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Practice What You Preach is the third full-length Testament album and probably the best of their first era, which starts with "The Legacy" and ends with "The Ritual". While it lacks the delightful eerie acoustic sessions that are spotted in some of the songs of the New Order (i.e. Eerie Inhabitants and Disciples of the Watch) it is full of superb riffs and impressive, fast and melodic solos. Greg's bass is enhanced so that the listener can get a full image of the band's sound and Louie's drumming is creditable and fast-paced. This one is a great thrash album, but you shouldn't expect to hear anything like "The Legacy". This one combines melody with speed and, as a result, elegant and elaborant thrash riffs are dominant in it. If you have a good taste in great underground music, then you should definately get your hands on this album.
1) Practice What You Preach: This song starts with a great riff and it continues with another one and all of a sudden, right from the start of the album, great music keeps on coming! You can hear the bass chanting and grooving among with the guitars, filling the sound as a bass should and going further than this, offering an original experience to us, the auditors. Chuck's voice is great - do not even think about mentioning Metallica here, I'll talk more about this later - as it strikes right at your brain, making you want to scream the fucking lyrics. The song is very fluent and the solo starts before you even realize that two minutes have passed. The musicianship, the skill, the inspiration, the speed and the melody are all flowing endlessly from Alex's soloing, giving a miraculous element to this song which is already something more than extremely kick-ass. The fact that the solo is lengthy too renders it one of the album's heart-pleasers. Listen to it over and over again if you're unable to discover the magic that's in it; you'll profit much from it, believe me. All in all, the group's conception of this song and their performance on it is astonishing. But music is about lyrics too, right? That's why we listen to Testament! Practice what you preach is such a common expression, but no one seems to pay attention to it. We all are philosophers in our own way, but are we practitioners? We want to have an opinion about every fucking thing, don't we? Just think about it... Once you find your answers don't forget to thank Testament for stressing this out for you.
2) Perilous Nation: Another great song which is full of superb, melodic, thrash-y riffs. Like the first song, this one is not only about thrash and harsh riffing, it's more elegant and it combines melody with speed. The blending of the guitars with the vocals is wonderful. Chuck is incredible at discovering voice-riffs that are so different from what the guitars play and so melodic and mind-intriguing that they make you want to hear this song repeatedly. And while you are lost in the magic land of Testament's music, listening to wild vocals, melodic vocals, great voice-riffs - as I call them - and lunar guitar riffs, the pre-solo part begins. Alex is surely messing with our heart in this part of the song. Every time I listen to this short lead I feel the band's energy overwhelming me; huge emotions of unspeakable pleasure arise every fucking time I'm listening to this part! After that, the real solo starts. Signed by Alex's quality and genius, it's superb. Generally, it's a great song full of intense music which keeps the listener amazed. Let us now consider the lyrics. Testament is known to put politics into music but not in a raw or disturbing way and that's what they do here. The philosophic and realistic approach to politics in this one is certainly giving you food for thought. I mean, think about this piece of lyrics: Bold is the one who dares to say what he feels - renegation man, to no one he yields. Right there, right from the start of the song, there's a moral value to be made into an example on how to live your life. The rest of the lyrics is just as good and adorable while it's full of hidden messages that are waiting for you to unveil them. Speaking of all these I nearly forgot; it takes some courage to try and end a song with a fading solo and it takes talent to make it work. Apparently, Testament got both of these virtues, as this song's ending indicates. I am very happy to note that there are such great musicians out there like Skolnick and Peterson, competing in talent with the great late Randy Rhoads.
3) Envy Life: This one is as very captivating song. In the very beginning of it you get to enjoy Chuck's growl - a technique that he will be using more in the later Testament albums "Demonic" and "The Gathering" - and envy him for he's a multitalented musician. The drumming in this song is fascinating too because it doesn't only provide tempo and pace but it also completes the riffs with great fill-ups. This song is a little bit of groovy too, giving you an aspect of Testament's heavy and imposing musical side. That side combined with Alex's squeals and Chuck's voice creates a unique gloomy atmosphere and that's why the lyrics of the song fit in the music perfectly. Obscure rituals and dark magic are the main themes of this piece, but that's not what the lyrics are all about. Consider this lyrical part: The lost / dark souls of time envy life. If you look beyond the rituals and the darkness, you'll find out an obvious yet veiled meaning in this song; it's the dark souls of all time who envy life, not the peaceful ones who are happily resting in peace. It's the malevolent and vicious persons who spent their life in hate that envy the living. The whole point is that, if you are moral and principled during your life, you won't feel sad when death approaches you and you won't become a "lost soul" envying the living. You'll probably have earned a lot and gave everything you've had to your loved ones and, by the time death comes to take you, you'll feel complete and ready to leave this world. You'll know you did what you ought to and lived a great life; you won't envy life!
4) Time Is Coming: I do not think that it's necessary to point out that this song starts with a superb riff accompanied by an even greater lead that is just mind blowing. Instead, I ought to admit that the next two riffs are pure melody and thrash-y speed simultaneously. Chuck sounds angry and excited in the verses giving emphasis in the dark chorus which follows. The combination of the vocals and the riffs is magical and original. The whole structure of the song is building up nicely, peaking with a repetition of the first fluent riff, which is now used as a pre-solo riff. Next thing you know the solo comes in. The rhythm in the background is brilliant with the drums keeping a subtle pace with pleasant break-ups and the bass flirting robustly with our ears. The solo, of course, is in the limelight giving pleasure to our ears with its greatness and musicianship, both of which are granted lavishly by Alex Skolnick. The complexity of the fuse of the solo with the rhythm produces an amazing piece of music, but that seems to be nothing but a standard in this grand album! As for the lyrics, Testament is onto politics again but, this time, in a more direct approach, talking about corrupted cops and malevolent greedy presidents. Unfortunately, these are the people who are in charge of our world nowadays. I do like to believe, anyhow, that they represent a small minority and that things do change. I do believe that, fortunately, "Life it spins just like a wheel ", as Testament underline in this masterpiece.
5) Blessed In Contempt: By the start of the fifth song you should be already taken aback by Testament's art. This one is beginning with a sturdy opening accompanied by a solo which seems to be blessed in eloquence and swift melody. Chuck Billy enters the musical arena with an appetite for annihilation. His rough vocals are stretched at the end of almost each line creating an eerie but grand atmosphere of darkness. The lyrics are in perfect harmony with that kind of atmosphere, as they seem to talk about an unbearable pain evoked to the singer by many venomous incidents including his father's death. The terror and the misery are burying his will to live and so he ends up a contemptible human wreck. That's what we should all avoid to become, no matter what shit happens to our life. And while you get the chance to start exploring the deeper meaning of the lyrics, a joyful music break takes place, in which Testament present once again their musical skills as a group. The arabic scales that are so commonly used by this huge band are showing up here as well, taking your mind even deeper to the darkness of this composition. The track keeps flowing while our hero is going mad, pleading for someone to take him to his sanity "before it gets too late". All the intension which is constructed hitherto is exploding with Alex's solo which starts out with quick tapings to get to a more psychedelic squealing session, which is again followed by Alex's speedy melodies. These continual inversions might even symbolize our hero's psychic instability. The solo is smoothly giving ground to the last great riff of the song while passing off. That last riff is excellently combined with the distant obscure cry, chanting "Blessed In Contempt", which is giving the auditor the fucking creeps. Broadly, it's a very imposing and morbid piece.
6) Greenhouse Effect: Right from the outset of this song an elegant trash riff is appearing just before the whole thing gets heavier with Chuck being in charge of this heavy-ness. Many inspired riffs come along filling the song with great music and constant changes. It's amazing how many cool riffs are in this song being accompanied by different sturdy leads. Regarding the solo, I must admit that it's a real diamond. Alex is fusing speed with melody again, achieving an exciting result. This song is, in general, another proof of Testament's musicianship; it's filled with A-class music. Those dudes should be honored for giving their souls into music; there's no way they could have made an album like this one without doing so, you see! I won't analyze the lyrics this time as it's obvious that they're talking about adopting an active stance against environmental issues. All I would like to mention is that Testament did again a great job creating a song which contains excellent music and thoughtful lyrics too. Keep in mind though that not all bands are capable of doing so; some thrash bands are completely wasting the lyrical part of their songs talking about endless massacres! That concept could be nice for a song or two but certainly not for more. Anyway, the political aspect towards the ecological issues which is included in this song is also nice, taking these problems to a dimension more original than what is on your television.
7) Sins of Omission: I'm getting weary of composing this hymn to this super band's album, because it truly has so much spirit and skill inside it that I just can't help but mention every single detail. Once again, it takes Testament not one but two great riffs to compose the introduction of their song. The vocals in this one are overflowing with rough excellence while they're neat and catchy. The whole composition is memorable without losing the gloom that Testament always attach to their compositions. A short solo intervenes the song's progression, bringing a gleefully impressive change towards the light on this otherwise obscure composition. As soon as it vanishes though and its gentle melody fades out, the heavy thrash elements are emerging once again. The verse and the refrain are followed by a grimly growl and a new innovative riff blended with a lead part. That is when the solo comes in. Did I say that the last one was a diamond? Well this one's a diamond too, as nearly as every single solo in this album. Fortunately for us, it is lengthy and the auditor can satiate with pure magic. Squeals, sweet bendings, fast sweep pickings and fluent legatos constitute this solo, so enjoy it! The last refrain is enriched with accurate leads so you can be absorbed by this song, in case you weren't overwhelmed with magic yet - which is absolutely impossible. Finally, the lyrics on this one are a real headache. Like many Testament compositions, including songs from this album, depending on the idiosyncrasy of each person the lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways. Personally, I think that this one is talking about how pointless life can seem to be when we are possessed by depression and desperately seek answers to our problems. That's when we've got to use our mind and "hope to find the meaning of existence ". It may be that many different purposes hold us to life but again, we should try and find them in times of crisis in order to be saved. We should not omit to search for them - that would be a sin (of omission)! It's easier said than done, I know, but what's the whole point of life if not fighting for decency and prosperity?
8) The Ballad: This one is a golden song full of emotions; it's another proof that Testament's music talent knows no boundaries. Constituted by pure and sweet melody, it's an amazing metal-ballad, just like the other ballads of this unique band. The only differentiation is that, in this one, many heavenly solos are included. The intro solo is not just harmonically fitted into the music; it's also extremely hard to play on acoustic guitar too. Moreover, when Chuck starts singing you get that knot of sorrowfulness right in your heart... Sweet sadness is taking over your soul and you ought to enjoy this depressive feeling as long as you can because, after all, music is all about emotions. The two next solos are very mind-tripping - especially the last one - while each note seems to be carefully chosen in both of them. The metal part of the song begins after the second solo and it is combined with Chuck's talented vocal exhibition (yeah!). Nice riffs and leads are showing up, leading to the main solo which is a jewel too. This song ends before it even began if you ask me, that's just how fluent and great it is. I really can't understand why so many people underrate it! It's all about music, harmony, melody, and emotions without missing the thrash metal element one could expect to hear from a band such as Testament. The lyrics are depressing all the way, making you sigh silently for all that you've missed during your lifetime. That's until it gets to the end, where hope is reborn from the ashes of despair. Your life can begin right from the start, no matter how old you are or how old you feel; life's never done with you, so keep fighting.
9) Nightmare (Coming Back to You): This one is the most thrash-y song of the album and it lacks the elegance for which I've been praising Testament throughout my whole review. This one is for the rattleheads! It seems that Testament is giving a break to our minds which must be truly absorbed by the quality of the album at this point. This song is based on speed and roughness. It is really robust and has an insane solo which is aiming to drive the auditor crazy. Chuck is strengthening the speed of his performance, rendering this song intense. The lyrics are rebel-like and signify the confusion that many people who are desperately searching for a way to "find the place their life was before" feel. Chuck advices each one of us to wake up from his nightmare and stop taking what they give, implying the media and the political and economic leaders by using the word "they".
10) Confusion Fusion: This is a nice instrumental song written by skillful musicians. The fact that there's no solo in this one, although it's an instrumental, renders it an exception to its kind. In that way though, a lot of attention is paid by the listener to each of the riffs of this piece. Needless to say, the lead parts are carefully designed and the whole composition is complex and pleasant to listen to. The bass is amplified so that we can enjoy it equally with the guitars, and the drums are decently keeping the tempo. A groovy song operating as the unexpected but nevertheless grand finale of this unique album.
There are some remaining points that I would like to point out before finishing my review. The most significant of these is regarding Chuck Billy's voice. Many are the ones who can't really spot the difference between Chuck Billy's and James Hetfield's voice quality but, if you ask me, these guys obviously don't know shit about Testament nor Metallica. There's a case, however, that they are so attached to Metallica's sound that they hear Hetfield's voice every fucking where. Get over it people! Yes, James has a nice voice, but Chuck does to in a whole different way. And since this album is a Testament album I insist on stretching out that Billy's voice quality is unique and that it indicates in an odd but pleasant way his native american roots. His talent is obvious; all you have to do is listen to him for what he truly is, not what you want to hear. Once you manage to expel Metallica from your mind, you'll find out why Billy is so unique. As for the music, I can't understand why everyone is comparing Metallica with every single metal band. You ought to know that almost all the old thrash bands emerged at the same chronic period in the same territory. However, if I must issue a judgement, that would be in favor of Testament for obvious reasons: you really can't compare the skill and the musicianship Testament have with the one Metallica have and you just can't compare Alex's soloing and Eric's genius at composing great complex riffs with Hetfield's and Hammet's abilities. Thank god there was Cliff out there, delivering music to the people!
All in all, this album is an excellent, perfect piece of music. I do not consider Testament to be the gods of music or anything like that, so do not get me wrong. Anyway, this is not my one and only favorite album, but it certainly is one of my favorites and I sincerely couldn't bear staring at all those shitty reviews throwing mud on in. In conclusion, you ought to love an album full of emotions, thought (in the lyrics), complexity, melody, speed, heavy-ness and, of course, thrash-ness; you ought to love "Practice What You Preach", Testament's third full-length album. I'm obliged to utter a huge thanks for Eric's incredible riffing, Alex's godly soloing and Chuck's awesome voice!
I can't speak for your neck of the woods, but as a teenager here in New England suburbia, the buzz over Testament's third album was fucking enormous. Everyone from fellow high school metal nerds (-heads, I'm sorry folks, -heads), to magazine critics, to guitar magazine snobs, to radio personalities was hyping the living shit out of this thing, and why not? Clearly the Californians had offered us ample proof of their potential up to this point, with two flawed but fantastic records. More than one individual spoke of this band as the 'next Metallica', the band that would go absolutely batshit viral the world over, securing every instrument sponsorship available to them, and having mullet haired axe masters frothing and masturbating to their new manGod Alex Skolnick...
When it finally landed, a few days before my birthday in 1989, I was elated, and couldn't wait to head over to the mall and pick up a copy. I was not disappointed. In fact, when I think back on the Practice What You Preach, it really does feel like an album that deserved a large share of its hype before and after release. No, it's not a perfect thrash record, and no, it's not superior to either of the full-lengths predating it, but this was a damn fine effort which further magnified the scope and aim of Testament's artillery, while at the same time finally managing to cross the threshold into a more timeless production standard. Once again the band worked alongside Alex Perialas, but everything here, through whatever technical advisement/advancement seems far better balanced, in particular the guitar tone, which is given a crisper embellishment that no longer feels stifled or over-processed. This album has more or less something for everyone, whether that's 'the ladies' (more on this later), the guitar diehards who enjoyed the semi-surgical precision and guitar gallantry of The New Order, or the mosh police who need oh so much of that sweet home chuggin' to cope with reality.
There are some admitted differences here from the sophomore album, in that there is less of an overwhelming use of atmosphere and melody to stage the more aggressive rhythm guitars. Many of these cuts thrived on their nature as mid-paced, straight thrashing numbers which were well suited to an audience inundated with the likes of Anthrax and Exodus. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of musicianship here, and no shortage of ideas which manifest in a very clean, clinical use of biting harmonies and innovation, but Skolnick and Peterson spend much of the playtime in cruise mode, allowing Chuck Billy's most melodic vocals yet to carry the thunder. Another surprising turn is Greg Christian's bass, which is really brought out to the fore with a popping, almost comical tone that feels like a train of drunken, fat bumblebees heading home from the honey bar after last call. You'll hear this everywhere, both in places where he's alone (the "Perilous Nation" intro) or clinging to the rhythm guitars for dear life ("Practice What You Preach"). This actually reminded me of how Anthrax handled the low end on their 1988-1990 records, but I liked it better here.
For the first 35 minutes of this album, the first seven songs, I was completely on board with the writing, and it seemed like there was no end to the riffing goodness, mighty chorus progressions all feeling distinct from one another without any loss to consistency. I love nearly every moment, from the lead sequences, to Billy's harsh aural invective, to the great setups like the clean picked intro to "Sins of Omission" or the thundering inauguration to "Envy Life", above which Billy gives us an early death growl (a style he'd use more often in the 90s). This all grinds to a halt with "The Ballad", Testament's first attempt at a "Fade to Black". Billy seems a little acidic with his singing range, and aside from culling the wimpier hard rock audience who might have found The Legacy or The New Order too impenetrable, I really don't see any need for this. Until it gets heavier, the song is pretty much shit; so naturally it wound up being pretty popular; but I could have lived without it. The "Confusion Fusion" instrumental finale is a nice bit of tech-thrash, and "Nightmare (Coming Back to You)" is an appreciable stormer, but really the flow of the album is gimped by the time they arrive.
Though a few of the ensuing Testament records might have charted higher (I won't count Formation of Damnation or Dark Roots of Earth since the sales standards are far different these days than they were in the 80s when most people still bought music), Practice What You Preach always felt like their best chance at a 'breakthrough', with solid video rotation for both "The Ballad" and the title cut. Naturally, the success of this brought on some derision and divisiveness from the fans, but apart from about 2 minutes of that one song, this is hardly the 'sellout' some might paint it as. Still, it didn't do well enough that the band could force its way up to that next level of infamy reserved for Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Megadeth, and Slayer. It's more accessible than The New Order, with lyrics focused more on environmental awareness and personal freedom, but I did miss some of that pervasive, overarching menace prevalent on the older albums. In retrospect, I'd rank it 4th in terms of quality across their entire backlog. I still listen to it fairly often, and its easily one of their most iconic releases, with the five members of the band represented as statues in a desert storm (precognition?).
Testament seems to always be one step behind the big four of thrash. Being one of the bigger of the second wave of thrash bands, they put out “The Legacy” which I’m sure is considered by most people to be amazing. Their second album, “The New Order” seemed to be less praised and was accused of recycling riffs. Their third album, “Practice What You Preach” is different from both of those albums.
I think this is the Testament album what almost got rid of the thrash all together. Their first two albums, while flawed, were thrashy as hell. This album has a few thrash moments. “Blessed in Contempt”, I’m sure every review you read for this album mentions this song and how amazing it is. This is a song I would expect to hear off their first album. It is fast, heavy, and has amazing riffs. The title track is decent; it is a mid paced song that stays one speed the whole time. “Perilous Nation” has some thrashy parts but still relies heavily on the slow pace that is so apparent on this album. “Time is Coming” has some pretty good riffs, has a speedy part, and is one of the better songs on here. “Nightmare (Coming Back to You” is a pretty fast song. This song is thrash but it’s just not that good. “Greenhouse Effect” is might just be the best song on here besides “Blessed in Contempt”. The riffs are awesome and the chorus is awesome. “The Ballad” is exactly what is says, a ballad. It’s just not a good ballad. The whole song is boring except for when it speeds up at the end, overall a forgettable song. “Confusion Fusion” is a song that says, “Hey! Look how good we are at our instruments.” It’s pretty boring and doesn’t really contribute anything to the album, the bass is amazing though.
Production on this album is near perfect. I think Testament tried to go mainstream with this album. Softer, mid-paced thrash with a spot on production seemed to work for a lot of other bands at the time. The guitars are heavy but could be much heavier. The drums sound amazing except for the bass drum, its way too triggered. It sounds like it’s covered in mud and is hit really hard. The bass is pretty much perfect. It’s loud in the mix and it sounds awesome, very clicky. The vocals are almost the same as before, except the best part is gone. Chuck Billy’s awesome highs are completely gone and replaced by some half-attempt to go really deep and tough. I guess they sound decent but I miss the highs like in “The Preacher”.
Overall, this is a pretty good album. I just wish there was more thrash incorporated in here. Some significant flaws but still a good album to listen to every now and then. If you are a diehard Testament fan, buy this. If you like thrash, you could still enjoy some of it.
Best tracks – “Blessed in Contempt”, “Sins of Omission”, and “Greenhouse Effect”
It’s difficult to fully describe what was going on in the world of Testament circa 1989 when this, their 3rd effort in as many years of putting out studio albums, was unleashed upon the thrash hungry masses. But somewhere between the antics of latter 80s Anthrax and the commercialization of the a number of west coast outfits, Testament decided to plant their flag on yet another niche, this one being trying to merge as many rock elements as possible into the thrash style and try to work it into an outright conventional, formulaic approach. Granted, this is something that had been done circa the earlier 80s when thrash and speed metal were all but completely synonymous, but what is going on here hardly can be classified as fast, save perhaps by rock radio standards.
“Practice What You Preach” is almost Metallica’s self-titled billboard smash 1991 studio album 2 years before the fact, particularly if one focuses on all of the non-atmospheric, mid-tempo work on said album. The lead guitar work is a bit fancier, the bass work is astoundingly clear and almost funky at times, and Chuck Billy’s vocals still tend to resemble Hetfield back during the “Ride The Lightning” days, but much of what is on here could be readily compared to “Struggle Within”, “Holier Than Thou” and “Through The Never” without much of a stretch. Perhaps the biggest contrast between this album and said early 90s commercially overblown super hit is the production job here, particularly on the guitar sound, which is razor thin and all but flirting with late 70s hard rock territory. But occasional overloud chime-ins by the vocal tracking also proves to take the proverbial wind out of some already battered sails.
There isn’t quite anything on here that qualifies as bad or even bland per say, but a good amount of this album is pretty lightweight and definitely points to the gradual slowing down and taming of this style that became know as wiffle thrash. The lone exceptions are the riff happy title song (which is the only thing on here that even comes close to resembling this band’s exceptional debut), the somewhat groovy but plenty heavy “Time Is Coming” and the brief reminiscence of high octane speed metal “Nightmare (Coming Back At You)”. Otherwise, most of what is on here is slow and subdued enough to pass for “Cowboys From Hell”, but without the intricate rhythms and chunky guitar sound. The somewhat corny titled song “The Ballad” is something of a solid ballad, albeit kind of all over the place. Many have pointed to this as being some sort of “Sanitarium” rip off, but between all of the acoustic guitar noodling and convoluted instrumental sections, all that is really present is an overlong continuation of the formula that dominated “The New Order”, but with a less powerful guitar sound.
This is an album that really has not aged very well, as I can remember it sounding worlds better when I first heard it about 16 years ago. It’s sort of a slightly sub par answer to Anthrax’s “State Of Euphoria” meets “The Black Album” without the humor of the former nor the stellar and posh production of the latter. When mixing in all of the preachy political and environmental propaganda (which does not mesh very well with the happy go lucky rock feel of the production), this is an album that misses the mark in spite of all the intricate things going on between Chuck Billy’s strong vocal performance and Alex Skolnick’s fancy guitar gymnastics. It’s far from the worst thing ever put out by a thrash metal band, but it definitely lacks that aggression and flair common to the bulk of the Bay Area scene.
First thing’s first: goddamn the bass clarity is a slice of heaven on earth. The tone’s a little funky on its own, but fuck it YOU CAN HEAR THE BASS, and it sounds a lot more normal when backing the guitars. Rejoice! La, la, la!
Now that we got that little nugget of Practice What You Preach out of the way, it’s time to reflect on what an inept piece of t(h)rash this really is. For starters, the whole album is pretty damn slow. Thrashy riffs, sure. (good riffs? no, but we’ll get to that). But what good does it do when you slow them down to the pace of Standard: Begin Musical Improvement Here? How am I supposed to obliterate what’s left of my braincells while I’m listening to this, because it certainly won’t get my head nodding. The fastest parts of Practice What You Preach are a fraction as intense as any random section of Spectrum of Death or Darkness Descends. This isn’t thrash! This is Thrash Metal’s little sister thrashy, jr.
On the topic of riffs: they’re mediocre. Boring, tame, one dimensional riffs. Though my head is not impelled to flay about psychotically in the metalhead show of gratification, my mind is actually stimulated by this album, evoking thoughts such as:
was there a point to this?
where were you going with that?
should I wait til tomorrow to do my laundry?
I could go for a burger.
There's nothing stimulating about the music, which is a great segue into mulling over the equally disappointing vocal performance. If the music alone wasn’t enough to bore you to tears, the vocals add just the right touch of ineffectiveness to do so. Chuck Billy was never one of the more unique or spirited vocalists, but he got the job done, given one premise: Testament got the job done. But when Testament crafts the rocket to nowhere called Practice What You Preach, you can’t help but notice how dilapidated the vocals really are. This is no commanding performance, it’s the embodiment of whatever the fuck name there is for the point halfway between flimsy and ultimately insignificant.
Alright, I may have exaggerated (no, never!). Some parts of Practice can be salvaged: the solo in “Envy Life” is half-decent, and I’d be lying if I said the intro and chorus of “Time is Coming” didn’t make me want to get my groove on. I’m not completely sure what getting my groove on entails, but that’s what “Time is Coming” makes me want to do and I’m told it’s a good thing. “The Ballad” sounds a lot like an unofficial prequel to “Return to Serenity,” the godly ballad to be written two albums after this piece of tripe. On its own “The Ballad” isn’t much, but the resemblance to “Return to Serenity” makes it Worthwhile By Association, ltd. That’s about it for highlights. Everything else including the first and title track of Practice What You Preach is forgettable. I kept thinking I’m missing something, but then I figured it out: it’s not me, it’s this album. I was so relieved to find this obvious-in-hindsight closure as to why I could find no joy in this but-shouldn’t-it-be-a-thrash-classic that I declared it thunderously to whoever was in earshot while I beat my chest: IS NO GOOD. ALBUM NO GOOD. IS BAD.
Anyhoo. To rectify this situation, I propose any fans that were bummed by Practice to forget about it and pretend it never happened. Testament has put out an ample amount of other music we can all enjoy, so combined with the fact that you wouldn’t remember a riff off this album if you listened to it ten times in one day, it shouldn’t be a challenge.
So for my first review on the archives, I have chosen to take on one of the most maligned recordings on this site.
I have noticed a clear split of opinion and what I am going to attempt to do is resolve this divide. I don't expect to change anyone's mind either way, nor am I trying to. I simply hope to offer a different perspective, somewhere in between the sides already taken.
Eric Peterson, in the liner notes to the band's first "Greatest Hits" album, admitted that the record was written as an attempt to get some radio airplay, and it is in this confession where one begins to see, in retrospect, the divides that plague this band's existence.
Yes, this is some of the most watered-down production ever heard on a metal album, with its bouncy bass tone, clicky kick drums and edgeless guitar tone. Furthermore, most of this record abandons the relentless pacing of "The Legacy" in favor of a mid-paced, song-oriented vibe.
Yet, and here is what I see as the first great divide, it seems the Skolnick influence has introduced some tasty "hot jazz" elements to the band's brand of thrash. Listen closely to the progessions on the title-track as well as some of the soloing (as well as "Confusion Fusion"). The instrumental track aside, this jazzy influence really adds much of the character to this album, gives it a faster pacing than what was normal for radio and a dynamic all its own that lesser thrash acts populating the scene couldn't find. Without that pull, this album is probably much worse than it is.
Not that this is a horrible record in my opinion. You definitely have some classic Testament here, such as the title track, "Sins Of Omission" and "The Time Is Coming". The thing is, you also get some serious "misses" as well, snoozers such as "Envy Life" and "Greenhouse Effect" that just plod along to their own sonic death about 3 minutes too late. The rest of the tracks are good enough, listenable if not exactly earth shattering. I mean the songs are just fine but that watered down production really does them no favors.
Ultimately, Testament did themselves something of an injustice in releasing this unresolved mish mash of personalities. It's radio-friendly thrash lite wanting to be something more progressive. It's a little too much of this and not enough of that. It's a real inconsistent batch of "hit or miss".
What this album is, most of all is a cross between the album Eric Peterson "thought" the band should make (in pursuit of "exposure") and the album Alex Skolnick wanted to make (something reflecting his own evolving tastes and playing). It ends up being the best and worst of both, which is why so many deride this album as (to quote one reviewer) "pussy thrash" and why this album DIDN'T push Testament to Metallica-like staus, though many regard this as a classic and don't understand why it just never happened for them!
I've lived with this album for over 20 years and it still holds up. It also sits right where it did in the Testament hierarchy when it came out: just as good as 'The Legacy', better than 'The New Order', and their last great album. The toughguy pseudo-death metal stuff on later albums is not only entirely forgettable, but it lacks the songwriting they used to possess. And 'Practice What You Preach' is all about the songs.
Some people expect/want this album to be 100% blazing thrash insanity. It's not and it doesn't try to be. Look to early Sadus if that's what you want in late '80s Cali thrash. (And who doesn't? 'Illusions' and 'D.T.P.' are amazing.) No, Testament were at their most refined here, in terms of playing, production, and songwriting. It's melodic, especially thanks to the nuanced and careful approach of guitarist Alex Skolnick. And then there are the riffs, which this album is built upon. Tons of sturdy, memorable, era-defining riffs. It's pretty much where Metallica's heads where at at the same time period, and while it doesn't best the legends at their game, it comes dangerously close.
High points come with "Perilous Nation", the dark "Envy Life" (which is as far as I like to hear Chuck Billy go in terms of gruff, low vox), "Blessed In Contempt", the storming "Sins Of Omission", and the NWOBHM-like "Nightmare (Coming Back To You)". "Nightmare" is kind of what Metallica might have sounded like in 1989 if they'd kept a more straightforward direction after 'Kill 'Em All'. The only questionable move is "The Ballad". Nothing wrong with great melodi-thrash ballads, especially in an era when many thrash bands cared about songs and catchiness, but "The Ballad" is unfortunately as dull as the title itself.
Alex Perialas' production may be a bit too dry for some, but again, it serves the songs. Greg Christian's bass snaps and pops in the mix with that new-string sound, and the drums actually sound good! (A Perialas weakness...listened to F&J's 'When The Storm Comes Down' lately?)
Some would argue that 'The Ritual' is actually their most melodic, song-oriented album. But it's loaded with bland songs and boring mid-paced rhythms. Two albums before it, 'Practice What You Preach' showed the band's trad-metal influences running strongly through their material, and unlike 'The Ritual' or the impossibly dull 'Souls Of Black' there's a huge variety of tempos and textures on offer. 'PWYP' finds Testament at the height of their game before exhaustion set in, and before lineup changes and different times would degrade the memory of the band's early material.
Mainstream-itis was the disease that hit the thrash scene hard at the end of the 80's. The whole progressive thrash thing wasn't catching on, leaving the remaining bands the options of adapting to the new conditions of the popular music scene or being wiped off the face of the earth. Apparently mid-tempo half-thrash was the daily special on the Bay Area menu and unfortunately, Testament ordered up. After two albums of competent material, the would-be-legendary thrashers put out the mismatched, incongruent Practice What You Preach, most likely to try and emulate the success of Master of Puppets. It almost worked, as PWYP is the band's best-selling album to date (I think), but commercial success never, ever dictates an album's true worth. Listen to this album after The Legacy, The New Order, or any other solid 80's thrash release and see its mediocrity shine through.
Mid-paced is the name of the game here. I'd say that roughly 60-70% of this album is mid-tempoed at best, with many passages being even slower. There's so few actual fast thrash sections that hardcore fans of the first album would be appalled. Now the mid-paced riffing is still generally good, evident in solid title track. But wait for that effectiveness to run out real fast. "Perilous Nation," "Envy Life," and "The Time is Coming" almost crawl in their by-the-numbers halfassedry. Chuck Billy spends a lot of time trying to work on his melodic singing, losing much of his earlier harshness and attempting to replace it with James Hetfield-esque vocal mannerisms and imitation death growls. The riffs come and go without standing out. Even the band's lyrics raise qualms, considering that they've abandoned their occultic niche and adopted a generic attitude towards politics/environmental issues/religion that's been done quite well before Testament ever got their hands dirty in it. "Blessed in Contempt" saves side one from complete mediocrity (well that and the title track), featuring some actual fast thrash, some mighty catchy riffing, and a cool chorus melody to boot.
"Greenhouse Effect" opens side two and I'll be damned if it isn't catchy as fuck. The spiritual predecessor to Annihilator's "Stonewall," this one utilizes the finest in Testament's trademark harmonized riffing plus some pretty sweet gang vocals in the chorus and some nice tempo changes. "Sins of Omission" keeps this rejuvenated feeling alive and well by being the best damn song on here, as well as one of the band's finest. Great lyrics, riffs, solos, vocals, everything. Then there's "The Ballad." Now come on people, am I the only one who thinks this thing was written tongue-in-cheek? Or at least a little bit? I mean it's a power ballad that they fucking call "The Ballad," the lyrics are almost too generic to be taken seriously, there's a long ass, incredibly well-written acoustic intro segment, and it ends as an all-out thrasher. I don't think they took it too seriously. The album ends up with the quick number "Nightmare," which is just cool enough to distract you from the proggy yet stupid instrumental "Confusion Fusion." If the repetition doesn't kill you, the annoying bass will. All in all, about half the album rules and the other half well.... doesn't.
Also let it be noted that Alex Skolnick's presence is worth an extra 20 or so points here. If Eric Peterson played all the leads (I think he actually starts playing some on here), this would have very little going for it. If you thought he shredded it up on the last two albums, PWYP will blow your mind as you hear him rip through some of the finest solos of his career. Quite enough to save this in my point of view.
Conclusion: on one hand, no, this album isn't very good. But on the other hand, it doesn't deserve to get lambasted as much as it does, considering there are some good songs on here. Chances are you won't be putting it in your top ten thrash albums of all time, but you might like a song or two, so I carefully recommend it.
Highlights: "Sins of Omission," "Blessed in Contempt," the title track
Well, first of all let me tell you I am one of those people who hated Chuck Billy for not wanting to sing anymore like he used to do from 1987 to 1992 and selling out with awful grunts during the late ninties. Having said that, you all know by now that I love Chuck Billy for what he has done on the first 5 Testament albums but I truly get nauseous by his vocal performances since 1994. Not forgetting around that time also Skolnick was lost to the cause and replaced by this guy James Murphy, a death metal guitarist who wasn’t able to get a steady job in any band.
Anyway, back to 1989....
The reason ‘Practice What You Preach’ is one of my favorite Testament albums is mostly because –for me- the album had the ultimate thrash metal production. Maybe for some new kids it’s not heavy enough by 2007 standards but I still prefer this natural eighties sound. The guitars sound sharp around the edges and do not – thank god - fill up the entire soundscape. Guitars need sharpness to get that thrash metal definition. Next up is the unequalled Ibanez bass sound of Greg Christian. Again with a lot of definition and a nice metallic edge to it. D.D. Verni from Overkill also perfectly understood how thrash metal bass should sound! Do listen to the pumping metalic bassline of the titletrack or the intro to ‘Perilous Nation’. It can’t get any better than this! Although Louie Clemente has not been the best drummer in thrash metal, his drums sound natural, not triggered at all to hide shortcomings. On top of it all there were Billy’s vocals that were perfectly balanced between both raw and melodic. But never too much of any!
Taking in account just the songmaterial in itself, ‘Practice What You Preach’ is still a good Testament album. Of course it can not compete with the legendary classic ‘The Legacy’ (1987). But whereas ‘The New Order’ had too many clean parts and easy-listening-metal-moments (also too many leads and solos) “Practice What You Preach” was better balanced although it could have done with a slighty larger amount of uptempo songs. Titletrack ‘Practice What You Preach’ is the embodiment of how a mid tempo thrash metal song should be written, performed and produced. Uptempo songs such as ‘Blessed in Contempt’ and ‘Nightmare’ proved the band could still write and play fast material. Furthermore I still get goosebumps when listening to the build-up of ‘Sins Of Omission’ and ‘The Ballad’ did NOT suck because the song holds some great Skolnick details and nicely evolves into a thrashing climax. If there are fillers on this album, only ‘Greenhouse Effect’ and the instrumental ‘Confusion Fusion’ could deserve that qualification.
Plenty of reasons for me - as your see - to consider this abum to be a classic in their discography. Of course I cannot give this album 100 points because there is no such thing as a perfect album and I will always consider ‘The Legacy’ their best effort.
Being that I absolutely love The Legacy and The New Order, and Souls of Black was very enjoyable, getting Practice What You Preach was a necessity. When I popped it in, I just couldn't get into it. Owe it to the fact that I also got Slayer's Decade of Agression the same day, but this album has been one of the biggest dust collectors in my collection. And though my tastes have matured, I've never been able to enjoy Practice What You Preach, despite 13 years having passed.
The title track opens up the album and promises pretty good things. It's got catchy parts, nice riffs, a monster of a bass line, and a nice shredding solo from Alex Skolnick. It seems a bit more radio oriented than their previous material, and doesn't feature a breakdown of any sort, but it works.
Well, then things abruptly crash into the fucking wall. "Perilous Nation," "Envy Life," and "Greenhouse Effect" are all remarkably featureless. If you pay close attention, you notice that there are a good deal of more technical sounding riffs on here, probably Skolnick's fusion influence showing through, but nothing really grabs you. These songs can play on in the background with no problem, but once you start listening to them, you just get bored. "Envy Life" has what is probably meant to be a catchy chorus, but even the pseudo evil lyrics can't save it from being insipid and boring.
"Blessed in Contempt" finally shows up and kicks you in the face with some very heavy riffing and bass/drum work. Chuck Billy's vocals even get mean, which he has hitherto avoided on this album. Sure, the song suffers from the shit production, but it's at least heavy as fuck, and I'd say could have even come off of the The Gathering.
"Sins of Omission" is a fucking great song, probably the best on here, if not exactly typical thrash. It's got a neat, almost oriental melody played in the beginning, and a nice groove to it. Add a few tempo changes and a killer lead by Skolnick, and you've got a winner.
After that it's all down hill. "The Ballad" is, BIG FUCKING SURPRISE!, a fucking ballad, and probably the worst power ballad I've ever heard. I cringe every time I read the lyrics, as they are just plain stupid. Then you've got "Nightmare," which tries so hard to be heavy and fast, but just sounds like a total throwaway of a song. "Confusion Fusion," yes, this sounds like a progressive fusion piece played by a metal band. "Cool, it'll be like the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but metal," you think. Noooo...this just sounds confused and idiotic. It goes fucking nowhere, and its hard to get a good feel for the song.
The songs don't really flow, they just go from one riff to the next, as if they came up with riffs different days, then haphazardly cut and pasted everything. And once again, Testament gets shorted on the production end, which makes ...And Justice for All sound thick and warm. Fuck...you couldn't have made the guitars sound weaker unless you castrated Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick. The bass is irritatingly trebly and upfront, and the drums are quite loud but devoid of anything spectacular.
There's a lot of good stuff in short order or just plain missing on here. Heavy riffs? Few. Coherent song structures? Fucking forget about it. Good presentation? You must be joking! Good solos, good riffs, good vocals? Present but subdued.
Testament's third album is probably their worst, and unsurprisingly, from the content on here, is their best selling. To say that this is a 'poor man's Master of Puppets' would be correct, as you can tell throughout this album that's what they wanted to sound like. Like on their previous records, Testament didn't make enough riffs to cover all the songs on the album. Whilst previously they filled in the gaps with solos and interludes, on here it is filled up with some half-thrash bullshit, a bad ballad and an instrumental.
The riffs that are on here range from bad to average. Few have any punch to them, and fewer still can still sound good after being dragged out for a whole song, which is what happens on here. There isn't much distinction between many of the riffs, and sometimes I am convinced that a riff in song A is the same as the riff in song B. This is made worse by the, yet again, bad production that castrates all the riffs that are worth listening to. The drums have no weight to them, the bass is barely audible save for a few intros and the guitars seem to be in the background. The guitar tone lacks balls, and sounds generally harmless and weak. And while Billy's vocals were above average on the previous records, on here he decided that Hetfield was an awesome singer and that he would rip off his style. Unfortunately, he sounds more like Hetfield during the Black Album era more than anything else, and in doing so lost any aggression he may have held previously. Sure, he'll do a death metal growl every now and then, but his vocals come off sounding half assed most of the time.
There are four good songs on here. The title track is probably the best, starting with a slow intro before it speeds up into a good thrash riff with some awesome soloing at the end. 'Blessed in Contempt' is an excellent thrasher and probably the most aggressive on the album with some great technical riffing and soloing. 'Sins of Omission' has an intro which is actually good (unlike the ones on the previous record) before it goes into a midpaced riff with some nice guitar work throughout interlaced with Billy's best performance on the album. Finally, there is 'Nightmare (Coming Back to You)', which despite sounding a lot like Metallica is the fastest on the album. It is quite short at only 2:20, but it still remains a great song carried by a solid riff.
But for those four good songs, there are six bad ones. Coming after the title track is 'Perilous Nation' which is a boring song with a main riff that borders on groove at times. It sounds like something off Metallica's Black Album. 'Envy Life' is a boring half-thrash number that despite starting off with a competent death metal growl from Billy doesn't really go anywhere or achieve anything good. 'Time is Coming' sounds as if it is restrained, and is ruined by bad vocals which is a pity as the under verse riff isn't bad. 'Greenhouse Effect' is the second half-thrash number and sounds similar to 'Envy Life' although slowed down, while 'The Ballad' basically rips off 'Sanitarium' with a boring acoustic beginning which later builds up into a boring riff. At 3:49 it sounds like it's going to really pick up and turn into some screaming fucking riffage but what appears is another mediocre riff. Finally, we have the interesting yet sleep inducing instrumental 'Confusion Fusion' which is really just some random soloing with average riffing underneath.
So that's only 40% of the songs that are actually worth listening to. The solos help bring it up a bit but it's not really a good thing when a thrash metal album relies on it's excellent soloing to make it good. Testament tried to imitate Master of Puppets, and while they succeeded at doing that this isn't up to the standards of said album. Recommended? Not really, unless you can find it under $10, as the bad outnumbers the good on this one making it not really worth any more.
[new review, first one written on April 7th, 2004]
Goddamn, this review has been such a pain to write. I cannot seem to find the right words for it. It's just one of them difficult albums, you know, and I'm sure every regular reviewer on here has come across the same thing; when they have an album that is neither great nor horrible and should therefore be something in between, like "average" or "mediocre", but it's still not quite any of those and you don't really know what to make of it. I've owned this album for 2½ years, but things still haven't changed all that much for me.
I just can't quite pin-point my own exact opinion on it - Nightcrawler and UltraBoris both make great points that I can really agree with, but 29% or even 52% just seems a bit too harsh of an overall score for my taste, because there's just too much good music on here for that. As for its true weaknesses, however: Boris mentions "pussy thrash" and "lack of aggression" in his review, while the beast in black complains about it being "soulless" and that "they don't use the riffage to the same effectiveness as other far superior bay area thrashers". About that last point, one of these "far superior bay area thrashers" would have to be the previous album, 'The New Order'. No, that album wasn't exactly the most mind-numbingly pummeling riff-o-rama ever imaginable, but through a rock-solid thrash metal sound and clever riff execution, the band still managed to come up with something thoroughly enjoyable with what little they had. Actually, the riffs on here are arguably more interesting and creative than on the last album, but the problem is that the well-done execution of old is now completely missing.
The production on here is just terrible. It's weak as fuck, it's stale, it's boring. The bass drums are all click-click-click and the guitars are, while still thrashy in tone and distortion, so damn flat and indistinct it's simply unbelievable. "Pop-thrash", I would call this. This sound may have been attained for greater accessibility among non-thrashers (after all, it's their biggest selling album to date), but I cannot see anyone already into thrash metal being any happy with this sound whatsoever. Potential bangers are effectively tamed with it. For example, "Time Is Coming", at 0.30. Your typical simple "banging" thrash metal riff - a very solid one, no wonder it's also a widely used one in the whole thrash metal genre. Like for example in the song "Eternal Nightmare" by the band Vio-lence, at 3.32. Now, which rendition of this riff makes YOUR head bang the hardest? Dingdingding, congratulations sir, you've won something.
Then we arrive at the actual riffs, which are also kind of boring. There is more technicality and creativity on display here than before, but they aren't that particularly amazing this time around either (and again, weakened by the production). Mostly solid, but quite often they go by unnoticed, partly because this album is more melody-based than the last. Thankfully that does not equal more of those abysmally hideous acoustic interludes that polluted the previous album so heavily (on here they are all concentrated into ONE song), it just means that there is more melody of the classic heavy metal variety intermixed with what little thrashing there is to speak of here, and that's what fortunately keeps this album at least somewhat memorable, because the riffs alone surely are not. While not quite comparable to 'Spreading the Disease' as for another melodic thrasher, there's still some pretty good songwriting on display here. Also, Chuck Billy does a very good job with the vocals and shows off great range and melody and Alex Skolnick expectedly delivers his for thrash unusually melodic lead work, this time complementing the already more melodic song material.
But there just isn't all that much to get here. The songs are mostly decent and good listens, but they're certainly nothing earth-shattering. Except for the title track - oh hell fucking Jesus, now THIS is one mean fucking thrasher!! Merciless, bringing on riff after awesome riff and the solo is just...wow. Holy apeshit fuck, this is...art. An epic in itself, complete with plot twists and such. How it oh-so-perfectly interacts with the rhythm work...this nearly 1½ minute work must be heard to be believed. My favorite work by Skolnick and in my top five for metal solos of all time. Now the rest of the album isn't, like, totally different in style, just not anywhere near as good. The only two other songs worth mentioning are "Sins of Omission" which, apart from being more upbeat and aggressive than most of the rest of the album, has a very nice little moody fast-picking intro, and "The Ballad" which is the first in a string of really damn good ballads that are also found on following albums. I have no idea what happened between the last album and this one - this song is just in an entirely different division than anything "balladic" on 'New Order' could ever claim.
So, there you have it. My score of 70% may look a little high in light of the review content, but since I am unable to find anything here that just screams "what the fuck" or something as unbearably boring as "A Day of Reckoning" on the last album (or all the instrumentals, intros, etc.), it gets kinda hard for me. When all is said and done, it's a nice consistent listen throughout, and actually somewhat entertaining and interesting too. I dunno, why don't you give it a chance, ya might just find something you like.
In 1987, Testament released The Legacy, a thrash-fest of songs with good musicianship making cameos but had a problem with tempo and production. The following year they released The New Order, though it looked like a step up, it actually was a fall into the depths of hell. Production was BARELY better than The Legacy and some of the songs were really boring.
Then in 1989 the band released Practice What You Preach. Production is 20 times better than the previous two efforts, and the songs are a little catchier. The negative side is that a lot of the agression shown on TL and TNO is missing. This makes the songs seem like average thrash metal, and it kinda is. One thing though, the drums are not like meat patties here like on the past 2 albums.
Then there's the actual music itself. The band seems to have taken a more progressive approach to their brand of thrash. Much to the likings of some tech-thrash (ex. Watchtower, Spiral Architect) the bass and bass drum are really pushed to the front, to the point where you can hear the clicking. And the bassist mustve turned up the treble all the way, for you can hear it clicking along to the songs, giving nothing to add to the music. This becomes distracting when trying to enjoy the music. The music itself is less agressive, as stated above, and there are many time and tempo changes. There will be a fast part, then a fast part, then a mid-tempo part, and then an all out balls fest! The riffs arent the heaviest things in the world, just plain ol' thrash riffs. To be honest, not much of it is as memorable as their other songs.
If there's one thing that must be said, it's Alex Skolnick never dissapoints. His leads are not as furious as it usually is, or on the First Strike Still Deadly release, but rather they are more towards that neo-classical sound more.
And the songs are really not that bad anyway. Lead track, and title track is probably the best along with Perilous Nation. They do have some energy within them. There's many riffs but none really stand out much.
Envy Life is kinda boring and doesnt really go anywhere. A problem most of the songs had on The New Order. Basic, boring thrash...
Time is Coming shows Chuck Billy at his most intense on the album. The chorus is fast and memorable to boot, especially with the low key chant of "Time is coming!"
Blessed in Contempt is the first real THRASH!!!! song on the album. Fast, powerful, relentless leads, and top notch vocal delivery. Unfortunately, the clicking of the bass drum really pulls this back. I guess the best comparison that can be made is the bass drum sound on Metallica's ...And Justice For All, and the only time is was cool was on "One".
Greenhouse Effect and Sins of Ommision is like Envy Life. More boring thrash that goes nowhere. Not one riff here is memorable. And that double bass is so annoying you'll wanna punch someone in the chest until it's crushed.
The Ballad is... Well... A ballad. BUT IT SUCKS! It has no real direction, and seems to be trying to copy Metallica's Fade to Black. There's no emotion and Chuck's vocals are boring as hell.
The last two tracks Nightmare (Coming Back to You) and the instrumental Confusion Fusion are decent tracks. The latter being a real weird song, probably the most progressive song here, or that Testament has ever done. It's an ok to end a so-so album.
The next album will show Testament at their early career height. As for this, although underrated, is really that much. I still say get it, it's not that bad.
Testament here takes another severe nosedive, after the pretty decent (if underproduced) The Legacy and the recycled-riff-fest boredom of The New Order. Here, we get go-through-the-motions bullshit, a lack of aggression that would make Sacred Reich proud, and poorly designed, entirely forgettable riffs.
There is pretty much one song on here that deserves repeated play, and that is the title track. Of course, it is never good policy to put 90% of the riffs into the opening song - I find myself entirely unable to listen to the album unless I reorder things and put the opener LAST, so that at least I have something to look forward to. In the standard order, there is just nothing to justify keeping it turned on after the first track.
The rest of the album ranges from dumb whiffle-ball thrash that is a 9th-rate Exumer ripoff (Perilous Nation, Blessed in Contempt), stupid "if Metallica can be cockmunches and pollute their albums with anti-metal swinefilth, so can we" (The Ballad, Confusion Fusion - the first being a direct ripoff of the Sanitarium formula, and the second bringing on traces of Orion, though admittedly it isn't nearly as insipid). Then throw in Nightmare, which is fast as fuck, but manages to completely avoid being aggressive - an impressive accomplishment in the field of complete stupidity. Also, a few dumb half-thrash slow numbers that would make Pantera drool: Envy Life, Greenhouse Effect.
The production brings to mind the dregs of Sacred Reich - it's not BAD in any way, just completely pussified, with the guitars lacking distinct character. The opening track features a nifty Slayer-esque intro with a fast banger drum beat over slow chords, but the album never gets nearly that ominous ever again.
This is a worthless album. There is nothing redeeming about it whatsoever. Find yourself some Overkill, and struggle to stay alive.
With the Sweden Rock Festival fast approaching and me having nothing to do until then, I've decided to review some of the bands I'll be seeing there. Thought I'd start off with probably the least interesting in my opinion, namely the bay area legends Testament.
The first and thus far only Testament studio album I own was quite disappointing, judging from all the praise it receives from all over. Pretty fucking dull from time to time - I'd call it a poor man's "Master of Puppets". And while "Puppets" isn't either the best thrash album ever ("Bonded By Blood", anyone? Or "Horrorscope?"), it's many times better than this.
"Practice What You Preach" isn't a downright bad album, just rather bland at times. Soulless, is a word I'd use to describe it. It brings some decently hard-hitting riffs, most notably in the title track, "Blessed In Contempt" and "Sins of Omission", but they don't use the riffage to the same effectiveness as other far superior bay area thrashers, such as Exodus for example. They know how to emphasize the riffs into making the songs thrash as madly as ever possibly, and Testament don't do this. The main focus in the songs lay on the vocal work, which is frighteningly similar to James Hetfield most of the time, only more clear and less aggressive (now I'm obviously talking about "Kill 'Em All" or "Ride The Lightning" James, possibly "Puppets" also), which further weakens the impression of aggressiveness and intensity in the songs, which already is about as low as it gets on any Thrash act this big. I still can't figure out why Testament are so highly worshipped. Probably cause they sound so similar to Metallica.
Then again, some of their stuff I've heard that is not off of this album has some damn good moments, so I'll be getting some more album by these guys before I make a final opinion of them. But as it is now, they're not too great in my book. Cause honestly, I'd expect more from an album by guys with this talent. Cause fuck yes, there is talent to be found. The guitar solos on here are some of the craziest in Thrash yet still with a killer underlying sense of melody that keeps them far more sane than many others. And the riffs aren't really bad, they just aren't emphasized enough to have much effect. Then there isn't too much variety either, most of the riffs on here are quite hard to tell apart from one another, and not only because of the boring, muddy production.
The remaining musicians are less interesting. The bass is very well played, but too fucking loud in the mix, and the tone is damn boring as well, which is another flaw. These many missteps all on one albums result in that the songs "Practice What You Preach", "Perilous Nation", "Envy Life", "Time Is Coming", "Blessed In Contempt" and "Greenhouse Effect" all end up extremely dull and uninteresting, while not quite bad. Just boring.
The remaining songs work as sort of a redeeming factor (aside from the really stupid closing instrumental "Confusion Fusion. Shitty filler). First up we have "Sins of Omission", one of the few actually headbangable songs on the album, and very catchy all through. The vocal lines especially fucking rock, great stuff! Who knew they were capable of pulling off shit this great? Second greatest song on here, definitely, despite a pretty lame chorus.
But the ultimate highlight of the album would be the ballad, entitled... "The Ballad". This is their answer to "Fade To Black", and I'd say that after the uninteresting minute-long intro, they're quite even in quality as well. Great emotion in the guitarwork well supported by brilliant lyrics, featuring one especially outstanding, reappearing line: "I know we are free." Great, great stuff. And when it kicks up the intensity towards the end, that's pretty fucking incredible. "I've been robbed, I've been fooled, I intend now to make my own rules!" Hell yes. Why can't they write like this all the time?
The last worthwhile song here is "Nightmare (Coming Back To You)", which structure-wise is pretty similar to the less interesting songs on here, but it's fast and catchy as fuck, and so short it doesn't have time to get boring. Kickass.
But three outstanding songs cannot save "Practice What You Preach" from being quite the loser of an album. Though I do not regret buying it - honestly, it's worth getting if only for hearing "The Ballad". Man, I love that song. Though it'd probably be better if you downloaded that and the two other highlights and forget the other stuff ever existed. Like I've said, not downright terrible, just hideously forgettable.
So this is why Testament have been labeled Metallica rip-offs! Well, I gotta say, this is not entirely Metallica, but everything they do on this album at least nod's in that direction. It's unfortunate that anyone would call them that, but this album did put em in that position. None of the other albums Testament has ever put out can even remotely bare a resemblance to anything Metallica has done. But the thing about this album is that while it does have very Metallica-esque thrash roots, it is one helluva listen.
The cd kicks off with the title track and immediately you have to notice the band seems to want to take Metallica to the next level, with the only thing really noticable, other than the fact you can hear the bass, is the fact that Alex Skolnick kicks the living shit out of Kirk Hammett, if nothing else, but for technical skill. His style is in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen, but Skolnick is much easier to listen to, he doesn't play to show off, he plays with true feeling. The disc is all moderately paced thrash at it's best, with the one exception being the boringly titled The Ballad. The song is their first attempt at such a song and is nice and layered with acoustic guitars and heart-felt vocals until it kicks into its almost angry outro. The song is the only real stand-out of the bunch, but thats not to say the album isn't a headbangers dream through and through.
With all the air surrounding Testament's so called rip-off album, one has to wonder why this album isn't held as highly as such thrashterpieces as Kill 'Em All and Master of Puppets. It is just as technical, just as fast, just as handbangable, and just as well-produced. Think what you will, but I'm just fine knowing one of the thrash kings borrowed from the big sell-outs themselves.
Testament's Practice What You Preach sold alot of copies and established them as a premier thrash band with mainstream audiences in the late 80s. Though not exactly phenomenal, PWYP is pretty solid thrash that takes the intensity of New Order and glazes it with major label studio production. In some places there are dangerously commercial riffs, which kills a bit of the buzz, yet hardly enough to dull the blow of "Sins of Omission" for instance. PWYP is an essential part to a Testament fan's collection, but hardly a thrash landmark.
The one two punch of Practice What you Preach and Perilous Nation kicks this mother off... two very memorable songs with awesome riffs. Alex Skolnick shreds a whole fucking lot, and (fortunately) there is way less wankery than there was on New Order... the guy can play but who really needs to hear 20 fucking leads in a single song. Not I.
Blessed in Contempt is a total thrasher, along the lines of the Preacher or Eerie Inhabitants. Me like. After this, however, there are a few mediocre songs with very little identity. The kind of mid-paced drudgery that plagued many thrash albums recorded for major labels (Overkill withstanding!). Sins of Omission kicks in and makes everything right again... this is a Testament classic, and a sort of lost gem amongst fans... .and the name of a killer modern thrash band
So yeah, this shit's good, but it signalled a downwards spiral for Testament. They found a second wind with 1994's Low and the rest is history as they say....
You've heard it before, I'm sure... Testament, a bunch of Metallica ripoffs. Where I can see how that's true on their first two full-lengths, everything changes with the mighty Practice What You Preach. This album is a very tight unit, with hardly any weak spots at all, the most noticeable one being the shoddy production, but hey, it's Testament, and you should know better by now.
The title track opens things up on this album with quite the boom, a big ugly thrash-tastic boom. A great chorus and an even greater solo from Alex Skolnick makes this one of the strongest tunes on the album, other hot spots include "Envy Life", "Sins of Omission" and "Blessed in Contempt", but the whole album rules. Well, that is until the very tail end of it with "The Ballad", which just sounds goofy, and "Confusion Fusion", and instrumental that really does sound confused, it just kind of stays in the same spot, not really knowing where to go. There's so much great stuff here, though, it's worth whatever price you pay for it. The intro to "Time is Coming" is reason enough alone!
All in all, this is the best of the early Testament albums, but is often overlooked in favour of their first two, but it really REALLY shoudn't.