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Souls of Black was not exactly a massive swan dive in consistency or quality from its predecessors, and it seems to be genuinely appreciated by a large swath of the Testament audience. But for the first time, I felt like the band wasn't really progressing anywhere, and though I might accuse Practice What You Preach of its filler track ("The Ballad"), there were actually a number of songs here that have never cried out to me. I've always thought that this was a symptom of the band running out of steam: they must have been exhausted after the first three, and to an extent Souls of Black seems 'rushed' out the door. I do enjoy the lion's share of the music here, but I'd be hard-pressed to remember the rest if I wasn't currently listening for the write-up.
Aesthetically, it's quite similar to Practice What You Preach, only the mix seems shoddier. The bass is less prominent, the guitars dingier, and there seems to be more of a reverb saturation. I even detect a little hiss to the CD, but again, I've hardly tracked down a remaster for it or compared it to other digital formats. At any rate, compared to records like Rust in Peace, By Inheritance or Seasons in the Abyss, it seems as if it was underdeveloped just to get it out to stores on time and maintain that one album/year cycle that wasn't always the best blueprint for success (as Metallica has proven time and time again). The only exceptions are the vocals of Chuck Billy, which are just as consistent and poignant as any of the previous records, and Alex Skolnick, whose leads seem to carve out quality from whatever bedrock they're settled into. There are also a bevy of surgical, semi-tech thrash riffs even in a few of the weaker cuts that would have been so much more excellent with a better mix of instruments. I also dug the cover art here, another proxy for the band members, though the title font is hammy as hell; combined with the heart, it makes me feel like I'm on a Valentine's date at some diner, being served by Dementors from the Harry Potter universe.
As for the song selection, it's set up quite similarly to Practice, with in my estimation the best material all wedged up front in the track list, and then a simmering down and compromise for the later numbers. After the Mediterranean mystique of the acoustic intro "Beginning of the End", "Face in the Sky" crashes in with some decent grooves playful spikes of lead guitar, and other standouts include "Love to Hate", "Falling Fast", "Absence of Light", and "Malpractice". I go back and forth on the title track, a woozy groover with a clear hard rock influence permeated by harsher, thrashing guitars, but it's not out of place here, and also might have fit in flush with the third album. The only real stinker here is "The Legacy", another shitty power ballad track that you can bet your ass was included because of "The Ballad"'s market penetration, but comes out even wimpier than the last. The other late cuts like "One Man's Fate" and "Seven Days of May" also fall short of the quality I'd expected, and as far as I'm concerned the last 15 minutes of the whole record should just have been left off (an EP would have sufficed, and given the band some breathing room).
In the end, for all its flaws, Souls of Black still has that ability to evoke some nostalgia and transport me back to a time and place of significance; it's not as if the band just suddenly sucked, and in fact my favorite material was still to follow. I recall seeing the band play some of this material on the Painkiller tour with Judas Priest and Megadeth, and I certainly played the heck out of my tape for a few weeks, but its charms faded rather quickly, and I would find myself steering back to The Legacy or The New Order. A good album, just not a great one; worth buying if you love the first three, but not a strong place to start if you're a virgin to their sound. I'd love to hear most of it fully remixed or remastered, perhaps even recorded again with more power to the guitars, but as it stands, I don't set aside much time for this these years.
The term underrated can be a bit relative at times, but when a solid collection of thrash gets panned by a band’s most ardent mainstays and even by the ones that created it, something has to give. It’s somewhat understandable to not be wholly impressed with an album because it was a little rushed (Testament had been invited to go on some big tour not long after this was released), but the end results of “Souls Of Black”, the 4th album of this bunch of Bay Area bruisers, is quite powerful, particularly in comparison to their past 2 albums. How was this accomplished, some may ask? The answer is, quite simply, that all of the gimmicks have been dropped and Skolnick and company have decided to get back to basics.
While definitely not the fastest and most furious offering out of the thrash scene, this is about as pure and raunchy of an offering as can be expected from the genre circa 1990. In addition to being auspiciously shorter and sweeter than most of the mid-boggling epics being churned out by Heathen and Overkill at around this time, it’s also a lot more straightforward, almost as if time had been turned back about 3 or 4 years. The production is a good deal rawer here, almost to the point of sounding like a slower, simpler version of a Dark Angel recording post-1985. The guitars are crunchy and free of the tinny rock character that neutered much of “Practice What You Preach”, the lead guitar is complementing the album rather than carrying it, and the acoustic interludes and balladry have been scaled back to more reasonable levels.
Between Chuck Billy’s still youthful and irreverent shouts of angst in the mold of 1984 James Hetfield and a wicked riff set that is clearly right out of the Exodus textbook, this thing manages to cook something fierce, even when caught in mid-tempo land. Whether it be “Face In The Sky”, “Love To Hate” or “One Man‘s Fate”, things have largely rocketed back to the splendor of the band’s formative debut release, though with a greater mixture of upper-mid tempo work during the verses, which allow the raunchy vocal work to do its thing with little distraction. Sometimes things get a little bit groovier as on the title song and “Absence Of Light”, but the energy and attitude isn’t diminished in the slightest. The only areas where things get a little sappy and overblown is the cliché 80s ballad “The Legacy” and the somewhat gratuitous 36 second fit of acoustic shredding that kicks off the album in “Beginning Of The End”, almost as if the band is taking some cues from Jeff Waters (see “Beneath The Remains” for a way to pull off a brief acoustic intro that better melds with an intense thrash album).
This barely takes a backseat to Testament’s seminal debut, and is a much better and more consistent version of what Metallica should have become after “Ride The Lightning”. While everyone else was trying to outdo each other with how many technical feats they could jam into 40 minutes of album space or explore the limits to how far a thrash fan’s attention span could be stretched on a singular song (think “…And Justice For All” and “Victims Of Deception”), this band decided to get back to basics, and it worked out quite nicely. For any old school fan who doesn’t want their drums overtly click oriented, their bass either muddied up or funky, and their guitars thinned out to the point of losing their punch, or something seeking to fill up the entire 80 minute memory limit of a standard CD, this is an essential purchase to complement a collection of classics circa 83-87, from a year long after such albums were commonplace.
This was the first Testament album I ever heard, and as such, I hold it very high in my affections. I'll get the negatives out of the way from the start. There are two big problems with this album. The first is the production. The drums have a very dry sound, reminiscent of the drum sound on Iron Maiden's "No Prayer For The Dying". And the guitar sound lacks punch, and sounds flat. There's no crunch, and the songs lack the power that they easily could have had. It is quite well documented that this album was rushed in order for the band to be given a coveted place on the "Clash Of The Titans" tour. The resulting album definitely suffered as a result of it having to be rushed. However, it has to be said, in spite of this, Testament were still able to conjur up a decent album with some truly majestic moments. It is frustrating, because I have little doubts had this album been worked on more intensively, this would be my fave Testament album for sure!
Stylistically, this album has a sound all it's own. Elements of all 3 previous albums are on show here, plus a more melodic sense in places. In essence, its really like "Practice What You Preach", but with more nods to the first two albums than that one had. The album begins with probably my fave opening to any Testament album. The classical guitar picking of the intro "Beginning Of The End", is a perfect foil for the mountainous first track proper, "Face In The Sky". It's really criminal that this song has been abscent from Testament's live show probably since the tour for this album. As really, it is one of Testament's finest ever songs. The song starts with some pounding stop - start guitar riffing, and squealing harmonics, before settling down into very cool groove. Chuck Billy has always been my favourite thrash metal vocalist, his style is unmistakeable, and he commands this song right from the moment he starts singing. The real clincher for this song though, is the awesome solo. Alex Skolnick delivers one if his best ever solos here. Dramatic, and screaming, it really is spectacular stuff, and Alex proving once again he is the real secret weapon in Testament's armoury, and probably the best lead guitarist ever to grace a Thrash band. (Though Marty Friedman runs him close!) Next up, is "Falling Fast". Which is a decent song, but falls short of the classic status I'd afford to the opener. The verses feature some very catchy vocal patterns from Chuck, and the chorus features a monstrous groove. An above average song, certainly! The title track is regarded as classic in the band's catalogue, and rightly so. From the unmistakable bass intro by Greg Christian, to the upbeat stomp of the main riff, this is really classic stuff. The icing on the cake is the stunning solo by Skolnick. It really is a thing of great beauty, the way he makes the guitar sing is just magical! Another awesome solo by the great man puts the final stamp of "classic" on this great song. "Abscence Of Light" is a decent song, with some sense of tension, and build up, and a great chorus backed and followed by a vicious riff. Skolnick produces another awesome solo, and elevates the song above merely "good", to something more memorable. The second half of the solo in particular is something special, with a great sense of harmony and dynamics. Not quite a classic song, but great nonetheless! "Love To Hate" is the only pure thrash song on this album, with a fast pace throughout the verse and choruses, and a fun vocal performance from Chuck. Again (sorry to sound so damn predictable!) Skolnick delivers a great solo, though this time it's not quite enough to elevate the song above being merely "good". But again, above average, and certainly a song worth listening to on repeated plays.
"Malpractice" is in my opinion at least, the most underrated song of Testament's whole career. The creepy main riff is killer, while the verses have a more "rockish" feel to them than anything they'd done before. However, the song has a great feeling of tension throughout, and the gang chanted chorus is just awesome. The song's solo, is even by Skolnick's own standards, a total beast! The powerful runs, and sense of melody and speed he injects into the song is quite remarkable! Overall, this song is maybe the best song on here, and is definitely one of my fave Testament songs, if not my absolute fave! "MALPRACTICE!" "One Man's Fate" has a very tense beginning, which strangely leads into a more upbeat sounding main riff, which is also quite speedy. Chuck Billy is the undoubted star of this song, delivering a searing vocal performance. There's a lot of his melodic style on show here, and the chorus is very memorable. Again, the solo is worth a mention, giving the song that little bit of extra class. Along with the title track, "The Legacy" is the other well known track off this album. This one being a ballad, and as far as I'm concerned, is hands down the best ballad Testament have ever done, and also one of the best ever by any band. The atmosphere conjured up is just majestic. Its one of those songs that really has the ability to transport you to another fantastical type place just by listening to it. Chuck really has the voice to pull this off, and really I cant imagine anyone else singing this song with quite the sense of mysticism he puts into the performance. I really cant praise this song highly enough, everytime I hear it I get goosebumps. Definitely one of the classic metal ballads of all time. The final track "Seven Days Of May" is a great song, featuring tension in the verses, another chorus with gang shouts, which is used to great effect, and yet another top solo by Alex Skolnick. The song has a surging finish, bringing the album to a great climax.
Overall, this is a great album, and maybe my favourite by Testament. There's always that niggling feeling though, that with a bit more time to work on it, and better production, this could have been a real monster. There is an overall feeling of dissappointment I get while listening to it, even though none of the songs are bad, and a fair few are actually excellent. I think the best way to describe it, is it feels unfinshed. But even as it is, it is well worth checking out. I'd advise any thrash fan, or just any fan of quality metal to give this one a try. Just ignore the weak production though!
Testament will always be one of those bands that divides opinion amongst the headbanging masses. This is nothing new as there are many bands out there that divide opinion. However, with Testament it always seems like opinion is divided from album to album...give 10 metal-heads a chance and you'll get 10 different "top 3" lists of Testament albums.
I will now go on record to say that this is, in fact, my favorite of all the "classic line-up" Testament records, even moreso than The Legacy, because this is the album where they truly perfected what they do best.
We all know the story of this album, the guys had three months to write, record and produce an entire album. I think this is something that worked in the band's favorite as I've always believed Testament had a habit of overthinking things and, as a result, releasing albums that seemed to reflect more what they thought they should do as opposed to what they simply should have done.
I won't argue whether or not Testament was the most creative band out there and admittedly, in 2009 this material doesn't even seem all that heavy or all that metal, but remember this was released in 1990 and "heavy" meant something completely different than it does now. What Testament were was a second-wave Bay Area thrash band with a devastating lead guitar player that played a more mid-tempo, song oriented brand of thrash...a brand of thrash that would never blow one's brains out with high riff counts or high BPM counts but, at its best, took solid riff sets and constructed them in a thoughtful manner.
I remember someone calling Testament "thinking man's metal" and for better or worse, that's as good a description as I've heard.
SOULS OF BLACK represents thinking man's metal at its best as the band strikes with devastating riff after devastating riff, where no riff ever overstays its welcome and where everything flows brilliantly. What results is the most consistent album of Testament's career. "Face In The Sky", "Falling Fast", the title track and "Seven Days Of May" stand up to anything the band ever did and "The Legacy" is, in my opinion, the best "ballad" the band ever did.
To my ears, the only place where the album suffers is in production. Chuck Billy is so far back in the mix and so drowned in reverb that it sounds at times as if he's singing in a different room. It's a shame to because Billy gives the 2nd best performance of his career on this record (not too far off his work on "Low"). On the other hand, the rush job probably prevented Peterson and Skolnick from overproducing the guitars, and that's a good thing because they sound like thunder on this record...crunchy yet still with that trebly bite that was missing from "Practice..."
Need I say anything about Alex Skolnick? His soloing really got better and better with each album and it is no different here...just check out the solo to "Face In The Sky" and the way he works over the riff and tempo shifts...awesome!!!
Mine is only one opinion of course and, again, 10 other people will have 10 other things to say, however if there is one album that best represents classic era Testament doing what they do best, it is SOULS OF BLACK.
Although there album was not well defined due to it's submissive results, the intent was highly spoken. The album was blatantly reviewed and expressed. That however was not the case, having releasing this album was a opportunity for the band to be heard more for how creative they could have been. Thereafter having be able to play the Painkiller tour with Judas Priest and Megadeth, this was thought of as a great opportunity for the band to be heard and given a proper realization for the era, having this album released in 1990. The album not being introduced widely for it's real intent and realization of the bands nature was still however regardless of it's reviews and thoughts was highly underrated in my opinion, and should have been realized and understood in it's own sense.
This album being released two years after "The New Order" was expected of it's real catchy references and slick intros. Such as songs like Into the Pit, The New Order, Disciples of the Watch, and The Preacher. "Practice what you Preach" was also a strong out-front in epidemics. However it may seem the band really bumped it's volume and showed it's true passion in "Souls of Black" in songs they longed for to be heard such as The Legacy, Love to Hate, Falling Fast, Absence of Light, Malpractice and of course Souls of Black. The disappointment of the albums results were highly critical. "Souls of Black" however being not the most highly viewed of their work it was still a really heavy album. Yet the album was still shown as being one of their major works and possibly the most popular to viewers.
The talents of Louie Clemente (drummer) and Eric Peterson (rhythm guitarist) were very well grounded as well Alex Skolnick's beautiful melodies and Chuck Billy's vocals reaching new heights of passion towards the music and really showing the love with strength more. So this was really thought of as "weak stuff" as lots of people will claim but true Testament fans will tell you different and expressed their views with different regards.
Souls of Black, born in ‘90, is a good indication of the early sound of Testament as well as the later. Their entire discography is a big Metallica tribute, and this record is a perfect example of how very, very wrong such a tribute actually is. It is a watered down, light interpretation of Metallica's Kill 'Em All except for the fact that they somehow managed to make the vocals even worse. Even in his wildest dreams, James Hetfield could never hope of having such poor vocals, try as he might.
The music you'll find here is like a cousin of thrash, very far removed. The sister of thrash, perhaps, separated at birth where this thrash bastardization grew up on the posh side of the tracks, being spoon-fed hopes of a safe future, trust funds and dreams of Carebears. As such, it lacks the manliness and testicles of true thrash. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a very demanding man. I'm perfectly fine with music lacking testicles. I enjoy the majority of the EU power metal scene, but this is where I put my foot down: at negative testicles. I would say that this is thrash for your girlfriend, but your girlfriend would probably have more testosterone than this album and kick you in the beanbag for being a wimp.
The guitars have a chug-chug-chugga style of riffing, though they hide it well. 7 riffs are recycled throughout this record, and at least 5 of them are borrowed from Kill 'Em All. Now don't get me wrong, Alex Skolnick is a talented guitarist, but it seems to me he just shat on the riffs, hoping that flashy solos would somehow convince the listener that this album wasn't throughoutly poor. The solos are definitely the only redeeming (if even that) factor here, yet the second solo is just a copy of the first, and so on. The drum-work, being a Kill 'Em All rip-off (have I mentioned this before?) sounds horrible, though this is most likely due to the production. The tempo usually doesn't stray from mid-tempo, making it easier for their targeted audience, 9 year olds and people who thought REAL thrash was just a bit too mean and loud, to bob their heads to it without having too much of a headache. Oh yeah, production. Everything is clearly audible (except the bass, but who needs the bass anyway?).
Songs worth mentioning would be Face In The Sky, as the first 30 seconds actually quite rocked. I was thinking that I might have misjudged Testament, but of course the foolishness of such a thought was obvious when the following riff made its way; a groovish interpretation of a Metallica riff, the very thing they have become known for. From Face in the Sky to One Man's Fate nothing new happens. Every song is a copy of the song before it.
The Legacy is the mandatory ballad, and I dare the listener to not start gagging and throw up violently at the cheesiness of the general vibe, and the god-awful lyrics. Much like Face in the Sky, it doesn't start out horrible. In fact, it's clearly inspired by Overkill's Years of Decay. But then comes a whiny guitar interlude and fucks everything up. The vocals are at their whiniest worst.
Other works in the vein of Souls of Black would be Trivium’s Metallica period, Metallica’s Kill 'Em All and Sacred Reich.
Recommended songs: The Four Horsemen, Whiplash and Seek & Destroy.
It doesn't even have the common decency to clock out after 30 minutes.
Anyone who’s followed Testament’s career knows that during the 90’s, they altered their style to attempt to appeal to the mainstream, much like most every other metal band of the decade. But just before they “sold out,” they put out one last, often overlooked classic by the name of Souls of Black. Recovering from the blatant Metallica worship and harmless execution of their Practice What You Preach album and resurrecting the darker atmosphere from their first two albums, Testament let loose with one last thrasher that while not even comparatively destructive as their first album, still stands on its own as a damn solid representation of the band’s prowess.
Sporting a clear but rough bass-heavy production, Souls of Black is basically the reincarnation of The New Order without all the silly interludes. It usually doesn’t stray from mid-paced territory, but it’s vicious when it does. Chuck Billy still kinda channels James Hetfield’s style, but less so than on PWYP (excepting a few really noticeable moments). And Louie Clemente pounds away like a madman and Alex Skolnick still shreds like a motherfucker. What did you expect; this is a Testament album after all. One nice new aspect is Greg Christian’s bass finally playing a potent role in the mix, allowing his talent to show (see the intro to the title cut for a good example). But this album really isn’t much different than what came before it, it’s more to show that the band still had playing power (proving PWYP to be merely a fluke) rather than to tread new ground. There’d be time for new ground on the following albums, after all.
So anyway, the songs. A nice acoustic intro leads into opening cut “Face in the Sky,” one of many signature Testament tunes from this album. The songs are all a bit more distinctive than the ones from the previous album and many are classics, such as the title track, “Malpractice” and “Seven Days of May.” Note the band’s improved lyrical capacity as well. Near the end of the album, “The Legacy” stands out, as it’s one of the few power ballads the band has written. The mellowness delivered is somewhat unwelcome, but the song is written well enough to justify its inclusion. And if you don’t like it, that’s why the skip button was invented.
And did I mention that Alex Skolnick fucking rules? His technique is just as stunning as when he first ripped it up on the Legacy demo, but on Souls of Black, he plays with a purposeful sense of melody and precision at a magnitude unseen in his prior work. Guitarists take note: these solos are some of his best.
Okay, so this isn’t an ultra-fast ’86 thasher. It nonetheless beats the shit out of what Exodus and Sacred Reich were doing at the time. Don’t count it out ‘til you hear it for yourself.
Although not as good as “Practice What You Preach”, for it contained a lesser amount of quality Peterson riffs, it was fortunately better than “The New Order” (which had some classic songs but as a whole a very inconsistent album) and everything the band released since 1992. Biggest problem compared to “Practice What You Preach” is the rather skinny sound this album has and – as said – a lesser amount of memorable Peterson riffs. Not that there aren’t any good riffs here, there were still some of them (‘Falling Fast’, ‘Souls Of Black’, ’Love To Hate’, ’Malpractice’) fortunately.
I really miss the prominent bass guitar sound from “Practice What You Preach” but the intro to the title track is extremely good. The guitars however have got plenty of definition and also the vocals have a really good production here. Talking about the vocals. This album is one of the most melodic ones Chuck Billy has recorded. His vocal melodies however are not all of the same quality. Sometimes they work fine (‘Falling Fast’, ‘Souls of Black’, ‘Face In The Sky’, ‘Malpractice’) but on some songs they fall out of place a bit with the intensity of the composition (‘Absense Of Light’ , ‘One Man’s Fate’, ‘Seven Days Of May’)
Compared to “Practice What You Preach”, this time there were more up tempo moments (especially ‘Falling Fast’, ‘Love To Hate’), making up for the incidental shortage of memorable riffs and providing a varied album. A song such as ‘Malpractice’ is very reminiscent of the “Practice What You Preach” album and very remarkable is that the song ‘One Man's Fate’ including its vocal line could have come straight from the Mordred debut album “Fools Game” and for that matter I think this songs would have sounded better with Scott Holderby on vocals.
I’ve never been too fond about the song ‘The Legacy’ which still feels like a failed attempt at writing a sequel to ‘The Ballad’ (“Practice What You Preach”) but without an up tempo thrashing climax. Before I forget, of course there are some great Skolnick leads and solos to be found all over the album.
Finishing after “The Legacy” and “Practice What You Preach”, this album can be considered a great Testament album and their last true old school thrasher. Best songs: ‘Falling Fast’, ‘Souls of Black’, ‘Love To Hate’ and ‘Malpractice’.
“Souls of Black” marks a step down in speed and a step up in ‘heaviness’ for Testament. And while it may not measure up to what was already on the table at the time of release, don’t let that stop you from enjoying it. While some might call this effort second rate thrash, there is plenty to enjoy and keep you listening – if only for a little while.
Yes, “Souls of Black” could be called underrated. There are plenty of catchy riffs, killer leads, and speedy drums to capture your interest, but I think it is important to take into consideration the time of its release. The early to mid 90’s marked a shift away from the glory days of thrash. Big name bands of the genre like Megadeth and Metallica put out more melodic and accessible releases: “Countdown to Extinction” and “Metallica (The Black Album)” respectively, effectively changing the direction of the scene. Other bands experimented with cross-genre efforts incorporating techniques from power, gothic, and even industrial metal. Testament followed suit soon after in ’92 with “The Ritual,” a melodic and catchy album riding the wave of more commercial releases. And because of the close proximity in terms of release dates to these new developments in thrash, “Souls of Black,” to many, sounded like a throwback to the 1980’s. I also think “Souls of Black” marks the beginning of this transition for Testament, and for some, the downward spiral of the band and hence the last great release.
The throwback charge is a legitimate one, unfortunately. You can definitely hear it in the production values of the album. They simply aren’t up to par with what was going on at the time. Despite the musicianship of the band, I think it really hurt generate interest in the release. Skolnick’s leads are solid, the vocals are killer, and Testament sports one hell of a drummer, but it just lacks polish and the recordings are a bit quiet and even muffled. In no way does it do the talent of the band justice.
But like I said, the riffs are hard, the leads are catchy and enjoyable, and there are some great songs. The openers are particularly memorable. Several songs feature some awesome guitar work, but sometimes the riffs can seem really forced and hokey. The ballad on the album is also fairly enjoyable. Unfortunately, there’s also a fair amount of filler material. Additionally, many of the songs sound incredibly similar to songs from previous releases. While this may be good on a nostalgic level, overall, it speaks ill of the band in terms of musical maturity. Where is the development of style and the honing of skill? It just is not present and this is what makes this album ultimately mediocre. It’s different than the first albums, but it’s also the same and that makes it awkward.
Let’s be honest, though. I certainly don’t expect every heavy metal album I hear to be groundbreaking or blow me away. That’s just unrealistic. I want my music to be fun. And despite my negativity, “Souls of Black” is fun. But when you look at a band, you want to watch their style and sound progress. That’s not unrealistic. You want to see some sort of progression. That does not happen here, making the album stagnant and monotonous. While progression does take place later on the in the band’s history, it’s of a different, more experimental nature than the kind I am trying to describe.
“Souls of Black” is a good thrash album and it is not second rate, but there is a lot that could have been done to make it better. Testament is a band littered with lackluster efforts. Some of that laziness makes its way here. And while it may have sounded like a throwback to the 80’s when it was released, I think it’s sufficiently on the border of the 80’s and 90’s for metal fans of today to ignore that accusation. However, this fact does affect the production value of the album and the overall enjoyment of the sound.
After the bad, inconsistent and pussy-thrash effort of 'Practice What You Preach', Testament released the much improved 'Souls of Black'. While the previous had few good riffs and more than half of it wasn't worth listening to, 'Souls of Black' is where Testament picked up in quality again, delivering a solid thrash album.
Pretty much everything 'Practice What You Preach' contained is improved upon on here. The riffs are much more powerful and original, which results in more headbanging. The production, for once, is good for a thrash metal album, with the guitars rightfully in the forefront and the drums actually having some weight this time around. The guitar tone has improved a lot as well. While on previous records it sounded pussified, weak and lacked balls, on here it actually has some punch and power to it. Sure, it's nowhere near as heavy as the production on 'Slaughter in the Vatican' was, but it suits the style of thrash Testament played. The vocals have improved as well, which Chuck no longer going through the motions and instead providing a more aggressive style of singing. The Metallica influence is still present, but it is no where near as bad as it was on the previous release. For once, you can easily tell the songs apart, as although some do sound similar they are different enough to be distinguishable.
There aren't really any bad songs on here. Even the token ballad of the album, 'The Legacy', is quite enjoyable and has some very good heavy sections. There are still some songs which border on half-thrash but on here they are thankfully not as common. When they do come up they are still quite enjoyable due to solid riffs driving the songs forward. The solos remain awesome in each song (which is to be expected from a guitar player such as Skolnick) and are still very nicely done.
So if there are so many good points, why the above average score? Well this is still pretty average stuff at times, and there is nothing new on offer here. While originality is not really a big factor I consider when reviewing albums it can drag a record down without some of it. As said before, the Metallica influence is still there and props it's head up every now and then, which is seen occasionally in the vocals and riffs.
In conclusion though, this is nearly on par with their first album and certainly worth getting. There's more riffs, more balls, and better production on offer, and anyone that likes some good thrash should definitely consider picking this one up.
This is the best album from the 'old Testament' era. That era being the first 5 albums. The production isn't as good as The Ritual, but hey, The Ritual is nowhere as good as this anyway. This album has awesome groove riffs, and well as heavy FUCK YOU thrash all over.
If you disagree, you have to look at what you have. The Legacy was fast and thrashy, but the production wasnt so great. And the tempo seemed rushed a lot, like everyone was trying to keep up with each other. The same with The New Order, and those songs didnt have as much power as the debut. With Practice What You Preach, the boys finally tackled their tempo problem, as well as some decent technical thrash, but the songs had no feeling, and were kind of bland. And that bass was mixed in so bad, with too much treble. Then you have what came after Souls of Black, The Ritual. Yes, the production was quite good, but other than about 3 songs, it was really boring, and sounded like they were selling out. And the songwriting went waaaay down.
Now you have Souls of Black. Back to that production. At this point, that was Testament's current sound. That treble-based guitar sound. And the raspy vocals. The bass was fixed. All you have left is the songwriting. Which is a big improvement from PWYP. So how could this NOT be the best one?
Once the acoustic Beginning of the End ends, Face in the Sky comes in with one of the best songs Testament has ever made. An awesome groove riff and simply put, amazing vocals. The solo section is melodic without having to go into an entirely different sounding aspect of the song. This song just flows without getting old.
Falling Fast shows a slight glimpse of Billy's early 'growling'. This one makes you headbang all the way through.
The title track has a great bass line and is a classic track. The solo is technical and is also a classic.
Absense of Light is good technical thrash, but still very fast. Some more nice groove riffs. A good mid tempo treat.
Love to Hate has one fast as hell verse, the drumming is nearly flawless. This isnt the heaviest song, it still has a cool solo though.
Malpractice is one of the more well known songs. This has a lot of leads throughout. Skolnick really shines here, for many obvious reasons. The riff in the chorus chugs along really well. And now the solo. One of the best from Skolnick (the best being from Over the Wall) highly melodic. It has some kind of echo-ed sound to it. Build up back to the verse and the rest is history.
One Man's Fate has a couple of decent riffs, but nothing to get excited about. This song doesnt seem to have anything original or interesting in it. More of a filler to me.
And now The Legacy. Very dark but very melodic at the same time. There is an array of leads all over. You feel nostalgic when listening to this song. Chuck Billy also gives a great performance here, as his vocals shine, both in the slow dark parts, and in the build ups into the up tempo parts. This is the song I look forward to hearing whenever i pop this album into my cd player. The part after 2:58 is just fucking awesome and will send chills down your spine. Then the highlight solo of the song just brings harks back to the late 80's (i know this is 1990, but it's close enough) Too bad Chuck sticks to mostly growling now.
Seven Days of May has a cool groove/thrash riff. This is ok, but not a great closer, although most bands can never seem to close their albums right. Maiden is good at that. The chorus is kind of forgettable. I like the solo best here. But all in all, great album. Get this album, especially if you like the Bay Area sound. It's too bad Skolnick isnt around for the heavier albums.
Not only standing as one of the band's least popular releases among the fans, this album has also been spurned by the band itself. If my memory serves me correct (note: read about a year ago or so, not back in the day), the band was offered to participate in the "Clash of Titans" tour just a couple of months or so before the recording of this album, and the band really REALLY wanted it out before going out on the tour (which they seemingly wanted pretty bad as well). Because of the tight schedule they had to work with during the writing, recording and mixing of the record, some of the results naturally came off as a bit rushed.
Yet, however, I personally find this album to be a tad stronger than the last.
What truly flawed 'Practice What You Preach' was not only that it didn't quite Thrash with a big T like the two first efforts did; the overall sound and playing also felt kind of stiff and overproduced for a thrash record. While still containing some impressive technical riffs along with a very focused and recognizable style of songwriting, it still ended up as an exceptionally tame record for a bay area thrash unit.
Now 'Souls of Black' is in no way a return to the Thrash form ala 'Legacy' and 'New Order'; it's arguably even less thrashy than 'Practice' in fact; but instead, this is a more BREATHING release than the last. You get more of a feeling that the band is just sitting in the studio jamming out some great heavy music - which seems to fit Testament better than the technical perfection they were aiming for on 'Practice'. There is also a certain heavier feel to many of the riffs; generally less thrashy, but heavier ("heavy" and "thrashy" don't necessarily equal). Real light-hitters such as 'Envy Life' and 'Greenhouse Effect' are fewer in number as well, and overall I'd probably describe this album as a rawer but more breathing and kicking version of 'Practice What You Preach', as the two albums are still very comparable.
This album is rawer in the sound department as well, which is both good and bad news.
Good news: This album isn't nearly as stiff and overproduced as 'Practice'; this sound fits Testament a lot better. There is also a certain heavier edge to the distortion, the distortion of 'Practice' was often much too light.
Bad news: The rhythm guitar is more pushed to the back, which doesn't exactly help this album to "breathe" like it otherwise does and is likely a result of the limited production period they had to work with. Actually, this disc is definitely worth a listen with headphones, as the rhtyhm work and distortion on this album is quite possibly the best on any disc from their "old" era. Eric Peterson = an incredibly underrated rhythm player and a force to be reckoned with.
Also, both the distorted 'Among'-like bass sound and the clicking 'Justice'-like bass drum sound are dropped, going for a more "basic" sound, which isn't really a bad thing, as this is overall a more "basic" album than the previous. However, in case you really liked that sound and need to blame something, it's probably yet another result of stressed production.
At some point in my Testament reviews I always seem to dedicate a section to Alex Skolnick, and in this review I should mention that this album actually features some of the strongest lead work since 'The Legacy'! There is no absolute god-like solo such as the title track off the previous to be found; instead, most songs hold a very above average level, overall.
Something should be said about the drumming, which take a path similar to the rest of the album: more breathing, more basic and less stiff when compared to 'Practice'. Yes, I know that I said several good things about the drum work in my 'Practice' review, but I'll just make it clear now, then: The drums on 'Practice What You Preach' are, while more varied than on 'The Legacy' and 'The New Order', pretty damn stiff and 'Souls of Black' improves in this area.
Alright, I've probably dissected this album enough already, but I'll do the usual song-by-song review anyway (some prefer that type of reviews, some don't, and I simply do both in order to make everyone happy, hopefully):
'Beginning of the End' is an acoustic intro, and a very good one in fact! I would definitely have wished for it to be a bit longer, as it clocks in at 0.36, but for what it is, it isn't half bad.
'Face in the Sky' opens with an Arabic-like riff (hardly anything new for Testament) before a heavy and really good riff descends at 0.25. This song is generally a bit slower and groovier than the Testament one is accustomed to, but still very good if you can adjust yourself to it. Since this heavy main riff carries most of the song, there's not much else to say, but there's also an excellent solo tacked in that is worthy of mention; above average even for Skolnick. Overall, this song is clearly one of the best on the disc.
A riff terribly similar to the one found in 'The Haunting' (off 'The Legacy') is found in the beginning of 'Falling Fast', before it begins to thrash pretty seriously; this song is one of the thrashiest on the disc and arguably heavier than any song on 'Practice What You Preach'. Check out the tremendous movement from 0.32 to 0.42, excellent heavy stuff right here! The verse may be a little too repetitive and also similar in style to the previous song, but it may also be that the two songs are placed back-to-back, and it can still hold it's own. The verse and chorus are played three times each before a kind of chaotic solo appears, especially for Skolnick. This song is unfortunately one of those songs that you wish the band could've spent some more time on; some riffs and vocal lines just don't feel very thought out, but there is certainly both potential and inspiration to be found here, especially after giving it a few listens.
Some terrific grooving and swaying marks the title track, which is possibly the best number on the disc; definitely the catchiest, anyhow. An ultra-catchy bass line opens the song before giving way to the heavy chorus riff - check out how the rhythm and lead guitar work together here, right when it kicks in! Some great singing is featured, with the chorus being really soaring and both the verse and chorus riff just all-out sway, which overall makes for a true neck-twister of a song!
'Absence of Light' is one of the more technical-laid numbers on the album and perhaps a bit more in the 'Practice' vain. Opening with some sharp and strong rhythm guitar work, a heavy and face-smashing passage follows at 0.12. However, the verse is just downright boring and almost annoying. It bumps along in an ordinary fashion, but it's really just there doing absolutely nothing, and the vocal melody seems pulled out of Chuck Billy's ass - or rather from 'Falling Fast'!!! Yes, this is the EXACT same melody, except sung less high-pitched and shouty. This is just terrible, as the verse in 'Falling Fast' isn't really all that great either; I just don't see why you'd wanna rip off your own half-assed vocal melody and do a half-assed version of it. Anyway, there are a few good rhythm sections here and there and while the chorus sounds a little sleepy, it's still decent. But overall, this is definitely one of the weaker and carries a whole lot more potential than it exploits; a syndrome many of the other songs on this disc unfortunately have.
'Love to Hate' begins much like the previous track; sharp rhythm work here. The verse tempo shifts real nicely, also featuring some excellent shouty vocals, and the chorus is simply what Testament does best - hear those crushing rhythms, especially how it shifts over from the verse! This is probably the most 'New Order'-like song on the disc (though still not really in quality), probably even more than any track off the previous album, in fact! The middle section before the solo (another great one, BTW) from 1.26 to 1.54 is another highly enjoyable part; overall this song is what some of the other songs on the album SHOULD be like: consistently good. This song may feel a little more "jammed" out than "thought" out if you catch my drift, but here it just seems to work slightly better than it does with some other songs the album.
The "hospitals suck"-tinged 'Malpractice' (I hereby advice you to read the lyrics; funny stuff) simply rocks. Clearly one of the more coherent and thought out songs on the disc and perhaps leans a little more towards heavy/speed metal than thrash. The rhythm work and vocal melody in the verse (especially check out the second verse, which comes with a great lead guitar fill) is just terrific. "Loss of blood and death is near, take a number can you wait right heeeere!" The chorus is pretty much equal in quality, as it features that patented Testament guitar-and-drum pattern - headbang material for sure. The solo has that really melodic Skolnick feel; one of the things that made Testament stand out from many other bay area units at the time. Here, it's a really bluesy solo, but with that trademark ripping Peterson rhythm work. There is really just one complaint to be had in this song: the passage from the solo back into the opening riff doesn't go very smoothly at all, but that's more of a minor error, really. It's still one of the best songs on the album.
Yet another unfinished sounding song comes through in 'One Man's Fate', as the only part in this song that has a whole lot of saving grace is the chorus, which is melodic and real nice; all other parts either just flat out suck or sound incredibly uninspired. The solo is nice, but so are pretty much all solos on this album; not enough to save a 1/4-assed song, basically.
'The Legacy' isn't the lost title track from the debut album or anything; this is actually a ballad (which would've sounded very out of place on that album, obviously). Not just any ballad in fact, this song does kick huge amounts of ass and makes the namesake 'The Ballad' off the previous album look really BAD! I'm not gonna go all in-depth with this song; when you hear it, you'll probably understand what I mean when I say "beautiful acoustics, tremendous vocals and soaring emotion". It becomes a little heavier at 2.43, but that detracts nothing from the emotion and actually becomes really soaring with the "Life was like a fantasy, taken by reality" line at 2.59. Out of the four ballads Testament has written to this date, this one is my favorite.
And so the album closes with a number similar in style to 'Absence of Light': 'Seven Days of May', which is not only very technical-laid like that song, but also pretty damn uninspired. Even more than 'Absence' in fact, as there's really not one single redeeming section to be found in this song; even the solo is very sub-par!
Yes, I can agree on that some parts of this album lack inspiration, which the band just didn't have time to gather enough of at the time. But far from the whole album is like that - when this record is good, it's clearly better 'Practice What You Preach', hence the slightly higher rating for this one. With the guitars mixed a bit more to the forefront and some more time spent with some of the songs, we could be talking 85-87%. This is a very underrated and kind of original Testament release, worthy of checking out and of course highly recommended to be given a try if you're a fan but have mostly been fed with negative reviews of this one.
Finally, there's one thing that's extremely important to point out before you give this disc the first spin: this album is MUCH less catchy and gripping than any of the first three efforts, and some songs may seem a bit boring and incoherent at first (another good explanation to why this album ends up as one of their least popular). Songs like the title track and 'The Legacy' (unsurprisingly the two highest regarded songs on the album) will have you addicted from first listen; songs like 'Face in the Sky', 'Love to Hate' and 'Malpractice' may require repeated spins to fully enjoy.