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A number of West Coast thrash acts in the late 80s/early 90s decided to test the waters of a live recording through an EP rather than a full blown album release, and Return to the Apocalyptic City was Testament's second entry into this club (the first the obscure Live at Eindhoven EP from '87); a half hour of material put out through Atlantic Records to turn a few dimes and keep the fans' blood thirst quenched between The Ritual (1992) and its follow-up, Low (1994). Sadly, though this EP attempts to provide the fans a variety of content to enjoy during their downtime, it falls well short of an essential purchase, and those seeking a more substantial live offering from Chuck Billy and crew should skip directly to the following Live at the Fillmore.
Granted, the four live cuts that represent 66% of this release give an adequately pummeling, with a lot of punch to the guitars, brute vocals, audible drums, bumping bass, and that threatening, oblique atmosphere the band had mastered through the first few studio albums manifest at the Los Angeles Palladium. Really can't say I'm disappointed with the performances at all, especially "Over the Wall" and a personal favorite, "Disciples of the Watch", but when all is said and done, there are just too few to effectively boil the blood over to satisfaction. It's important to note that this was not performed with the entire original lineup; Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson and Greg Christian were joined by their Forbidden friends Paul Bostaph and Glen Alvelais to round this out, and both do a solid job of filling out the estimable shoes of Clemente and Skolnick. Overall, the performances are effective and strong sounding on a stereo, I just wish there were about a dozen more here..
Return to the Apocalyptic City also includes a useless radio edit of "Return to Serenity" (I like the song, but trying to compact an already accessible piece for radio reeks of major label bullshit). The most exciting track here, though, is very likely "Reign of Terror", a track they had back on their demo that they'd continued to perform through the years, winding up on the Trial by Fire single. It's a decent, forceful piece with some great, hoarse assertions and screaming from Billy, but I'd say it often sounds a bit too much like a pastiche of other tunes off The Legacy and The New Order and I can understand why it was never represented officially on one of the studio albums. Does it warrant a purchase of the entire EP? Not so much, and the fact that there are no other rarities here speaks once again to the very 'meekness' of this release. Most likely those who acquired this did so at little personal cost, I can remember it wading through the cut-out bargain bins back in the 90s, and if you find it dirt cheap and love Testament, have at it. Otherwise, there's not enough of anything on offer here to really bother with it.
The eighties and the turn of 80/90’s were very good years for Testament musicians - many gigs, live shows, exhausting tours, thrash metal was the king undeniably. One year has passed (“The Ritual” 5th album, 1992) and the band prepared another effort, this time live mcd or ep called “Return To The Apocalyptic City”. Unfortunately thrash metal started to rot, the bands began to seek another musical dimensions, the labels found another fashion called grunge and forgot about the thrash outfits. In these times Testament recorded six songs (30 minutes), but only two of them were in original line-up. To put it simply, this is very strange piece of metal. Firstly, why the band didn’t decide to record full length live album? I know that the problems with members (Skolnick and Clemente left the band after “The Ritual” session) didn’t make it easy. That was my question in those days, of course I couldn’t foresee the 1995 year and their mighty “Live At The Fillmore”. When it comes to the selection of the songs, there is nothing special. All right, one can say about “Reign Of Terror”, the song that missed the full length albums in the glorious past, but it is recorded on “Live At Eindhoven” (Mlp 1987) and on the single “Trial By Fire” (1998). The next strange and definitely awful and disastrous thing is the front cover. It makes me really sick when I compare this with excellent pictures from “Practice What You Preach”, “Souls Of Black” or “The Ritual”. I remember I bought this stuff on tape, shortly after releasing of “The Ritual”, and at that time it made a sense. Now I think it was just a greed, thrash was dying in the mainstream and Atlantic wanted to earn some money.
Musically – no surprises can be found. Production and realization of live sounds is impeccable. Testament looks like thrashing-crushing beast devouring the silence, even if there is a new line-up on the live songs (Alvelais on lead guitar and Bostaph on drums, both ex-Forbidden). The thing which is really worth the trouble is “Reign Of Terror” mentioned just above. This song is a classic piece of thrash: furious tempo, excellent riffs (written by Peterson and Ramirez) with fine slow-down in the middle and paralyzing solo lead – that’s the way of metal of my favourite thrash crew. The rest of the songs are well known for the maniacs, everything runs very fast. The last song “Return To Serenity” taken from the previous album is shortened version (radio edit) and it didn’t work with the rest here, of course it is commercial trick to get a better selling.
Perversely this stuff is entitled “Return To The Apocalyptic City”. So I ask: where the hell is this ‘apocalyptic city’??? Where is the best track from Testament’s legendary debut album??? There is no any return as well there is no Apocalyptic City! So this is the next very strange and nonsensical thing. So if I have to sum all the things up: wrong title of the release, wrong front cover, excellent music and the greed of the label I think. For me - as the die-hard Testament supporter - it is just an interesting small thing because of Alvelais on guitar, for the others: useless forgettable stuff. Fortunately the band attacked with the new album (“Low” 1994) and the absolutely devastating live in 1995, both pure thrash performances in the really hard times.
The reason why I decided to write a review of this EP is the constant bashing that it still receives after all these years. Maybe I'm a bit partial, because I love old-school Testament, but "Return to the apocalyptic city" ISN'T a pile of shit at all. The live recordings are very well done, you can hear all instruments, the guitars are HEAVY as hell and having Paul Bostaph on the drums makes you wonder why they kept Louie "Drum machine" Clemente all those years. Chuck sounds really aggressive, He seems to eat his microphone to vent his angry after the mellow songs he had to sing on their previous full-lenght. In fact, "Return..." was a intended as a return to form for Testament, after the half-thrash disappointment that was "The ritual". Actually, Glen Alvelais plays all leads on the live tracks instead of Skolnick, and I've no complaints at all because his performance is brilliant. Plus, perhaps Eric Peterson isn't exactly a riffmaster, as you can hear on Testament's latest which suffers from lack of quality riffs (as many of the more recent death'n'thrash releases), but He manages to play heavy, technical and polished; a very good rhythm guitarist, though I admit his contribution on lead throughout Testament discography is barely sufficient. Among the live tracks, mainly featuring old stuff, there's "So many lies" from "The ritual", a song that I didn't notice before listening to this slower and heavier version: this song has finally a really good main riff! "Return to the apocalyptic city" also contains "Reign of terror", a fast song from the good old days that strangely didn't take place on the first 2 albums but appeared on their previous rare live EP "Live at Eindhoven". The inclusion of "Return to serenity" in its radio edit is rather pointless, but it's the only complaint I have. Try this EP...you can surely find it for sale at the musical store behind the corner!
This really isn't a bad EP. I agree with Ultra Boris that it really isn't important to the history of metal, but to some it may be important. Yeah I am looking at you! The people who won't buy all the bands albums, but only get live ones or compilations. Hey I do the same thing for some bands too! The reason why this is important is because of two reasons. One, it offers a dose of live Testament. Anyone wanting to know what it was like to see Testament in their prime years -well here you go. Second, it's all in the vocals. You either love Chuck's vocals or you hate them.
So why don't you just skip this one and get a latter, more updated version of a live Testament album. Well you could do that, but you will get a different experience. For some unknown reason Chuck decided to change his vocal style and scream everything in death metal grunts! So if you get a live album after 1994 you will get all the old songs transformed. This is the only Testament live album (at least that I know of) that offers old Testament (80's) song writing with classic Chuck Billy vocals. The way Testament was supposed to be enjoyed live is on this album!
Now lets look at the music. I like live albums and I always notice a problem with them. They either have poor production, where microphones are screeching, and you can't here the guitars, etc. Or you have the live album where everything stands out. This album is definitely of the latter. You can here all the guitar parts, solos, singing, even bass lines perfectly. This allows a great experience to the listener, trust me! I have heard live albums that suck, and this live album does not suck! My only other beef with it is that they really didn't pick a good selection of songs. I wish they would have played more songs off of the Legacy, and The New Order. Other than that this EP is a must for Testament fans, and pursuers of old-Testament live.
First off, it's an EP. And we all know how much I love EPs, unless they're completely historically important (Haunting the Chapel). This is not historically important. In fact, it reeks of record-label homoeroticism. A half-assed live performance capped off with a radio-friendly swill ballad. But really, what can you expect? Testament is just about the worst thrash band ever, and this came out in 1993, the worst year for metal in the history of the world.
The worst part of this is the fact that the live performance frankly sucks. The guitar tone is muffled and half the time you cannot hear Alex Skolnick's brilliant shredding, just Eric Peterson's monkeying "riff" attempts. Then when you can hear him, you have Sucky Chucky TALKING in the middle of the solo... look, Over the Wall's solo is amazing. The fact that it's barely coming out of one side speaker is bad enough, but then you've got Swilly Billy's animistic sexual urge to yell 'fucken nuts', cutting off the last two or three notes. Shut the fuck up, you whore. At least Peterson didn't pitch shift the harmony part like on First Strike Still Deadly, and it comes out well - which is just about the only time Peterson sounds competent. His rhythm tone is verrrry weak.
Then there's of course Chucky Boy's asinine vocals, where he sounds like a drunken Neanderthal with little to any range in expression. If you like his vocals on The Gathering, you'll ejaculate yourself silly over this performance. But I, for one, think it sounds worthless with its many 'ooorgh's and 'all right's and the like, especially with the effect turned on turned on turned on. Don't forget the 'let's get it on!!!!'. Thank you, Don King.
Oh man, and that's the best song on here. You'd expect Reign of Terror to be the best, but no, it falls completely flat. Let's face it, that song NEEDS Zetro. It also needs the no-man wrecking crew that is Eric Peterson to play it like he means it, especially in the middle of that usually vicious thrash break. That is probably the best riff Testament have ever come up with, and here they play it like a Sunday morning nun choir.
Then there's the groove-monkey bitchfest of 'So Many Lies', with Upchuck moaning and groaning his way through a drunken, unintelligible performance that is mixed too loud for its own good. "The Haunting" features a surprising lack of riffs, even compared to its generally flat studio counterpart. Under the verses, you can't hear anything but All Bill All the Time, and during the middle part, again I cannot begin to stress how terrible Eric Peterson's guitar tone is. It's like he purposely defecated into his amplifier circuitry before throwing it out the window six hundred billion times in a row, just to get that really special muffled, indistinct tone. I never thought I'd say this, but The Legacy has GOOD production compaed to something. Disciples of the Watch is more of the same crap - boring riffs, and even Skolnick's soloing is unrecognisable.
Oh yeah, there is the last song. What the fuck, Batman? Boys to Men? Give me at least five or six breaks, and the time to recover. Fecal matter, if given proper electrical stimulation, can come up with better material than this.
Yeah, this little EP is complete shit. It's RVRE as FVCK or something, so you may as well sell your copy on eBay to some Chuck-Billy-loving ass-pirate. TESTAMENT SUCKS.