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I think that Testament had (and still have) the potential to be the greatest thrash band of all, but setbacks with time, with bandmambers, with production, with illness, and with the media-constructed "Big 4" meant that they have never achieved as highly as some might have expected. In the 80s, Testament were always a contender though, ever since their debut 'The Legacy' shot a hole through 1987, while their next few albums were generally met with approval, if not the same ecstatic respose. I have a couple of personal problems with Testament's early work and early thrash in general, though I must admit that their mixture of aggressive riffing, sublime melodic lead work, and Chuck Billy's distinctive vocals attract me more than many of the Slayers and Metallicas of our world.
'Souls of Black' shares some of these issues to a small extent, solves a few, and also adds a couple of its own, weighing in at a similar overall quality to 'The New Order' and 'Practice What You Preach', while lacking the startling impact of 'The Legacy'. In the first place, some of the production deficits are less pronounced, giving the sound a slightly greater punch and added crunchiness to the rhythm guitars, even if the bottom end of the mix sounds muddy and we can't catch the full skill of Eric Peterson's right hand, nor always distinguish the movements of Greg Christian's bass from the clattering fog of percussive noise. The times when the tone feels just right are when Alex Skolnick floats a solo across the taut underbelly of his bandmates, since his lead tone is light and dreamy, saturating the dry sound with sweetness and juice and pleasantly breaking up the saminess of some of the sections. His solos on this album are quite probably the best that he ever put to tape and play a huge role in making 'Souls of Black' as distinctive as it is.
The reason why Skolnick's contribution is so important is because their is a tendency to fall into a slump mid-album, where the songs begin to blur together. Looking at song length, one can see that the writing here is a little less involved than the fleshier numbers on 'Practice What You Preach', so any additional detail is a blessing. Crucially, the song structures are very predictable for the most part, generally following a simple intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-lead break-bridge-chorus structure that leaves little room for surprise besides the energy of the performance (which the production deadens a little) or creative riffing, vocal lines, or those solos. Peterson does provide some good riffs, though as mentioned the lower-pitched ones stand out less from the mix. There are some generic Testament riffs, such as the one that opens 'Absence of Light', but the instantly recognizable one from the title track, the few main riffs of 'Seven Days in May', or the chorus riff from 'The Legacy' are great examples of how creative he can be at times. Peterson's variety is all the more important on 'Souls of Black', since this is a rather slower album than its predecessors, having few songs that thrash for their entire length; what happens in this case is that the listener can detect the rhythm of the song before recognizing the riffs, a grumble that more power in the guitars would have fixed. One final factor contributing to the album's saminess is Chuck Billy's vocal performance. While as powerful as usual, he doesn't produce the quantity of memorable vocal lines that made 'The Legacy' album steer clear of boredom. There are indeed some valiant attempts to deviate from the bonehead thrash metal singer formula, such as the sustained notes in 'Malpractice', but there are no more than three or four styles for the whole album and the phrasing patterns are not quite as creative as they need to be to give the simple songs a catchy effect.
For all that, there are good moments throughout the album. Those searching for speed may be placated by 'Falling Fast' and 'Love to Hate', the former of which thrashes most convincingly and sounds best at high volume, standing on your feet, clenching your fists. 'Face in the Sky' and 'Souls of Black' both manage to achieve a balance between modest musical ambition and memorability, while 'The Legacy' is a ballad that doesn't merit quite such a long build-up yet undeniably succeeds with a poignant and huge-sounding chorus. Individually, songs all have their merits, despite the slight disappointments of 'Absence of Light' and 'Love to Hate', although there are few absolutely killer moments that I can totally lose my mind to, a complaint perhaps resulting from the steadier pace here.
'Souls of Black' is neither a poor nor a great album, which suffers from some similar songs, a weak production, and a slightly limited vocal performance, though makes up for it with some creative riffs, exquisite melodic soloing, and songwriting focus (say what you like about 'Practice What You Preach' and 'The Ritual', they could both have been cut down a bit). For die-hard 80s thrashers, this might be a little slow and hooky; for lovers of more modern-sounding metal, it might sound weak and puny; for those who are willing to be forgiving of some small flaws, it's a more than worthwhile listen.
This is an interesting record. Many bands combine elements from their previous works and release that as an album. The difference is that most bands do this towards the end of their career. Honestly, this record reminds me of Surgical Steel and Angel of Retribution in terms of intent. The problem is similar as well, it's not done as well as the first time around. This is not band and is well-executed self-worship, which I'd chalk up to youth.
From their debut, we have the closing song. Seven Days of May sounds to me like it could have been a b-side from that album. It's not very good, and it would be bad if it weren't for the nice solo, but that just brings it to below-average. From New Order, we have the opening track and the production. The opening track is a boring noodler that would have fit right at home on that album. The production on here also reminds me of that one. It has a nice, full feeling that their other early efforts lacked. The problem was that it also leads to the bass being quieter than it was on Practice. From that album, we have the Legacy. Admittedly, I like this one more than the Ballad, but I don't really enjoy either one. Pretty much over a quarter of this is wasted from the start.
In fairness, the bass isn't quite as quiet as it was on their sophomore, so he can still be heard. This does much for the music, in terms of shoring up the mediocre riffing. The soloing is also as good, maybe even better, than before. Skolnick's style really is rather unique. Poland is maybe the closest, but even then it's still fairly different. Chuck is as good as ever, and his lines on Face in the Sky and Malpractice do stick with me. The lyrics on here seem rather paranoid. Usually I don't agonize over lyrics, but it is odd how much this band fixates on entities out to get them. It honestly reminds me of some of my family reunions, if any of them had musical or vocal talent.
On the production, this often has a very mechanical feel. I can't quite explain it, but it almost feels like an extremely toned-down and less bassy Legion. It has a very concentrated, dense sound that can pack a punch, albeit a much smaller one. I can't quite say if this was intentional, as I don't sense any atmosphere from it. Judging from the cover, I would expect a somewhat darker feel. This isn't happy, but it's not morose or anything either. All of this isn't quite harmful to the record, but it is somewhat odd and abnormal.
I don't feel that this is as good as its predecessors. It isn't nearly as consistent as Legacy, nor does it peak as high as Practice or even New Order. It's really bizarre to me how a young band can be cobbling old ideas together this early. I understand being rushed, but this feels like a compilation at times. I can't say that I would recommend this as a whole album to a thrash fan. This has way too much low-level material grafted onto the beginning and end. I would say just rip Face, Falling, the title track, and Malpractice. There's a few more solid songs, but nothing really special.
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.
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.