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Not only is this album a good way to check and see if you would want to listen to Testament, it's got two bonus tracks that you can't get anywhere else. Sails of Charon (a cover of the Uli John Roth guitar-epic Scorpions song) that I think Alex Skolnick pulls off the lead guitar more flawlessly than UJR. Then there's also Draw The Line (an Aerosmith cover) but I don't find it to be anything spectacular; in fact it's quite mediocre.
Really I think that overall there is one change that would've made this a really great best of. Replace Dog Faced Gods, Demonic Refusal, and Perilous Nation with any of the following songs: Into The Pit, First Strike is Deadly, Apocalyptic City, Disciples of the Watch, or Sins of Omission. But really, the three songs are really heavy and the vocals are great... They're just not what I would consider the "best of" Testament. But still, there's 17 tracks on this album; and that's alot. Even for a Best of. In fact, I think this album is like 79 minutes and some change long, which is about the maximum you can cram onto a CD!
The feel of this album is good though. A great mixture of some of their best thrash songs and three of their greatest ballads ever. The album starts out with Signs of Chaos which leads into Electric Crown. Coming from The Ritual, which wasn't exactly the best Testament album, this is one of the tracks that was an absolute winner. Alex Skolnick is at his peak in this song, he's got fills everywhere and the solo is absolutely sick. It's fast, melodic, and still somehow manages to complement the brutality. The use of natural harmonics over the insane Eric Peterson riff was a nice touch, too.
Then you get The New Order, which is a fast paced track with a great shreddy intro solo and great riffs. After that is Alone In The Dark, which features the vocal stylings of Steve "Zetro" Souza instead of Chuck Billy (the only song on the album this way, I believe). It's a great track and the intro solo sucks you right in, and it really sums up Testament's sound from their first album. Great solo (well then again, all Testament songs from their first 5 albums have amazing solos) and Steve's vocals fit this song better than Chuck's would. The fact that Alex was only 17 when he did the lead guitar parts for this song… Is amazing.
Then you get the aforementioned Dog Faced Gods and Demonic Refusal. Then you get the first ballad on the album, ironically titled The Ballad. Great guitar playing all around, showing both Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson's chops.
Then comes a grand-slam of tracks that would make any less-than-metal person crap their pants. Souls of Black which starts out with a sick bass intro, thanks to Greg Christian, then a guitar harmony followed by a great heavy riff that isn't as fast as most, but it's really good. I have to mention the guitar solo here, because it's not like Alex's other ones. His only fast run here is at the end of the solo as a closer, but he uses small phrases and bends with either tapped harmonics or pinch harmonics (it's hard to tell; and it could be done either way) that really give it a creepy vibe. As well as some sliding octave chords.
After that is Trial By Fire, which is some of the best melodic guitar playing ever. The intro arpeggios are great, but there is an unexpected six string sweep picking lead guitar part that goes into a really insane guitar solo. This flavor is injected again for the songs actual guitar solo too. I guess at this point I should also mention that Testament has some great lyrics, namely here and for the song Souls of Black. Nothing like bashing politics and talking about corruption!
The only standout song off of Low is its title track in my opinion, and thankfully that’s what they put on this compilation. Nice and heavy with a… Not overly memorable solo. The lyrics are good here though. “How low you can… GO!” There’s more to it than that and more deeper meaning, but that’s just a memorable line.
Finally comes a really sick thrash song. Practice What You Preach has some of the fastest palm-muted and downpicked thrash riffs ever. Eric Peterson is amazing in this respect; perhaps even unparalleled. Another one of those amazing solos from Alex again, too. Even Eric gets in on the action doing a pre-solo lead part that is really cool.
Then comes Over The Wall, and I return again to my comment that I can’t believe Alex Skolnick was 17 when he played on this song. The first 11 seconds of this song are the sickest moment in Testament history with perhaps Eric Peterson’s best riff ever (featuring a great and insanely fast low string harmony), not to mention the first track from their first album. A highly melodic solo here with a different structure than what you see later. It is structured as: paced phrasing then shredding then melody then shredding then sweep picking then the melody again and then back into the song. It’s very complex and showcases Alex’s chops very well; especially for being 17.
Another ballad is next in the form of The Legacy, which was ironically not on their debut album of the same name. This is great, with a great intro arpeggio that continues into a clean riff that is accented by Alex Skolnick’s overdriven (but not really distorted) guitar lead that is so amazing. I really can’t describe it, but I’ll try anyway. It’s just a very few melodic notes that fit the feel of the song so well, it makes shivers go up and down your spine. Great lyrics about the devil taking people’s soul; and what is really of note is Louie Clemente’s drumming here… It’s really top notch for a ballad since he plays actually rather loudly.
Yet again we have another ballad, this one off The Ritual record in the form of Return to Serenity. Now this song is a classic, because it’s about one thing: the inner turmoil and struggles of the band at this time. Keep in mind this was in 1992, circa the time that Alex Skolnick was getting ready to leave the band to go on and do his own thing after their tour with Black Sabbath supporting their Dehumanizer tour (Alex left to pursue some form of Jazz music [see: The Alex Skolnick Trio] and he joined Savatage for an album [Handful of Rain] and a tour in ’94 and ‘95). I really go on about this song because it’s a very emotional and moving track, with purely melodic soloing. Not to mention that this solo is like Electric Crown in that it is very lengthy and is a peaks of Alex’s skill, sense of melody, and technical finesse.
Then you get a not very notable track in Perilous nation followed by the two covers Signs of Chaos and Draw The Line. Of these last three songs, only Signs of Chaos is of note… And even though I mentioned it before, I will say it again. Alex’s playing on this song is flawless. He does UJR’s solos better than UJR, and that’s really saying something because UJR is a great guitarist. But Alex’s technique here is flawless and it’s a really good tribute to Scorpions. Chuck Billy’s vocals really fit this song too, surprisingly. He warps his voice a little and doesn’t growl (unlike on Low, Demonic, and The Gathering) I think that’s what clinches it.
So really, this is a great compilation album because you get 17 tracks, not to mention two of them being covers that you cannot find on any other album. If you listen to this album, as I did (this was my first Testament album of any type, by the way… and led me to get into them insanely). If you want to test the death/thrash hybrid form of Testament, then pick up their newest studio release The Gathering. Really you can’t go wrong with any of Testament’s first 5 albums either because they all feature Alex Skolnick (The Legacy, The New Order, Practice What You Preach, Souls of Black, and The Ritual).
It’s like Chuck Billy said in the interview on their newest DVD (Live in London) [which is also top notch], “with Alex in the band, we finally sound like Testament again”. This truly is a best of from one of the greatest Bay Area thrash bands ever… Hell, one of the best thrash bands ever. It’s a shame they’re so underrated, because a lot of their songs are hard hitting classics and the band and its members are always evolving musically. You just can’t beat that. So if you’re looking into getting into Testament, then this compilation is a damn good place to start!
Does a band really need to come out with fifty fucking best of/compilation albums? Maybe if you are Deep Purple or a band that has fifty full-length albums, but sometimes this is ridiculous. Well Testament is on their fourth, this being their first one. This album was recorded pre-The Gathering area, so Chuck's vocals are clean thrash vocals and not the death metal ones (NOTE: don't forget that the album Low had some death metal vocals and Dog Faced Gods and Demonic Refusal have some death metal vocals).
Basically we have a lot of good Testament songs and some unreleased stuff. Sails of Charon (Scorpions) and Draw The Line (Aerosmith) are done really good. Very interesting selections of covers though. Perilous Nation is a unreleased song, so really the only worth getting songs on this album are the covers and the unreleased, and I will explain why.
I did a little figuring out with the songs and album wise (much to my luck I did this before I read Secure_Limitaions review, just a hint for reviewers to read others work first ;) ). Two songs come from The Legacy, two from The New Order, three from Practice What You Preach, two from Souls of Black, three from The Ritual, two from Low, and one from Demonic. But is this the way to look at the thrash legend that is Testament? No not really. Throwing songs from Low and most of the songs from The Ritual have destroyed the credibility of this album being the "best of" Testament. Seriously folks, you want to know which Best of Testament to get? Go Buy The Legacy, The New Order, Practice What You Preach, and Souls of Black. Honestly, not the best Testament introducer album, and really only good for the covers and the unreleased song.