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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....