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Song-oriented thrash at its (almost) best - 94%

Rael, April 3rd, 2008

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.