. Metallica's influences are still quite abundant on tracks like "Shades of War","P.C." and "Chasing Fear" which bring forth some ...And Justice For All and Master of Puppets influenced aggression. Testament's songwriting now has a newfound consistency to it, the filler material present on their previous albums is completely absent.
"Dog Faced Gods" should have any warm blooded thrash metal fan banging their heads in joy. This was the mid-90's and they said thrash was dead. Testament successfully turn back the clock with the vicious chugging riffs and catchy choruses that the band is well known for. "Trail of Tears" is another ballad by this band, this time bringing back memories of Fade to Black and Welcome Home (Sanitarium). The melodic lead work oozes class and taste as they successfully manage to craft a slower, more moody song. Chuck Billy is right at home here even if the lyrics themselves are a bit shallow.
"All I Could Bleed" has an interesting vibe to it and some moments that sound like late 80's Exodus. Not a personal favorite of mine but not bad at all. "Ride" has Chuck Billy repeatedly screaming Ride!.... for a chorus and you just know that the band is running out of ideas. "Urotsukidoji" is an interesting, mostly instrumental composition that makes use of voice samples with some interesting results. The band's experimentation largely impresses with slick bass work, menacing grooves and some inspired guitar soloing which again reminds me of Murphy's work with Death. "Last Call" brings the album to a completely anticlimactic ending.
All in all, Testament's sixth album is probably their most consistent offering. The band doesn't fall prey to their age old clichés that dragged the band back and have finally found their stride. This is an effort that is to be respected and deservedly so. A potent mix of thrash metal with a wide range of classic and modern influences coupled with good songwriting makes this an album a definite winner.
All things considered, Testament never had a spectacular career as a thrash band. Yes, both "The Legacy" and "Souls of Black" were good, even great by some means, but the finger pointing of Metallica clones was always persistent. Obviously, there were worse bands out there who carried the same label as a poor man's version of that Big 4 member but a band like Testament always had the potential to do something better. Not necessarily extraordinary, as their back catalog professes, but definitely worthy of mention.
After the very lackluster "The Ritual," a few changes occured. For one, Alex Skolnick exited the band and was replaced by James Murphy. I always liked Skolnick, who has proven himself a more than capable axeman, but Murphy fills in quite nicely. As someone already said before, it does sound almost like Skolnick already wrote parts of this album because it plays out in a way that it seems like he's still there. John Tempesta replaces Louie Clemente behind the drum kit, and good thing as I think he actually upstages his predecessor on this album. The most noticable difference, however, is Chuck Billy. After some time of filtering in James Hetfield and to a lesser extent, Dave Mustaine influence, he has decided to start something more unique to himself. I commend Chuck Billy for this, and while he's never been my favorite vocalist, I actually like what I'm hearing from him. He also did this on "Demonic," but make no mistake as this album leaves that one in the dust.
The music itself reminds me a little bit of what Machine Head did this same year on "Burn My Eyes." That shouldn't scare anyone away as that is simply a distant comparison, the music is similiar though this album has more thrash influence and doesn't waste its time with long winded songs full of section changes and shifts. Instead, you get some full on chargers in songs like the title track, the catchy "Hail Mary," the thrashier "Dog Faced Gods," among others. The band also throws in a commendable ballad in "Trail of Tears," which I understand represents Chuck Billy's Native American heritage.
While there are a few stand-outs, a few of these just lack interesting ideas. The bass driven instrumental "Urotsukidoji" might be an interesting moment for Greg Christian but it comes off as filler. "Ride" is also pretty much filler material, it packs a chorus meant to get the adrenaline flowing but it never does, instead running through the motions then coasting to the finish line. "Last Call" is also a bit of an unpleasant surprise and a questionable closer/afterthought and seems downright silly.
At the end of the day, this is an underrated album for Testament. It shows them leaving behind the Metallica comparisons, considering this kicks the shit out of anything Metallica was farting around with at the time. Its basically a mixture of groove and thrash, which was big at the time though I'd argue this works better than "Far Beyond Driven," and Chuck Billy can definitely emit those growls better than Anselmo could. "Low" is a rather fine album all things considered, definitely worth looking into for fans of later day Testament. Its not the band you knew in 1989, they've crafted a different identity for themselves, one I would dare say fits them better anyway.
This is probably the best thing they've put out since when?. Souls of black?. No. This is their best album since "The Legacy" itself. Let's face it, After they released their first album in 1987, They quickly changed their approach to making music, They even released a pop-thrash MTV friendly 'Practice what you preach'. I wonder if people here are old enough?. Testament are underrated?. Absolutely not, There was a time when the music video for 'practice what you preach' and 'souls of black' was heavily circulated on MTV and other TV channels, almost as much as the big 4 themselves.
They tried every trick in the book, Music videos, and this false claim that they're "Underground metal legends". They never were that big in the underground scene and they failed breaking into the mainstream because their lack of charisma wouldn't let them. They're overall a pretty decent band who've made some good songs and one really great album.
This isn't nearly as bad as the terrible 'Demonic'. Let's start off with the vocals, Chuck billy is a good vocalist but i can't help but feel as if he just lets out this mix of high pitched screams and death growls just to sound impressive. "You know why i do this?, because i can!". His voice feels so unfitting sometimes that it takes the focus away from the pretty decent instrumental work behind him.
A new guitarist makes his way into Testament, But it's still the same old story, It's the same heavy-ish fast riffs which feel very much inspired by bands like Metallica, Exodus and Megadeth in their prime. The solos are decent but strangely feel unconnected with the rest. The drumming for the most part is solid, The production is honestly, Great. Everything sounds pretty sharp. If Testament's first album had this kind of production, Maybe more people would've taken it seriously. Who knows?. Their popularity could've sky-rocketed.
There are a bit too many Mid-paced sections which progress to absolutely nowhere. Chuck Billy lets out his screams every now and then to make sure we're not asleep. "Low" is a pretty good opener, probably their best since "New world order". The 2nd and 3rd tracks feature really funny choruses, It isn't southern enough and it's not metal enough. They're just weird. "Dog faced gods" is a pretty solid track, This kind of energy translates well into live performances. The guitarists do a lot of pit pleasing crunchy guitar riffs on this one. "Urotsukidoji" is a decent instrumental track. For those people who don't know, The voice samples are taken from the anime called "Urotsukidoji". They are played in reverse over the riffs.
The album seems to lack any kind of progression, It just feels like a series of unconnected songs, 12 songs which basically could've made their way on any other Testament album. Overall This is only for the Die-hard Testament fans, It should please them. After this, They'd hit Serious lows with "Demonic". "The gathering" is a pretty solid offering, If you're looking for a good Testament album, I suggest you skip this and try "The Gathering".
As a pure thrash band, Testament were always kind of second rate. I mean they had some truly great songs, but in my opinion they never released a *great* album until this one. Calling it great may be a BIT of a stretch, but it's pretty fuckin' good though, and more importantly it's consistent from start to finish(all though it does fade.) Really though, how long could they continue to make generic thrash? They had all ready grown quite stale by the release of The Ritual and if they had continued down that path they would be long gone by now, but even to this day they still put out decent albums.
There were some pretty big changes in Testaments sound with this album, obviously Chuck Billy's deep growl was probably the biggest change. Also, exit Skolnick and enter Murphy. While I'm actually NOT a big fan of James Murphy, he does bring a much needed freshness to Testaments sound. By this time they had worn out the simple, by the books Metallica inspired thrash they played early on, and were in desperate need of something new. This album is much groovier and bottom heavy, and really it sounds like a heavier Pantera. But don't let that scare you away. The production is damn near perfect, they finally got a good sound after years of struggling with thin production.
The title track kicks the album off nicely, it's heavy as fuck yet groovy thrash. The vocals in this song are excellent, and Chuck mixes things up nicely. "Fuel the fire for war, it's man against mankind!" Good fist pumping stuff. "Legions(In Hiding" is pretty similar and contains some great groove riffs and the solo is pretty damn impressive and odd sounding. "Hail Mary" has one of the better riffs on the album, almost mid-eastern sounding. And it easily has the catchiest chorus as well. "Trail of Tears" is a straight up power ballad, and I will admit that it took a while to grow on me, but I fuckin' love it. Chuck Billy really sounds great, his clean vocals will impress you if you've never heard them. "Shades of War" is one of the more straight up thrash songs, and it's fucking heavy! This is probably the most underrated song in their entire catalog, it's pretty similar to the title track off of Practice What You Preach but with a much thicker sound. "Dog Faced Gods" as others have mentioned is damn near death metal, and they pull it off surprisingly well.
It does start to grow tiresome at around track 9(the quirky bass instrumental.) Songs like "Chasing Fear," "All I Could Bleed," and "Ride" are really bland and stale. Not quite filler, but they just lack any sort of punch. "Last Call" is completely unnecessary, and if they would have shaved off a few tracks, and took it from 12 to say 9 or 10 it would have been much better. But there's really not a whole lot to complain about, there are 6 or 7 kick ass songs on here and that's ALOT more than I can say for most albums. So check it out if you like thrash, and don't mind a little groove, you can't go wrong.
Like a lot of other former thrash bands of the 80's, Testament released an album in 1992 that showed much more accessible songwriting and wasn't nearly as heavy. This was to be expected and charted higher than any other Testament album. Exeunt Alex Skolnick to Savatage. Testament recuit James Murhphy and release perhaps their heaviest album yet. What is surprising is that it is more groove metal than thrash. Perhaps even more surprising is that it doesn't suck.
Testament got a new producer in GGGarth, who had also done work with Rage Against the Machine, and had the album mixed by Michael Wagner. The guitars are in the forefront, with the vocals and drums in their appropriate places, not too buried, but not too far up front either. The result is a much heavier sound that is unlike anything else Testament's peers were doing at the time, with the exception of Overkill of course.
Also new to the band is John Tempesta, who had done some work in Exodus and White Zombie. His work is outstanding and he makes this the first Testament album where the drumming is a highlight as opposed to being...well...there. Louie Clemente never progressed past Lar$ styled drumming and is one of the many reasons that Testament never became as big as Slayer and Anthrax, both of whom had excellent drummers.
This change in direction gives Eric Peterson a chance to take a new approach to riff-writing, and as a result, the riffs are much stronger than anything on "The Ritual." There may be only one or two main riffs in a song, but they hit hard and are a breath of fresh air. New guitarist James Murphy does a fine job of replacing Alex Skolnick; many of the solos would sound like Skolnick was playing them except that Murhpy's guitar sound isn't quite as strong. In fact, many Skolnick-isms appear throughout the album; perhaps Skolnick wrote all the solos before he left the band and Murphy just played them. That would explain why Murphy's performance here was so much better than his lackluster work on "The Gathering." Even so, the solos are just as much of a highlight as on any previous Testament album.
The best solo of the whole album can be found in "Dog Faced Gods," a song that shows Testament exploring the borders of death metal. The guitars chug and Chuck Billy growls during the verses, yet delivers clean vocals for that kickass chorus. This song is one of the best that Testament has ever written and is one of the more unique songs in their catalogue. The title track gives a pretty accurate representation of what the rest of the album is like, and although it's a good song, I feel more could have been done with it. It starts out with a terrific riff and Chuck Billy mixes his more traditional growl with a death growl, although not nearly as much as on "Dog Faced Gods," but the song doesn't progress at all, and seems somewhat inadequate. The album as a whole offers consistantly strong heavy metal until about the very end, where the riff and songwriting slips a little.
The only exception to this is the ballad "Trail of Tears." After writing two of the best metal ballads ever with "The Legacy" and "Return to Serenity," Testament decided to stick with genre cliches. The singing, build-up at the end, solo, clean-to-heavy guitar transitions are all predictable and have been done much more successfully by other bands. Thankfully, this would be the last ballad the band would write.
Even though "Low" is far from essential, it's still a nice heavy album to headbang to and is much better than pretty much anything else that was being released at the time. The songs are solid pretty much from start to finish and this album is great to listen to while driving.
After releasing a few good and a few bad thrash records in the 80s and early 90s, Skolnick left the band and in his place came James Murphy. The result was a slower, more groove orientated sound that still had its roots in thrash metal. While some people say this a bad thing and that they sold out or something similar to that, this still remains a pretty damn good album that holds up to their previous stuff well, and coming after the boring 'The Ritual' makes it even better.
The first thing which must be noted is the excellent (*gasp*) production job. Yeah it's polished, but it makes it sound heavy as hell, and suits the sound of the albums well. The guitars are rightfully in the forefront of the mix, the drums have some weight to them and the bass is audible. One problem that Testament had before this album was the lack of riffs, and quality ones at that. This is fixed on this album, as the riffs sound different to each other and despite having a groove sound to them are still pretty heavy, helped in part by the guitar tone which is nicely done and a far cry from the light, pussy guitar tone seen on 'Practice What you Preach'. There are on average about three or four riffs to a song, with a main one usually taking up most of the song time. The new direction taken means there isn't as many solos as before, and without Skolnick in the band the amount is decreased even more. However, this isn't really a big issue, as they are only thrown in when necessary, and are kept simple and short. Chuck Billy's vocals are still pretty good, and he does more death metal growls on here than before but still prefers to stick to clean vocals.
There are a few main standout songs on here. The first is the title track, which has an excellent mid paced riff that destroys everything in its path. The chorus is catchy with some good vocal lines and there is a good solo halfway through. 'P.C' is the shortest song on here coming in at only 2:50. It starts off with sounds of people snorting crack before a hell of a riff takes over and drives it forward. Add in a simple yet effective solo and it's another winner. 'Dog Faced Gods' is another highlight with its heavy riffing and death metal-ish vocals in the verses combined with some clean vocals and a slower riff in the chorus. It then speeds up halfway into a solo before going back to the verse.
All of this adds up to a pretty damn solid album. While occasionally it seems a little uninspired and a bad riff props it's head up now and then, for the most part this is competent thrash metal that still holds up today. Unfortunately this would be Testament's last album worth listening to. It's not perfect but it's pretty good, and while it's not as good as their first effort this comes recommended to anyone into Heavy Metal in general.
Testament had caught a little bit of flack on the album before this (The Ritual) before making this masterpiece, and it had a lot to do with ex-guitarist Alex Skolnich wanting to make the follow-up to that album sound like Metallica's self titled album (aka The Black Album). So then, what did that mean for the band? They fired Skolnick and brought in James Murphy (ex-Obituary, ex-Death), and made their most brutal album they had made up to that point. The style is still very Testament, as the thrash is definitely still there. But instead of the lead guitar/solo based sound of albums like The New Order, what we have on Low is a more low-E and thicker guitar sound, and less predictable drum blast beats.
The title track is the first track here, and there are some nice, thick intro riffs here, and as it works into the vocals, they are more growly this time around. The Cookie Monster style growl from Chuck Billy is only used a little bit on this album, but when placed correctly, they are very effective in making the songs sound even heavier and more brutal. "Legions In Hiding" has a nice strut to it in the verses, and "Hail Mary" is an excellent track with a catchy chorus. "Trail Of Tears" is a wonderfully done ballad that would make Megadeth's "A Tout Le Monde" or Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" look like something Celine Dion and Diane Warren would collaborate on. The song has it all, emotional vocals, caustic guitar work, and a great chorus pickup. "Shades Of War" and "P.C." are two more strut-style thrash songs, with some great riffing from James Murphy. And the highlight of the album is next - in the form of "Dog Faced Gods". The song starts out with a very good riff at about the 3-second mark, and works into some frantically paced drumming before you hear Chuck Billy start growling away. When he goes into his clean voice after the second verse, he sounds like he's ready to rip off your throat.
"All I Could Bleed" is only an average song, good but not great, but not very memorable. "Urotsukidoji" is an instrumental, but what are with those vocals during it? Are those samples they're using? "Chasing Fear" begins with some nice stutter riffs, then there is some nice bass tooling going on after the intro lead. Agressive Billy vocals follow, as this song features more of a groove to it. And the chorus sounds pretty cool. The drumming on "Ride" is ungodly (courtesy of John Tempesta), and there is some excellent riffing in the chorus as well. "Last Call" ends the album as an instrumental, giving the listener a rest after a good 50 or so minutes of nonstop headbanging and moshing on this album.
All in all, this is a splendid thrash release. It's not The New Order... it's even better, and it's much better at that. And if you don't think they could possibly not improve from here, guess who's sitting behind the drumkit on the release five years after this one? You won't believe your ears....
Testament had totally ruled on this one...we’re talking about their best 90´s album: “Low”. Testament had five studio albums on this decade but none of them achieved the level of consistency that “Low” had. Of course “The Gathering” was very good (it had to be, with Lombardo, Murphy and DiGiorgio…obvious) and had some of the elements of “Low” mixed up with the style of their previous death metal release “Demonic”, but “Low” is pure aggressive power and absolute thrash riffing, a return of a band to their roots, developing themselves in their own style and forgetting about the sense of commerciality very patent on their last release with shredder Alex Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente, 1992´s “The Ritual”.
Left Skolnick and Clemente and entered two of the best replacements that Peterson & Co. could have chosen. For the lead guitar came shredding virtuoso James Murphy, already known for having played on Death’s “Spiritual Healing” and on Obituary’s “Cause of Death”, and for the drumming came very, but very temporarily drummer John Tempesta who could hangout with the band for more than just the recording of the album…
About the guys…Chuck Billy remained the same thrash vocalist with those intense vocals always charged but striking now at a more aggressive and guttural tone on certain songs of this record.
Eric Peterson is, and always will be beyond Alex Skolnick…I mean, he is the ultimate Testament guitarist, he kept the flag alive for all these years and still keeps coming on with the heaviest riffs…He practically composed every song on this album with only a little help of Greg and James in some of them, and on this record he started switching more solo space with Murphy, revealing himself as a melody maker in terms of soloing… He’s not a shredder, but cuts them just fine…
Greg Christian is one of Legacy’s two survivors and one of the original Testament’s three founding members present on this record. Here we definitively start to listen to Greg’s bass with more intensity and he even has an instrumental with a great part of his own. Not remarkable, but effective.
James Murphy is, and always will be for me, one of the best fucking shredders I ever listened to. The perfect choice to replace Skolnick, but a very short lived one as he left the band some time after this record to return again in “The Gathering” to be leaving again because of illness. I like Steve Smyth, but Murphy will always be a step ahead. Great solos, absolute melodic shredding, total sense of heaviness and a good fusion with Peterson’s guitar are Murphy’s trademarks on this record.
Finally, comes drummer Tempesta…Good drummer, more of an exhibitionist than Clemente and consequentially a more effective drummer. Although not being a drum god (but almost there…), he still manages to get the right sound for these songs out of the drum kit.
This “crown jewel” starts ripping your ears apart with “Low”, a really heavy song with a quite catchy chorus. Chuck’s voice changes sometimes from an aggressive voice tone to a guttural one…great song!! “Legions (in Hiding)” is a good song with that intro that was used during Testament’s tour for “The Ritual”, in the beginning of the song “Over the Wall”. Although not being one of the best songs, it still has some great solos and rhythms.
“Hail Mary” is the only Peterson/Murphy composition on this album and it’s one of the best. Those intro riffs are just fabulous and the rawness of that chorus allied with one of the greatest solos ever played in metal, makes this a hot favourite of Testament.
There are two really fantastic songs on this record. Two of the best in Testament’s entire career, from which the first one is the beautiful “Trail of Tears” ballad. This has some clean guitar melodies that just make this, allied with Chuck Billy’s melodical tone, one of Testament’s “perfect” songs! Murphy mostly dominates the solo sequence with some intervention of Peterson in the middle and it’s just fucking amazing…one of the longest solos I've ever heard. Peterson also does the intro and outro solos on this one…
“Shades of War” and “P.C.” are two average good songs, and the second one was almost entirely composed by Greg Christian.
Then, the second really fantastic song on this record finally comes, the amazing death metallish “Dog Faced Gods”. This was the “perfect” song that really got Testament back on the track as one of the heaviest bands of the Bay Area Thrash style… Death, but also total THRASH on this one. The intro riff is going at light speed and this mixes up some Arabic with demonic melodies making this a total thrash favourite at live shows. After listening to this one I was really convinced that Eric Peterson could really write himself the whole future of Testament without Skolnick. It also has a little taste of progressive metal…
“All I Could Bleed” is an average song, but it also kicks some serious ass, and next come the instrumental “Urotsukidoji” and …fuck! Does this song rock or what?? I heard that someone was trying to compare this to Cliff Burton’s “Anaesthesia” from Metallica’s “Kill ´Em All” because of the bass solo…IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!! This is a progressive metal song with some three great solos made by the three possible soloists on the band… first Greg Christian’s bass and then Eric Peterson and James Murphy’s guitars. The bass solo and the second guitar solo are just amazing…
Finishing up next come the really heavy and catchy “Chasing Fear”. Chuck’s vocals rule on this one and Peterson’s guitar is not far from perfect on this song…”Ride” is a short total thrash song, a good headbanger, not too technical or perfect but fast with that ferocious drumming and riffage, making this the one that really should have been the band’s closer for this album… but it was not, instead they’ve chosen the complete throwaway “Last Call”. Useless song and their little fuck up on this album…Nothing more to say…They don’t get 100 because of that one.
Every Testament fan should have this one… Even if you are that kind of fan that has them all except for “Low”, if selling your “Demonic” and “The Ritual” records means the only way to get it, THEN GET IT!!!
Really, this is Testament’s masterpiece; all of you who don’t have this deserve to rot in hell for the rest of the eternity!!!!!