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Holy freaking fudge this is a crazy album. There is a very fine line between what is actually metal and what is noise, and this album pushes that line to it's absolute limit without being just noise. This record will DESTROY you listen after listen. No two Testament albums are the same, they have always been a band that has had a few different takes on metal, but their debut, The Legacy, is by far their fastest and heaviest album. Their 90's stuff would try to get this close, but they would end up falling way short of this. The Legacy fuses absolutely wicked raw power with insane riffing and ferocious vocals in a very surprisingly masterful fashion. Sure, there are bands who played way faster than this, and other bands who played as heavy as this, but usually not both of these aspects combined in such a way. It's rare that you hear an album with this much aggression and energy. I cannot get enough of this album, it is insanely good; and there is not very much out there that can match this in terms of power and aggression. At first I felt that this album was a bit too, well, insane. But once I got used to it, I really started to dig it, and now it is definitely one of my favorite thrash albums.
The songs on The Legacy are all very heavy and most are fast as hell. I'm serious here, I cannot stress how much this album is so wickedly ridiculously INSANE. I don't mean those as in synonyms for "good", but it is literally freaking out of control. Even the really extreme thrash albums out there can't match this level of holy shit-ness. There are some all out thrashers like "Over the Wall", "Curse of the Legions of Death" (Which can be abbreviated to 'C.O.T.L.O.D')", "First Strike is Deadly" and my personal favorite: "Raging Waters". But there is no lack of melody either, the best example of this is "Alone in the Dark", with it's unique eastern sounding leads at parts. "Burnt Offerings" and a little bit of "Apocalyptic City" have these elements as well, but the majority of this album is a torrent of facepeelery. None of the songs are very long, with the longest ("Apocalyptic City") clocking in at just under the 6 minute mark. The lyrics are the most brutal and badass Testament has ever written, ranging from breaking out of Alcatraz to human sacrifice, to torture by demons and being attacked by satan while sailing through the Bermuda effing Triangle ("THE TRIANGLE! THE DEVIL'S TRIANGLE!!"). Yeah, I know, BADASS. The production here is not very good, but unlike The New Order, I think the production adds to the charm of the album. On the second album it robbed from the clarity and made some parts muddy, and it hurt what was a great album, but here it adds to the heaviness and the classic metal feel this one has. Don't get me wrong, it is not at all great production, but in my opinion it is not a problem here. All of these elements come together to make one of the most brutal and aggressive albums ever while still maintaining a strong sense of musicianship and class. My favorite song is definitely "Raging Waters" which has the most epic riffing and Chuck spits out the lyrics with such speed and aggression it's awesome. The chorus is actually very catchy, and the ending is wicked. Some of my other favorites are "Over the Wall", "First Strike Is Deadly", "Do or Die" and "Alone in the Dark".
The instrumentation is absolutely savage at times, with a lot of the riffs having that classic Eric Peterson style of riffing, in which he quickly alt picks a palm muted note and throws a triplet in the middle of the sequence then playing a chord etc. Testament fans know what I mean. He does this extremely fast and throws in lots of epic runs and licks in between. Above all of the chaos is Alex's masterful lead playing, he is definitely one of the best thrash lead guitarists out there and his debut here is ridiculously good. Some of his solos and leads are just fantastic, namely "Do or Die", "Apocalyptic City" and "First Strike Is Deadly". The solo to "First Strike Is Deadly" is one of my favorites of all time, it has this awesome classical scaling to it that is extremely clever and works very well. Then we get to the vocals which are insane. Chuck Billy is an animal on this album, he roars and bellows with unstoppable force that is unmatched by any other vocalist. Greg Christian plays great bass here too, and you can actually hear it. He has a unique and gritty bass tone that does a great job of adding to the riffs. The music on here sounds like it was played by a bunch of pissed off kids who armed themselves with the ability to thrash, and they do a wicked job.
Overall, this album is an absolute beast. It is not at all polished or clean. It is a monster that will assault you. I love this album and I listen to it regularly, it never ceases to put a smile on my face with its raw energy and power. I wouldn't exactly recommend this to everybody, while I believe it is one of the very best of the genre, it is not everyone's cup of tea. It is seriously intense, and those who prefer their metal more polished might not enjoy this, however I just so happen to be one of those who prefer their metal that way, but this is still one of my favorites. If you are a Testament fan or a hardcore thrash fan buy this right freaking now, you will love this if you haven't already heard it. If you want something to seriously get you headbanging or if you want some seriously intense metal, check this beast out. "Restart my life or self destruction! To climb this wall of dark construction! Holding the quest for freedom That BECKONS ME!!"
With Testament, there is often a lot of talk about preeminence and quality that I am going to term "thrash politics". And, like all forms of politics, I am going to avoid mentioning it or being swayed by it as much as possible in this review, since my focus is always on the individual - that is, whether I like this album and whether others will do so too.
However, my first point is indeed about the year 1987, more specifically about what music in general sounded like in that year. I'm talking about production here, and mixing, and all the things that are conventionally attached to those things. There is a disclaimer on the CD jacket for a couple of the early Testament albums that the format (CD was then a new format) may reveal some limitations in the quality of the recording equipment, or vice versa. Maybe someone is reading this and shouting at me: "Buy it on vinyl, you bellend!", but I answer this well-articulated criticism with my well-worn response, "Age, money" - I was born too late and remain too poor have bought or to currently invest in that particular format. The reason I bring this up is because the recording quality is compromised on my version of this album and, to some extent, inhibits some of the enjoyment that the music should offer. Two more words and you'll be on my side - quiet thrash.
Volume aside, there are certain undeniable things about 'The Legacy'. It sounds like an 80s thrash album, and a good one at that. The energy is peaking for 38 minutes and some of that fury and frenzy overcomes the restrained sound. Considering the general weakness of the noise, the mix is actually quite an accomplishment, with a level of clarity that always surprises me. The guitars come through with full detail and tone at every pitch (better when not palm-muted, but that keeps the riffing sharp), the bass certainly crumbles and pops with a slightly loose timbre, Chuck Billy is prominent yet never overwhelming, while only the drums lose a bit of impact and precision, which - all things considered - suits my personal preference. The pace is of course fast and escapes being one-dimensionally thrashy by including a lot of cool melodies ('Burnt Offerings', we're looking at you) and some more traditional/NWOBHM riffs that are amped up to thrash intensity. Leads follow the same basic principles and give the songs an exquisite amount of detail at times, such as on the super-melodic opening of 'Alone in the Dark'.
I'm searching for songs I dislike and quickly running out of options. Each one of the nine offerings here has enough diversity, skill, and hooks to interest and impress, plus I don't have much difficulty remembering songs separately, as I sometimes find on older thrash albums. Because the riffs are mostly fast, it is actually Chuck Billy's vocals that give songs their distinctive characters, since he is great at singing different melodies or forming variations of rhythm in his delivery: check out the simple technique in the chorus of 'Do or Die' or the slightly delayed rendering of 'Raging Waters' for evidence. He has several different tones as well, none of which annoy me, a few of which excite me. The only bad moment on the album is the stupid voiceover that commences 'First Strike is Deadly'. That song represents a dip in quality, nor do I rate 'C.O.T.L.O.D' so highly as the rest, because it's too straight-up in its thrashiness and doesn't have the hooks or detail of the other songs. However, seven great songs and two mediocre ones is nothing to complain about.
Now, permit me to conclude with my brief take on thrash politics. Testament were perhaps unlucky not to reach wider acclaim and to be ignored in the whole Big 4 thing, although I've always thought that was stupid and pick my favourite bands by their sound, not their randomly attributed stature (I mean, Anthrax?). The problem is, the following two Testament albums didn't deliver on the promise of this one: at least all of the Big 4 bands strung a few great albums together in the 80s, regardless of their eventual inconsistency, and were pushed into the wider consciousness while the thrash sound was forming. In fact, maybe I would rather be Testament, who stayed freer than their more popular contemporaries and lost little during their 90s period of experimentation. In the end, no one hates these guys and almost everyone loves 'The Legacy'.
We can all agree that Testament played a huge role in establishing the Bay Area thrash metal scene in the mid to late 80's. Previously known as Legacy, Testament released the album that would bear their former name, "The Legacy", and would also be a staple among thrash metal fans the world over. Calling it one of the greatest wouldn't be kind enough for this album, 'cos believe it or not, it contains more than just the standard e-note rhythm that all thrash metal bands tend to do.
At the time of its release, "The Legacy" was as state-of-the-art as thrash metal could get, and that's mainly due to the presence of the band's lead guitarist, Alex Skolnick. Many newbies or non-metallers would point to Kirk Hammett as the greatest guitarist ever to play thrash metal, but they could never have imagined the talents of Skolnick. He was classically-trained at a very young age and was just fifteen years old when he joined Testament. His talents are clearly evident in songs like "Over the Wall", which, on the surface, sounds like a more traditional thrash metal song, what with the standard e-note rhythm riff, but going into the solo and the interlude, you can hear Skolnick work some classically-based magic with his fingers. Another prime example is the solo in "First Strike Is Deadly", 'cos in that one, it's more obvious. The classical influence can clearly be heard in his soloing, and it's not very often in thrash metal, and it's bound to show up more in power metal. Besides, could a crybaby pedal do justice with that? Sorry, Mr. Hammett, you need to up your game.
There's also the intro of "Burnt Offerings", which has this creepy guitar effect that makes it sound like an organ being played with staccato. I'm not really sure if he used any special pedal for that, but knowing the sheer talent of Alex Skolnick, he didn't need to use much. Even if he did use something, the melodic and haunting vibe of it, and other songs like "The Haunting" and "Alone in the Dark" set it apart from the abrasive and obvious power of Exodus and Metallica, whose songs are totally rock and metal-based from start to finish. I know it sounds a little hard to believe but jazz has also played a key role in Skolnick's guitar playing. He even has made his own jazz ensemble, the Alex Skolnick Trio. With this knowledge, we can hear him use that influence in the main riff of "Burnt Offerings", which also counts as a classically-based riff, as he might have mixed that in there. Yeah, we do get that e-note rhythm that other bands made famous, but since we have the more melodic nature of most of them, thanks to Eric Peterson, they're more memorable than the riffs of any other band at the time.
As an added bonus, we get the more original vocals of Chuck Billy. When the band was known as Legacy, their previous singer, Steve "Zetro" Souza, is more gruff, nasally, and when he uses more energy, more like shrieking. When Chuck Billy does it, his shrieks are longer, more powerful, and more clean. Speaking of clean, we also get some clean vocals to go with his more gruff and aggressive vocals. We hear them in the chorus of "Alone in the Dark" and parts of "Raging Waters". Of course he has to have the James Hetfield-style growl every now and then, but they're more refined, more violent, and in some cases, heavier than Hetfield's. It's his vocal style partially that defines the mystique of Bay Area thrash metal vocalists. The album wouldn't be as effective had Steve "Zetro" Souza been still involved with the band instead of joining Exodus, 'cos while he does deliver some good screams and shrieks, his nasally vocals can get annoying to quite a few people. Instead, Billy's more unique voice helps dominate the sound.
I know it's a little redundant for me to say this, but "The Legacy" was practically unlike any Bay Area thrash metal album ever released during its heyday. Having a classically-trained guitarist really did quite a bit of help in making Testament one of the great, if not one of the greatest of many bands overshadowed by "The Big 4". There are reasons as to why some people would say that Metallica didn't really deserve the recognition it got. Sure, they did release some cool stuff, but Testament's "The Legacy" is one that is unending, even with the presence of James "I am the Table" Hetfield.
This is the best and first album Testament ever crafted. The songs are all fairly consistent, with only one or two real standouts, but no stinkers or obvious filler. The only thing holding this album back is the production and sameness. The rest of this album works very well for me, though I'm not sure if this is really essential.
The production really harms this record more than you would expect. Testament were, I know this is cliche, a more melodic and somewhat technical thrash band. Rough production doesn't work for a band of that nature. Rough techniques work for bands like Celtic Frost, they rely on atmosphere and other elements to mask their sub-par playing. Rough production will generally lessen the impact of good playing, as it blurs the music together. This results in it being harder to hear a very talented bassist, and the solos sounding pretty thin.
The music on here, and to a certain extent all their albums, isn't very diverse. They have a well-honed and enjoyable style, but they don't deviate. To an extent, this really holds the record back. Ride the Lightning, for example, works partially based upon its variety of songs. It runs from quality balladry, to strong thrashers, to mid-paced stomp numbers, and even a few more epic numbers. This relies pretty heavily upon the strength of its formula. Toss in the production, and much of this can start to run together.
I keep referring to the formula, and it is good. This is their debut, so this is essentially the formula in its purest form. They take a forceful, albeit mediocre, riff, well-played and creative bass playing, solid drumming with flashes of something better, elite thrash vocals, and some of the best soloing thrash had to offer. They do this song after song with very little variation, and it usually works. The problem is that by the end, it can feel a little bloated. I'm not saying there are no changes, C.O.T.L.O.D. is faster and shorter, but these changes are largely superficial. I tend to think that this is part of the reason that this album is held in such high regard. Testament didn't deviate all that much amongst their first four albums, the tempo slowing a little is about it, so the first feels awesome in comparison.
I feel like addressing the accusations of being unoriginal. I don't see how Testament weren't different from their contemporaries. None of the Bay Area bands sound very similar to me. I suppose they all have a kind of "crunch" to their guitar playing, and Billy's vocals are slightly similar to Hetfield's, albeit better. I don't see how anyone could really argue that Over the Wall, Piranha, Trapped Under Ice, or Devil's Island sound very similar to each other without making some weird sweeping generalization. That's the same kind of logic that made older people claim Maiden were ripping off Priest. The influence is there in both cases, but you'd have to be pretty deaf or a pretty casual listener to think that they were really that similar.
This is actually a rather tough review for me. On the one hand, I feel like this is a very consistent release and almost all enjoyable. On the other hand, this just doesn't do as much for me as Metallica or Megadeth's best. I'd honestly probably rather listen to Heathen as well for this general style. This album is very good, but not really elite, or at least not as elite as many claim. For an album many hold as a thrash masterpiece, I was expecting a little more. Having said all this, I'd still recommend this to any thrash fan. I just feel I'd rather have at least twenty thrash albums over this, and the best song on here is just top five in their catalog. Their next few were more inconsistent, but if anything have more elite moments. To reiterate, I do think this is their best and recommendable, but it's not as great as some claim.
The Legacy has never exactly been my favorite West Coast thrash opus of the 80s, but it's nonetheless a superb debut that warranted all of the respect and attention foisted upon it, and it remains one of Testament's finest offerings in their their 25+ years of existence. After changing their name from the less exciting 'Legacy', the Californians had just about everything going for them that any band could have wanted at the time. Distinct and memorable vocalist? Check. Potent and forceful selection of riffs? Check? Lead guitar god? Check. Even the band's name and logo were the sort you'd glance at once and never forget, so it's no wonder that the quintet was chosen as one of Atlantic Record's 'champions' in the metal arena of the 80s, alongside Savatage and Overkill, both of whom coincidentally released their career-spanning masterpieces in the same year this dropped...
...and while my feelings for this debut might not be so strong as for Taking Over or Hall of the Mountain King, there is no doubt that this thing has more heart than Mola Ram's pantry, and more fire than an oil drum in some Oakland ghetto back alley on a cool winter night. Testament's modus operandi was admittedly a wilder response to Metallica more than anything else, and there's not much use in denying the correlations of sound. The dense, chugging tone of the guitars, and their constant, forward-barreling charge riffs are highly redolent of Master of Puppets. Chuck Billy's vocals were like a feral James Hetfield if he had been raised by wolves and then later rescued by Native Americans and missionaries, who taught him English as part of his salvation. His howls are like beefed up approximations of James' screams on Kill 'Em All, and he cuts a far more imposing figure for such an insanely nice guy. There's also an epic, dramatic structure to this early Testament songwriting which recalls Puppets' high ideals and ambition. I wouldn't place this on quite the same pedestal of quality as its forebear (after all, that album is about the tops for me and this genre), and the mix of the guitars in particular can get a little muddy, but it certainly does daddy proud.
Where the two greatly diverge, however, is in the melodic structuring of guitars. Where Metallica's leads were borne off NWOBHM and hard rock/blues, Alex Skolnick had a heavy outside influences from jazz and classical music, and this translates heavily to both the solos and harmonies, despite both he and Hammett sharing the esteemed shredder Joe Satriani as a teacher. The result is this very ominous, spectral (and often surgical) feel to the tunes, well groomed to the concrete dynamics of Eric Peterson's strong palm muting rhythmic ability. Louie Clemente was a harder hitting drummer than Lars Ulrich, though his beats are regulated through the album and never indulge themselves beyond the necessary. Greg Christian is a firm, dextrous bassist, but he'd really shine later with Practice What You Preach, where you can hear his playing more clearly outside of the rhythm guitars. Here's he rifling along, smothered in the weight of the primordial, processed cellulose of the chugging. All told, though, Testament was loaded with weaponry from the start (even when they had Steve 'Zetro' of Exodus on vocals before Billy), and it really shows through in the compositional level of this debut.
There are about a half dozen tunes here standing out from the rest, but there isn't one among the nine that drags its feet behind in terms of sheer energy and momentum. "Alone in the Dark" is a particular favorite, for the melodic chorus vocals, ghostly melodies, and the percussive meter of the vocals in both the verses and the kickass breakdown. But then you've also got the equally ambitious "Apocalyptic City", with an excellent intro of clean guitars, leads and Christian's lines at long last muscling onto the listener's radar (this whole sequence is also a nice foreshadowing for various moments on The New Order). This is followed by a pair of the best, most melodic rhythm charges of their career, and the pre-chorus and chorus sequences are likewise brilliant as they erupt into ballistic speed. Truly an anthem worthy of a post-nuclear dystopia in which bands of rabid, ravenous mutants battle with motorcycles and spiked chains over the last surviving mate-flesh; and you can envision all of this in your mind while listening. Further notables includie "Burnt Offerings" with more of Alex's haunted, unforgettable leads, and some killer scale-driven verses; and "Raging Waters", which no swarthy thrashing sea-dog worth his salt should ever live without!
The other popular tracks, like "C.O.T.L.O.D. (Curse of the Legions of Death)", "Over the Wall" and "First Strike is Deadly" haven't resonated with me quite so much, but they're still a deadly arsenal of pent up, volatile riffing patterns that provide a lot of the album's mosh-worthiest moments, and in truth you could listen to the full 39 minutes of the album front to back to front again for 20 years and never get tired of it. My one real complaint about The Legacy is that the production seems a little dated, not nearly so pristine or immortal as Reign in Blood, Master of Puppets, or other A-listers of the scene. Both my cassette and CD versions have both suffered from the punchy, semi-muffled tone of the rhythm guitar, and in my own ignorance I've never looked up or tracked down a worthy remaster. Not necessarily a deal breaker, and it hardly can distract me from songs this well-written, but I always felt there was a level of polish missing from this album that would have amplified my appreciation, and to this day it slightly skews the album's value to the negative (though The Legacy's successors do a fine job of cleaning it up).
That aside, who in the disreputable fires of Hell wouldn't wanna own this thing? If not, you are one sloppy, unprepared cockroach who won't last long in the crud and cracks once Armageddon rains from the sky in a metallic nuclear symphony. It's a fantastic start to a largely consistent repertoire, and instantly established Testament (for good reason) as one of the go-to bands beyond the 'Big Four' of US thrash. The lyrics are steeped in horror, violence, even some political relevance as in the opener "Over the Wall". The Legacy is one of those records that, with ease, helped validate thrash metal as a viable artistic playground in which to forage and toil. It was sophisticated enough for guitar gurus, heavy enough for pitbreeds, dark enough to let the listener's imagination soar through its dark network of urban and subterranean corridors. Not the best of '87 by any means, but a survivor, through and through.
Testament is oft regarded as one of the best of the Bay Area thrash offerings, and one of the most underrated. They have a lengthy, solid, though admittedly inconsistent career, but keep a strong following of metalheads today. Much like their fellow California brethren, their first strike is the one most revered. Exodus has "Bonded By Blood", Metallica has "Kill 'Em All", Vio-Lence has "Eternal Nightmare", and Testament stands supreme with the untouchable "The Legacy".
Testament's technical thrash hits hard with their lineup here. The indomitable Chuck Billy provides the vocals, and holy mother of FUCK can this guy rock it! He takes the usual thrash style and makes it his own, letting loose with an array of killer growls, mean-as-hell screams and even some honest-to-fuck singing. The rest of the gang helps out with classic thrash gang vocals.Speaking of whom, how 'bout that Alex Skolnick, huh? Only 20 years old at the time and he was ripping that lead like a master! Highly technical and classically-influenced, he makes the thrash solo into brutal art. Assisting him is Eric Peterson on rhythm, who may not be quite as gifted, but the man is still a great player in his own right, unleashing great riffs and some cool intros to start things off. The only downplayer of course here is bass, played by Greg Christian, who, like many others, gets lost in this album's somewhat overly-quiet mix, but he helps keep time and rhythm all the same. Rounding it off is the great Louie Clemente on the kit. He's a highly technical artist in his own right. He wildly mixes typical double bass thrash hammering with more creative moments including awesome fills and mini-solos to help keep things sounding good and heavy.
The song have the privilege of being highly varied, always a welcome experience on any metal album. There's, of course, great aggressive numbers like the ferocious "Raging Waters" or "COTLOD" with Billy's mean vocals, fast drumming and memorable riffage, particularly on "Raging". "The Haunting" is a slightly slower but still wicked number with a catchy main riff and its memorable chorus. The more mid-paced but still heavy "Do Or Die" hits hard with some great gang vox amd another killer main riff, though the solo is a tad boring save for some neat riffage in the middle. "Alone In The Dark" reigns as the most commercial track on here, but still it's probably one the best with its hammering vocals, a good solo, and its unforgettable main riff, which gets mixed with a wonderful filler riff.
Overall, if you want to start with Testament, start with "The Legacy". You'll be ripped to shreds by the awesome vocal work, the incredible guitars, and vicious drumming. But be warned...FIRST STRIKE IS DEADLY!!!
I’ve never cared a whole lot for the media created terminology used to label various waves of metal beyond perhaps as a casual point of reference in history. This is doubly so with regards to the various waves in the 80s thrash metal movement, where artificial tiers were put together by certain media outlets in order to qualify those who came first or sold the most as being the standard. Never was this line of categorization proven to be more misleading than with regard to Testament’s somewhat untimely, yet utterly astounding debut “The Legacy”. This is an album that, regardless of sales numbers, could stand toe to toe with anything put out by the so-called Big 4, and even some of the alleged 2nd tier, whom were on many occasions wrongfully upstaged by said bands.
What has been put together here is a fast, aggressive, dark, and downright nasty collection of songs that rival the intensity of Slayer, the polish of Megadeth, and the sleaze drenched mayhem of Overkill. This is a Testament album that is defined not by its lead guitarist, though Skolnick makes just as tantalizing a racket on here as he’s done since, but by an all out, collective mastery of the craft. This is an album where the rhythm riffs put forth by Eric Peterson (among the more underrated rhythm guitarists in the style) and the rest of the rhythm section play a pivotal role in shaping the character of the album. But perhaps even more auspicious than the whole of the instrumental arrangement is Chuck Billy’s wild vocal performance, upstaging both Hetfield and Araya in the nastiness department, and all but outright challenging Blitz Ellsworth in the higher end, gritty screamer’s club chairmanship.
It is often asked, why is this album regarded as a classic? The answer is, to put it bluntly, that this album came out in 1987 rather than 1985 (when half of it was written). Given the strong melodic underpinnings of many of the riffs and the general tendency towards older, NWOBHM infused speed metal, the character of this album is a bit old fashioned when considering where the scene was headed by this point. Some of this is taken into account within many of these songs as the riff set is up to snuff with the technical tendencies of post 1986 thrash, but when hearing the singing, catchy tendencies of much of “Over The Wall” (arguably the greatest speed/thrash song ever put out) and “Alone In The Dark”, it’s almost easy to mistake much of this album for a wannabe “Show No Mercy” emulation. In similar fashion, “Burnt Offerings” makes several riff paraphrases of “Four Horsemen”, to the point of sounding almost like a 2nd working of “Mechanix” in a slightly faster and more intense fashion than the famed song that ultimately came out of it on “Kill ‘Em All”.
However, at the same time that this band seemed to be looking backward to a few years prior, there is also some material on here that is actually looking ahead to thrash metal’s soon branch out into death metal. Perhaps the most obvious example is “The Haunting”, which while having a conventional thrash growl with a handful of banshee shrieks, has an overall atmospheric and dissonance to it that isn’t all that far removed from what Chuck Schuldiner was putting behind his guttural ravings on “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy”. “First Strike Is Deadly” also really brings home the Slayer influences, to the point of almost flirting with the intensity that was picked up on by Possessed and Morbid Angel, though the overall character of the guitar sound and vocals is still very firmly entrenched in the thrash paradigm.
Of all the albums ever put forth by Testament, this is the one that really demands not only continued consumer activity, but also recognition as a true classic that was the victim of a lack of attention by the recording industry in the earlier 80s alongside Overkill. This fully embodies the outward intensity, fury, and virtuosity that has been exemplified by other powerful Bay Area bands such as Vio-Lence and Dark Angel. This band gets a bum wrap as being a Metallica clone with some heavy Exodus influences, but the truth is that at their peak (ergo this album), this band was able to outclass the former at just about every turn except the originality department. It all depends on what is more important, being the first to do something, or doing it well in spite of what has happened before.
For me Testament are one of those bands which peaked way too early. In my eyes they never ever topped their debut "The Legacy" and although they released many great subsequent releases, I do not think any of them match this. Sure Testament explored more creative pastures, they even crossed the hazy line between thrash metal and death metal in the later 90's. But their debut for me is their best, no matter how one dimensional people may accuse it of being. Now my reasoning for why I prefer this over any Testament release may seem juvenile, but upon closer inspection it would make perfect sense. "The legacy" when looking at it for all intents and purposes is an atypical thrash album, from the later 80's which is not innovating in terms of heaviness or originality. But why does it work? The simple reason it works is because whether you're completely new to Testament (like the listeners back in '87), or you've delved into their later recordings, realistically all you're expecting is an average attempt at thrash metal. But instead your breath is taken away, these guys are competent musicans and unlike later releases they don't go over the top. For me "The new order" and "Practice what you preach" are great thrash albums, but tend to disappear up their own ass. And anything post "Souls of black" can be great from an objective point of view, but thrash classic territory it surely aint. So this their debut is an onslaught of thrash, but delivered in a disciplined style akin to Metallica, now and again exploring the more raw and abrasive routes recently tread by Exodus. But most of all despite this album showcasing a new improved guitar god (Alex Skolnick), it never deviates into self-indulgent fret wankery which "The new order" is definitely guilty of, with its interludes and endless complex riffs and quirky musicianship. If you ask me no matter what era of Testament you listen to, you should always trace the roots to it's logical source "The legacy" no matter what imperfections this album holds.
This album has the weakest production in all of Testament's discography. But anyone who appreciates "Master of puppets" knows visceral guitar punch is not everything, and sometimes a track's stength can carry itself into the files of mandatory listening. And saying that Chuck Billy would achieve better vocals on the follow-up album, and Skolnick would take no prisoners on the next album. In fact the next album had a more mature overall feel, something which was amplified even further on some later releases. So having said all that, why does "The legacy" still cast a shadow over the output of Testament since? For me the simple reason is song writing...they stick to a simple thrash formula, rarely pulling surprises out the hat (well the only surprise is the competence of the guitar leads), but at the same time retaining an infectious feel to the tracks. I know every track on this album front to back, but from the next two albums I could probably only hum along to "Into the pit" or "Sins of omission". Being catchy isn't everything that is for sure, but the sound and feel this album has captured is truly awe inspiring. It has a perfectly balanced mix between epic first tier attempts, straight to the deprived rawness of many thrash outfits ferociously playing gigs hoping for recognition, lost in a world of beer and macho individualism. It's that perfect mix which pretty brings out the best in Bay Area thrash, something "Eternal nightmare" gets all the accolades for, but truth be told that album doesn't have nothing on this one. Testament proved that "Darkness descends" or "Reign in blood" was not the only way to make waves in the metal scene, merely a year after those two great releases. We have an album that was probably released too late for it's own good, and let's face it if it had been released in 1986 the easily influenced masses would probably be culling any other release of that year. And sometimes you get a sense the bands signing delayed the time of this release, as it almost seems like an album from 1985 landing in the uncertain world of 1987. Death metal had not quite been established (unless you are one of those who consider Possessed death metal), and other thrash heavy weights like Sodom were just starting to take things up a gear, so the timing was still quite reasonable but to me it does not actually sound like it belongs in 1987, which for the most part makes it ten times more promising than releases of the 87/88 period.
"Over the wall" despite it's raw guitar tone, and hermit like vocals is actually quite an anthemic track. The opening riffs are instantly recognisable, and the speedy grooves which follow the verse are near on devestating. The solo is simply lush though, the first taste of the great lead guitar work to follow. "The haunting" is less memorable but I still know it in it's entirey after over two decades of listening, and reading the lyrics almost put a smile on my face...
"Headless ghosts fill the halls
Shadow plays of grief and pain
Phantom speaks his final note
Tenants of the castle slain"
Yes those lyrics seem very oldschool indeed, but remember this outdates the likes of most established death metal so it was still widely accepted and not seen as obsolete for it's time. The nostalgic value of the lyrics is priceless, let alone the catchy riffs. There are more tracks of a worthy note even if you're not entirely impressed, such as "First strike is deadly" which has definitely gone down as a classic in most thrash circles. "Alone in the dark" carries on in the infectious manner of the opening track, throw in a few dazzling leads for good measure. "Apocalyptic city" has some quite interesting lyrical content, about an arsenist hell bent on vengeance, and the gentle but eery introduction to the track is misleading to the carnage that follows. Chuck Billy's vocals are raw, but had he been on top of his game this album would have lost it's raw velocity. This album holds enough surpises without too many tempo changes or breakdowns, an ode that surprising the listener does not depend on the tracks coming to a screeching halt. As for the drums? Well I'd be lying if I said I hadn't heard better, but they are fitting to the music despite lack of intensity. A lot has changed since the release of this album, to be fair a lot was changing during the release of this album. Death and Napalm Death had released tyrants in the genre, and the young metal heads of the time fled for their more extreme fix. But if I'm being completely honest thrash was still king, so it would kind of make sense that "The legacy" would still get respect despite the changing of the guards. But the even more amazing thing is that you can still appreciate this album, even with all that historic hindsight. "The legacy" is aptly named as it is Testament's true legacy, and if I'm being honsest I was a fool to hope they could ever match this one.
Now Testament are far from a all time great thrash band, thats for sure. They had good songwriting ability, but lacked enough good thrash riffs to save their lives. They had a mega-talented guitarist in Alex Skolnick, and a weak supporting cast besides maybe the drummer and bassist. Now they had some of the tools to make a great thrash band, but at best are a above average thrash band. They really didn't introduce any ideas that hadn't been tried before with this release, and its got alot of Master of Puppets structure worship with lots of repeated riffs.
Now onto the songs as usual."Over The Wall" has a nice main riff, and is interesting enough to have me sold. What the band fails to do here is follow it up with other great riffs, but the original concept is more than good enough to call this a highlight. "The Haunting" has alot of good riffage and even a solid tempo shift, and has brilliant catchy song writing. "Burnt Offerings" contains simply some of the best ever riffs in thrash history, so its ok that this song doesn't deliver in bulk. This song is the best song Testament has done besides "Reign of Terror". "Raging Waters" bores me half to death admittedly. Nothing new tried here at all. "C.O.T.L.D." is their hardest attack on the senses, but that only really works if your new to thrash.
"First Strike Is Deadly" has an absolutely brilliant solo, but besides that used the same generic Testariff's that we see in later albums amplified. "Do Or Die" is a catchy midpaced number, the pace is the only thing that makes it stand out from the rest. "Alone In The Dark" is good, well written, but lacks meaty riffs. Once again Skolnick delivers an amazing solo, but its obvious that the solo has been made longer to make up for the song writing. "Apocalyptic City" has nice lyrics, but lacks the playing to back it off like so many songs on the album.
Overall the album's production leaves a lot to be desired, with way too much emphasis put on the rhythm guitar and a semi-muddy guitar sound. The albums lack of riffs is made up for by truly innovative riffs, and creative songwriting. However, its painfully obvious that the band was running out of good ideas as soon as the second half of the album began.
All in all its good, especially for a Testament album. Some highlights include "Over The Wall", "The Haunting", "Burnt Offerings" and the solo in "First Strike Is Deadly". Despite this most of the material is painfully average, especially compared to other albums released in '87. Despite this, the album suceeds in enough ways for me to call it above average or even good.
Overall: Buy this album if your a Testament fan, or if you want mid-quality (occasionally high) thrash metal. Otherwise, just download the highlight songs and be done with it.
Outlook: Above Average-Good
Testament are considered one of the best thrash metal band of the second period in that genre, more exactly the period from 1985 to 1990. These bands, along with Forbidden and Vio-lence, were formed in the second half of the 80s and released their first albums in that period. The Testament (ex-Legacy) debut is called exactly “The Legacy” in honour of the former band and it can be considered as their true masterpiece.
Testament belong to those thrash metal bands that give a big importance to melody in their songs, like Metallica, for example, or Anthrax. And exactly from the band of James Hetfield that Testament take the songs structure and most of the melody. The Skolnick’s guitar solos are fucking great, with slides, tapping are shreds, so inspired to Hammet’s one; a good example is the solo in the great “Raging Waters” that shows also the power of Chuck’s vocals, so bad ass and violent, sometimes in the borderline between thrash and death.
The incipit is one of those who made history with the devastating “Over The Wall” song. A classic that contains one of the most beautiful solo I’ve ever heard in thrash metal . The violence is always well balanced with the essential importance of melody. Tracks like “C.O.T.L.O.D.” or “First Strike Is Deadly” shows a compact and brutal rhythmic session, extremely good screamed vocals and sometimes very melodic lead guitars lines. Sometimes the production, the distortion of the rhythmic guitars, along with the drums reminds me Metallica from 1986 to 1988.
“Burnt Offerings” has a melodic beginning with a solo that seems a violin for the sound and the technical level, always very high. Even in the rhythmic parts the guitars continue to play quite complicated riffs, perfect cut for the powerful Chuck’s vocals. The only song I dislike is “The Haunting”: quite common, without epic moments compared to the level of the other ones. When Chuck’s vocals become clearer and less raw, in my opinion they loose power because they are not so good, like in “Alone In The Dark” song, “saved” by the great music and solos.
The violent and obscure “Apocalyptic City” ends this great album, still very influenced by the past first thrash metal scene but always quite original. Another thing I disliked a bit is the drums , a bit too monotonous in the way of playing…Clemente is not Hoglan at all!! Anyway a debut that made history in this music and surely deserves to be in every metal freaks collection.
This is one of those albums everyone knows to be a classic. When something is considered a classic (this album has been that for 20 years now), newcomers tend to listen to it in a prejudiced way, purposely looking for negative aspects. I myself, I grew up with it, so I know why this is a classic.
‘The Legacy’ is Testaments best album. All their strong points are on this single album. Chuck Billy is at his best here. He never ever again achieved sounding as good as he did on this album. Aggressive with incidental high pitched screams. His youthful enthusiasm is dominant. You can hear this young boy trying to conquer the world. Maybe Chuck never sounded this good again since most of the lyrics and vocal lines on these songs were actually written by Steve Zetro Souza? Who knows (and who cares) since this sure as hell is Chuck’s best performance ever.
Skolnick’s solo’s are melodic as always and on the Legacy they are catchy and heavy as well. Some of his best material is here. Just try ‘Apocalyptic City’ and ‘Over The Wall’ for instance. Riff monster Peterson just blazes through the album with his best riffs and dirtiest sound ever. Louie Clemente has never been thrash metals best drummer but because of the dense production and his overenthusiastic playing it simply convinces. Too bad Greg Christian isn’t as audible as he would be on later albums. I love his metallic Ibanez sound ripping through the walls of guitars.
‘First Strike is Deadly’ is a superb song. Everyone shall agree. Can you imagine it being the worst song on an album? Well, on The Legacy it is. All the other songs simply blow it away! And that is saying enough I presume. This album remains one of the best thrash metal albums of 1987 and stands firmly as the ultimate Testament album to this day. Worship this or die!
I can remember the very first time I listened to The Legacy. It was on a pair of shitty headphones in a used music store and at the time, it was one of the most intense and technical thrashers I'd ever heard, quickly becoming a personal favorite. Though I've since discovered faster and heavier things, I've always seen this as a prime example of a thrash debut done perfectly right. Imagine my surprise to find that the album that had so often kicked my ass was somewhat panned here on the Metal Archives. Had my youth blinded me from seeing it as it really was? These negative reviews prompted a relisten, which I'm quite pleased to admit that it only reinforced my opinion on this album's greatness.
I really can't understand why more people don't like this. The Legacy is a solid display of pretty much all the aspects you could want in an '87 thrasher. First off, Chuck Billy rules. Though the band kicked ass as Legacy with Zetro as frontman, Billy has far more presence. This album was released a few years before he started pulling James Hetfield impressions, and he still maintained the ability to let off a stellar shriek every now and again. No complaints there. So what about the rhythm section? Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick are fucking riffmasters. Most of this is full-force thrash insanity, with the frantic pace kept by the proficient Louie Clemente, but it's in the mid-paced and half-time riffs that these guys really show their stuff. There are some absolutely brutal crushing riffs in the bridge sections of "Do or Die" and "First Strike is Deadly" as well as throughout the album and there's dozens of killer harmonized riffs, such as the opening to "The Haunting" and the fucking amazing verse riff of "Burnt Offerings." These riffs flow perfectly with the soaring vocals of Chuck Billy to create a uniquely occultic atmosphere that you'd be hard pressed to find on another thrash album. This is only strengthened by the album's lyrics, which cover a variety of topics from said paganist ritualism to prison breaking and arson. I admit that Greg Christian's bass work doesn't play as much of a role on here as it will on future albums, but it's nice nonetheless.
The absolute highlight of the album, however, is the lead work of Alex Skolnick. Technically impressive beyond his years, his solos are far more melodic than the brunt of thrash players at the time (your Kerry King imitators, for instance) and undeniably skillful. Listen to that epic lead buildup in "Over the Wall," the harmony section from "First Strike is Deadly," the absolute insane sweeping passage from "Apocalyptic City," hell, listen to them all! Every solo on here is masterfully crafted and the only thrash guitarists even comparable to Skolnick here are Jeff Waters (of Annihilator notoriety) and perhaps Lee Altus. Dimebag Darrell could be considered, though at the time (1987), Pantera weren't exactly a thrash metal band.
So surely there must be something amiss here that has caused The Legacy to achieve the criticism it gets, and I think I've figured it out. Some of the songs on here are a bit longer, lyrically, then thrash songs of this period traditionally are, excepting Dark Angel of course. But rather than progress the song and create new verse riffs as the lyrics unfold (see pre-Reign in Blood Slayer), Testament chose to simply repeat the established verse riffs a few more times to match the length of the lyrics. This never really appeared as a problem to me, as the songs aren't long enough to end up sounding repetitive, but I can see how this might bore some people, especially those used to faster, more diverse albums. Take "Alone in the Dark," a catchy mid-paced thrasher that has something like three or four verses, all using that same verse riff. But again, I've never seen it as a problem, so why should I subtract points from my score because of it?
Thrash fans, I implore you: give this a chance. If not for the great lyrics, the classic riffs, or the vocal performance of Chuck Billy, at least check it out for the killer soloing.
Highlights: Every damn one
Testament were never really all that good. Sure, Skolnick could pull out some great soloing and they have a few songs that completely own the living fuck out of you, but for the most part they were a 2nd rate thrash band that eventually changed their sound to Groove Metal with a new guitarist. Their debut album 'The Legacy' is their best effort, having the best riffs of their career and some truly awesome soloing.
Yet it still doesn't feel like a great album. It feels as if it is trying to break through to greatness at times but it never really does, feeling content to stay on second gear and only occasionally going up to 11. The main culprit of this problem is that a lot of the riffs are similar to each other and hence a lot of the songs seem to blur together with only a few highlights along the way. I can distinguish songs such as 'Over the Wall', 'Raging Waters' and 'Alone in the Dark', but play me any other songs and I can't pinpoint what exactly the name of the them are. This blurring problem is most evident during the first half of the album, in which there are a few songs in a row that sound remarkably similar to each other, only sounding a little different by some different melodies here and there. What amplifies this problem is the poor production. Usually I don't mind badly done or raw productions, but on here it affects the songs. The guitar tone doesn't have much weight to it and seems to be sort of 'fluffy', and when you consider the fact that the riffs sound the same on a lot of occasions this is even worse.
When you strip away these complaints however, this is still essentially an above average speed/thrash album, albeit a repetitive one. The guitar solos are the greatest thing seen on here, with Skolnick being able to pull off some great melodic leads. And while a lot of the riffs do sound similar to each other, this album still gets the head banging throughout, only pausing every now and then for a melodic intro. The pace is kept very fast throughout, and whilst occasionally sounding a bit too overfast adds to the good points of the album, as well as the brutality factor which despite not being too present is still there in a number of songs. The riffing is competent for the time it was released, and there are a number of really good riffs here and there. Chuck Billy's vocals are great, and sound aggressive yet melodic and every now and then he'll unleash a great scream.
As for highlights, the first that comes to mind would be the opener 'Over the Wall' with it's great main riff and the excellent solo that comes after it. 'Raging Waters' has some catchy vocal lines as well as a nicely done melodic riff while 'Alone in the Dark' starts off with an amazing intro solo after which it speeds up into a great midpaced riff combined with a great vocal performance.
While having a few major things wrong with it that drag it down, 'The Legacy' is still a pretty good album and Testament's best before they slowly deteriorated in quality. Anyone who likes good speed/thrash should definitely check this out.