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Merciful Neptune! - 78%

John_e _C, October 14th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Nuclear Blast

Nearly 30 years since the release of their debut studio album, Testament prove in 2016 that they still have what it takes to deliver the thrash goods with their twelfth offering “Brotherhood of the Snake”.

Any doubt of what Testament can offer this late into their career is silenced with the opening title track. The song starts with a great hammer-on/pull-off riff that catches the listener’s attention almost instantly and then blows them away with a barrage of layered screams from vocalist Chuck Billy. Heavy, chugging verses and a pummeling breakdown round out this strong album opener and set the pace for the following tracks “The Pale King”, “Stronghold”, and “Seven Seals”. These songs continue the momentum established in “Brotherhood of the Snake” and are chock-full of tasty riffs, head-banging moments, and fantastic guitar solos.

It would be remiss of me not to further highlight the guitar work of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson on this album as it is very impressive. The riffs are fast and interesting and the solos are nothing short of blistering. These are also accentuated by the rock-solid rhythm section of drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Steve DiGiorgio who each deliver a great performance on their respective instruments.

It is not until the aptly titled fifth track “Born in a Rut” that the album takes its first dip in quality. While not necessarily a bad song, the slightly cheesy anthemic chorus and mid-tempo riffs do not hit as hard as the preceding four tracks. The album then picks up again with thrasher “Centuries of Suffering” before dipping in quality again with tracks “Black Jack” and “Canna-Business”. These songs unfortunately suffer from the same cheese factor that held back “Born in a Rut” and are the weakest tracks of the bunch. Thankfully, the impressive guitar playing and thrash riffs from “Neptune’s Spear” and “The Number Game” redeem the second half of the album.

Although the songwriting could get a little rocky at certain parts, Testament were still able to deliver a lot of strong and fresh sounding ideas despite this being their twelfth studio album”. Songs such as the title track and “Centuries of Suffering” could go toe to toe with any modern thrash band and each member’s performance proves they are still in top form. A band could certainly do much worse for a twelfth album.


Standout Tracks: Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King, Stronghold, Seven Seals, Centuries of Suffering

Multi-Headed Snake Obliteration - 85%

Petrus_Steele, May 3rd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Chaos Reigns (Japan)

It seems like a new phase, where the band releases a record every four years. Not necessarily a terrible thing. Maybe age is a factor? Or touring? Or needing more time to develop quality material? Whatever factor it is, as long as the band manages to keep up with what they’ve written from Dark Roots of Earth and do it better, that’s all that counts. With the original bassist being replaced by a returning Steve DiGiorgio, I consider this as a step up. Yet by having Gene Hoglan as well, the band feels more extreme in the thrash metal essence.

The opening title track is a banger! I don’t recall of Testament writing such powerful opening songs since their debut album (that opening song being Over the Wall). The Pale King is mostly catchy, but shows more technicality and sounds like an old school song. Stronghold brings back structure from The Gathering. It’s like the band saw some potential in their older material to rejuvenate and make it sound great again. Speaking of old school, Seven Seals is in that category as well. Although slower instrumentally, the song sounds like a combo of Dark Roots of Earth and Practice What You Preach. When I thought there wouldn’t be any blast beats, the second portion of the album neglects that notion. The second half is overall fast, catchy, energetic and sometimes slow and melodic. And finally for the bonus song, they re-recorded Apocalyptic City right. Sounds as good as the original, but doesn’t beat the original!

Born in a Rut may be heavy, but it’s poorly delivered, kinda like The Formation of Damnation. Of course, I can’t just compare one song to an entire album since said album wasn’t even technical, while this song is. But again, its delivery was poor. The last two songs are pretty straightforward but weak; perhaps the weakest songs on the album. But honestly, Testament have written way worse songs than these three.

I’m as surprised as anyone who listened to this album; good or bad. Brotherhood of the Snake is a solid record. While it’s not as powerful or as surprising as Dark Roots of Earth, it gives the listener a taste of simply fast, technical, and heavy songs. The album also reintroduces some old sounds back; as I already mentioned Practice What You Preach and The Gathering. Supposedly, they didn’t picture the idea like Dark Roots of Earth, but it holds on its own just fine. Again, that’s what a strong lineup does, and this slight change of direction wasn’t bad at all. Whoever disliked it, I do agree that the delivery could have been better in an unpredictable way. However, I think it’s only for the best to stay in this quality-maintenance position the band is at right now. The best songs are the first three songs and Black Jack.

Perfect Demonstration of the Limitations of Thrash Metal - 37%

Alkadikce, November 13th, 2019

Testament have considerably less respect among thrash fans and metalheads in general than most popular thrash acts. They haven't contributed much to the genre's development, didn't influence a lot of bands, and only their first album is universally agreed to be a classic.

You can't safely criticize Exodus's, Slayer's or even Morbid Saint's early work, since they are considered either "too influential to be taken down" or "revolutionary" enough to avoid criticism. This site is a perfect example how Testament is a perfect target for thrash elitists to rant about everything. I am writing these general points because I'm not sure if I will ever write another Testament review.

One thing people ignore is that being the most popular (2nd to Exodus?) American thrash band outside the big four, Testament showed lots of metal fans - including me - in their early stages that finding your own music pays off. Their music is more attractice to a beginner thrash band than to a veteran - thanks to their power/thrash subg-subgenre they incorporate a lot of melody in the vocals. Despite the hate they get here, I currently think I'll always enjoy their first 4-5 albums, Practice What You Preach for being one of the most melodic thrash can get without getting poppy, and the other three of the first four for the unique contrast between the blackened sound of the guitars and the melodic vocals.

With 2008's "The Formation of Damnation" the band returned to this style after the 1990s experimentation we're used to when it comes to thrash metal. I usually like when I find something similar to something I already liked, so I must have met this and the aforementioned album with pleasure. The problem is that Testament’s old work is already too alike sounding and sometimes indistinguishable from each other. There is a typical “Testament verse riff” that appears in at least 30 of their songs in various forms. Their style – except for their experimental period from Ritual to Gathering and their ballads – is locked around a strict set of requirements that leave little place for the songs to stand on their own without blending into the rest of the album/discography. Their distinctive style (yes, they have one, they aren’t Metallica clones) has been used to its full capacity by 1992, hence they tried out new ones. However, the “thrash revival” of the 2000s dictated more bands to give up their creativity and create worthless albums that don’t add anything to the metal canon.

“The Formation of Damnation” – while not going on new ground and recycling old songs – had something that told it apart from Testament’s early works: the death growls, which weren’t executed in the best way possible to say the least but at least showed some intention to set a different style to the record. Their next album “Dark Roots of Earth” is considerably different from classic Testament in arrangements, riffing style and even song lengths, and their upcoming album is planned to focus on blast beats. They didn’t seem to have any intention of making “Brotherhood of the Snake” unique from the rest of their discography, or from any other 21st century thrash album for that matter.

Unoriginality and the lack of novelty being the main flaws, the songs suffer from predictability and having no unexpected moments, which are more important in my book than heaviness or speed. For example, the breakdown of the title track featuring growled vocals and the same main riff accompanied by a 0-0-0 one seems to come from typical metalcore clichés. ALL ten songs start by an extremely short fading-in, and none of them go past the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structure like “Throne of Thorns” did. The production of the last 3-4 Testament albums doesn’t fit the rawness of thrash at all and makes them sound like metalcore.

I won’t be too generous giving ratings, so 37% indicates that there is still something positive to tell. First, they tried to keep a bit of diversity between the songs, which doesn’t go beyond altering between groove-oriented mid-tempo and faster numbers, but at least more than what Vortex’s “Thrash is Alive” could say. The lineup is maybe the best of the band so far having Steve DiGiorgio and Gene Hoglan in the rhythm section. Some of the standout moments include the choruses of “The Pale King” and “Seven Seals” delivering the melodic power/thrash the band is known for in a less generic way than the rest, there are two fairly memorable riffs before the solo of “Seven Seals” and in the intro to “The Number Game”. All this said, all of these little nice moments together couldn’t even make up material for one song together. Considering the tendency between “The Formation of Damnation” and this album (“Dark Roots of Earth” might be more fresh only because of the lineup change) I expect the 2020 album to have even more lazy songwriting and even more average riffing and have only a little hope that it will follow in the footsteps of their penultimate effort. I recommend this album to metalcore/alternative rock fans who have a slight interest in what thrash metal sounds like, and to thrash fans who have pretty low expectations once a record is from their preferred genre and prefer polished works over raw-spirited ones.

Snake Aint Growing - 49%

Sweetie, November 4th, 2019

Despite The Ritual being the worst of Testament's classic run, I still enjoy it more than this one. Previously I'd have said that Brotherhood Of The Snake is just a hair better, but I just can't lie to myself. I also won't shy away from admitting that my beef here came from disappointment, because of how excited I was when I heard that this was coming out. After all, how can one not have high hopes after getting a treat such as Dark Roots Of Earth? But there was one real thing that cemented this; the title track.

Indeed, the first song "Brotherhood Of The Snake" is an incredible tune. This is easily the most furious song on the disc, delivering punch after punch of dense riffage and a raging chorus. The middle of the disc actually picks things up a little bit as well. "Born In A Rut" has such a catchy chorus and steady composure to smoothly move things along. The track to precede it known as "Seven Seals" is also a fair number being heavy handed in the hook department. The same can be said about "Neptune's Spear." Sadly, there aren't really any other hot tracks to be found. What's worse is that a few of them are straight up bad.

For the most part, the flaws that bog down the rest of this are just typical generic tropes that many a band are guilty of at one point or another. The overcooked production has flattened Testament records for almost two decades now, but it reaches an all-time-high here, and boring songwriting prevents it from being overlooked. "The Pale King" is a song that gets a decent amount of recognition, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. That track is a tired sounding, phoned in mess that hasn't the slightest sense of life. "Black Jack" is another big downfall for two reasons. The use of blast-beats and death metal-isms are awkwardly placed, and the lyrics here can't even be taken seriously. Don't even get me started on "The Number Game" or "Canna-business." Chuck Bully and co. really had a thing for weed and gambling on Brotherhood Of The Snake.

But as I've said before, Testament don't make bad records; only less-than-good ones, and Brotherhood is easily the the most "alright" album they ever made. It's got three or four strong tunes, two or three really bad ones, and a bunch of boring snooze-fests. Things could have been much worse, and as I've said I'll admit my bias. But at the end of the day, this is the last record by the band that I'd ever recommend. I look forward to a follow-up and (hopefully) revival.

Any day alive is better than dead - 76%

Felix 1666, November 26th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Nuclear Blast

"Brotherhood of the Snake" completes the full dozen and it goes without saying that twelve full-lengths are a respectable performance, at least in terms of quantity. Better still, Testament have enriched the thrash metal movement with many jewels - but they also produced a lot of bullshit, stylistic infractions included. Every now and then, their outputs sounded pretty uninspired and tired. But the stamina of the formation (of damnation) is beyond doubt and just like a cat, they seem to have nine lives (or even more). Accordingly, the here reviewed album has some truly energetic songs. "Stronghold", for example, starts with a rebellious riff and its rapid verses deliver simply good, straight Testament stuff. The chorus picks up the opening riff and the part after the second chorus adds a melodic element without giving the song a totally new direction. The typical trademarks, Chuck's well-known vocals and substantial solos, are not missing as well. Ten tracks of this quality level and there would be no doubt that these brothers worship a snake that loves to bite and to spread its venom.

There are more songs that boast with a more than solid dose of currishness. "Centuries of Suffering" decorates itself with more or less the same components which make "Stronghold" to a great track. It mirrors a remarkable level of aggression and even though I must admit that there are also pieces among the remaining material which do not explode in the same way, I am pleasantly surprised by the power the album develops. Of course, the combination of names like Testament and Nuclear Blast guarantees a proper recording budget and professionals like Eric Petersen and Chuck Billy are able to make good use of the financial resources. The album sounds direct, tight and clear while avoiding sterility and lifelessness. There is nothing to complain in terms of the technical execution, while the material itself is also good, but not absolutely flawless. Testament have not been completely successful in giving each and every track its own individuality. This is no big deal, because all of them have something to offer and no slack acoustic sequences show up in order to dilute the material's vehemence. Nevertheless, the album lacks points of reference. Once again, this is rather an aside than a serious problem. So let's have a look on this from another perspective: Testament, a band that has always been prone to mix in some ill-defined fillers, delivers ten crispy neckbreakers without confronting the audience with the whole spectrum of its skills and its shortcomings.

Is the twelfth album of a band, regardless of its name, still exciting? Well, what's the alternative? Suicide is no solution, if I am not mistaken. Instead, I wish that comparable alliances such as Forbidden, Lääz Rockit, or Vio-lence would be still alive. A kingdom for a new "Through Eyes of Glass", "Forced to Fight" or "Bodies on Bodies"! So welcome this album that avoids ballads and perpetuates the story of a legendary group from the Bay Area. Do not overestimate the attribute "legendary" or be aware of the fact that all legendary units have also released a lot of dubious albums ("Force of Habit", "God Hates Us All", every Flotsam and Jetsam album after "No Place for Disgrace" or "Leave Scars"). But appreciate the fact that Testament still (or better: again) perform more or less pure thrash metal, not in its wildest, but in a reliable configuration. Therefore I am now waiting for the band to complete a baker's dozen next.

As it was written... Let it be done - 85%

Desiple_of_The_Ice25, February 11th, 2017

When the first single for Testament's new album came out, Brotherhood Of The Snake, I just had to listen and wasn't too impressed. At least not at first. It wasn't that it was bad, it's just that it wasn't great. As the next two singles came out after, I wasn't too sure what to think. None the less, I was definitely skeptical for this release. Dark Roots of the Earth I felt was so good that I didn't think it could be beaten by them. Finally, after hearing it, I was disappointed but the more I listened it grew on me and I can honestly say, for the most part, it does beat Dark Roots Of The Earth. Testament has truly made not only one of their best albums with Brotherhood Of The Snake, they made one of the best thrash metal albums of the year. However, that is not to say that it is perfect. This album does have its haters, and I can understand why. On the initial listen, one might find it to be a little hollow, but the more you go back, you will find it to be a very uplifting album that is meant to be what it is. I have a few complaints, but they are minor in comparison to what we've been given here.

Testament really chose to deliver a straight up headbanger but filled with substance. It wasn't a mind numbing thrasher, which I think isn't an easy thing to accomplish. However narrow in its direction to be a crusher, you won't find a whole lot of reluctance in its riffing. It's not to say that there aren't any, it's just easy to tell that they meant just about every note with precision. One of the great things about this album is that not only is it fun, heavy, aggressive, but ultimately it is relentless in giving us something that is to reckoned as a pillar in the thrash world. Where Testament hasn't been the perfect band in giving us worthy records every release, over the last eight years, they keep getting better. I think it's fair enough to say that their prime years weren't spent as well as their veteran years. They are one of the few thrash bands who have proven that they still have it. With this album they've really shown us that, and where it could have been better I'm sure, it didn't need to be. If I ever saw them live and the only thing they ever chose to play was this album I would be more than satisfied.

Of course, the hits are fairly easy to recognize, it's the throwaways I think that are not. Even the worst of songs are filled not just with redeeming musicality, but meaningful aggression filled with melody. Brotherhood Of The Snake, Neptune's Spear, Stronghold, and even Canna-Business are really the meat and potatoes that give us the living proof that we have something worth checking out at least. Now, songs like The Pale King, Seven Seals, Centuries of Suffering, are certainly very good, but are considered the throwaways at least reluctantly. Black Jack is a tough one to deal with because it does have a crappy intro, with what I would call reluctant riffs, but with what is has to offer, it does redeem itself as being one of the most fun songs on this. It could have used some improvement, but it does pick up as a whole to be well. Without a doubt the worst song on here is The Number Game as it really is the the one number (no pun intended) where we find the most reluctance. Though it is not a complaint, it just remains the weakest link yet in itself is still solid.

As far as the complaints go, there aren't many, and the ones that are, I don't think are too big a deal and are easily forgiveable. Where this is definitely one of the best testament albums serving the mark of substance and aggression, I fear that it could be justifiably tossed aside later. Dark Roots I think serves to have the stance of the more memorable when compared to this, but this is great despite the fact that they clearly can make an even better album than this. At least one that could have more substance and be a more solid album in its roots. This album certainly is not complacent and is easily one the most enjoyable albums in thrash, one of the biggest complaints are the vocal arrangements and lyrics. Chuck Billy wrote some of the most horrible lyrics ever that just make you cringe and even laugh out loud, in particularly Black Jack, Canna-Business, and The Pale King. Another thing is that some of the songs don't go where you hope and are arranged kind of poorly, mainly in the title track- right when you think it's going to be a headbanger, it evolves into breakdowns. Where that's not entirely a bad thing, it would have been nice that it could have been written in a way that it didn't need to grow on you to be enjoyed. In other words it could have been better especially for the first single and opener of the album.

BOTTOM LINE: Brotherhood Of The Snake however flawed, it is definitely something worth listen to and is a great way of showing us just how aggressive and precise an album can be for a straight forward thrasher. To be enjoyed might not happen at first, but let it grow and you will love it. This is definitely one of the best thrash albums of the year and is even more one of the best Testament albums ever. As they've gotten older hey have become masters. Where it could have been better, it's safe to say that however many complaints there are will pale in comparison to how good this is.

The serpent's eyes, always watching you - 85%

amiamok, January 20th, 2017

Few bands have courage. Even fewer have the integrity to back it up. Testament is one of those bands. All through the 1990s, when heavy metal was on the decline and alternative rock was on the rise, amid commercial pressures and lineup changes, Testament rebelled against the trend and set a fine example with Low, Demonic, and The Gathering. Then with the turn of the century, metal started coming back in a big way. Rather than being complacent and riding downwind, the Oakland outfit soared above, coming up with their strongest and tightest material in the new millennium – 2008's scorching The Formation of Damnation and 2012's diverse Dark Roots of Earth, leading up to 2016's Brotherhood of the Snake.

Lyrically, most of Testament's material has dealt with real-world issues like war, terrorism, and personal tragedies. While not exactly a concept album, the pivotal songs on Brotherhood of the Snake talk about an alien puppet-master race that created humans as their slaves, and how they have been manipulating us since. This premise is ripe for speculation, with musings over behind-the-curtain politics and conspiracy theories. Other songs deal with diverse topics, including biblical prophecy, marijuana legalisation, and serial killings.

This album was written almost entirely by Eric Peterson (rhythm guitar) and Chuck Billy (vocals) in little windows of time on the lengthy and hectic Dark Roots of Thrash tour. This is evident from the crunchier and faster material on offer compared to that on Dark Roots of Earth, which was a collaborative writing effort. The vibe is similar to The Formation of Damnation, which was also written by Peterson before Alex Skolnick (lead guitar) rejoined the band in 2005.

Testament's music has never stuck to a straight-up thrash metal formula, like Slayer's for instance; it has always been of a progressive ilk – more melodic and dynamic. The foreign influences on this album come from black metal: tremolo picking, minor chord voicings, and other defining traits shine at regular intervals before the song settles back into the progressive thrash mould. This could be possibly attributed to Dragonlord's (Peterson's black metal project) cancelled third album.

The sound production has a spacey, loose feel. The rhythm guitars have less tracks (two as opposed to the usual four), and therefore sound leaner and crisper, which is a welcome change. Contrast that with the chunky sound on earlier releases. Steve DiGiorgio's bass guitar can be heard prominently in the mix. Vocals sound less processed. They sometimes slip off the metronomic monorail, which elicits mental cringes on the first few listens. While the intensity partially makes up for the lack of precision, the off-meter delivery feels like a deliberate attempt at sounding 'raw'. The slappy drum sounds are a bit of a disappointment. Overall, this album feels like a sped-up hybrid of 1999's The Gathering and The Formation of Damnation.

The solid instrumental performance of the band is a highlight of this release. 'The Chief' (Billy) has never sounded stronger. Although he struggles to hit high notes in the clean parts, he absolutely nails the growls and barks – no contest there. Peterson's ferocious, relentless riffing deserves an ovation. He has evolved into an adept lead player as well, and one can hear his chaotic expressions on songs like 'Canna-Business'. Skolnick's leads have a sense of urgency and newfound energy. Check out 'The Pale King' for a shining example. DiGiorgio is brilliant with his intricate bass lines. Gene 'The Atomic Clock' Hoglan's enveloping barrage and spontaneous fills are addictive. He plays a lot more notes per second on this record. Given the lack of rehearsal time, he may have written his own lines rather than interpret Peterson's patterns, as was done on most Testament records he has played on.

Brotherhood of the Snake is a highly recommended purchase for fans of the band and a great entry point for newcomers. The sheer energy and commitment to craft in every note after 30-odd years in the business inspires great admiration in me for these guys. Testament have managed to deliver a modern thrash masterpiece, and it deserves a spot in the top five albums of their career.

Game, set, Set. - 67%

autothrall, November 7th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Nuclear Blast

I've been scratching my head trying to think of why an album with such obvious effort attached to it as Brotherhood of the Snake does so little for me. I'm afraid it all boils down to the fact that without Chuck's vocal presence, and a few uniquely Alex Skolnick guitar passages, this could be just about any 80s-borne band putting out material that they suspect as 'modern' and 'relevant' but is in fact direly predictable and indistinct. That's not to say Testament have themselves a disaster here, but I'm experiencing a lot of the same problems I've had with 21st century efforts by bands like Onslaught or Exodus, which seem so marred by a bland, post-Pantera groove metal influence incorporated into the riffing patterns that any real nostalgia the newer material might evoke and launch renewed into the present is quickly sifted away.

Production here is loud, vivid, pounding, and polished, and the songwriting itself is certainly sprung from the DNA of past records like The New Order, Practice What You Preach and their last disc Dark Roots of Earth, but there's just too little of interest in how the riffing sequences manifest themselves other than as mediocre anchors for Chuck's performance, which is, admittedly one of the few aspects of the album I'd consider a highlight. It's one thing to dabble in familiarity, a technique that worked well for me with 2008's The Formation of Damnation, but throughout most of the track list here you are treated to a few callbacks to their great 80s works that do nothing to elevate or extend their legacy (sorry, ha) to anything even rivaling what has come before. Breakneck headbanging, brickwork Gene Hoglan drumming and overall high proficiency paychecks earned all around the lineup do nothing to alleviate the disappointment that there is nothing here I'm really going to keep repeating in my brain for any length of time beyond when I'm actually hearing it through a speaker.

Certain tunes like "The Pale King" and "Stronghold" have rhythm guitars in there which are just about cut and from past songs and then pasted into compositions that are far less interesting beyond just the sheer level of energy the band is willing to commit to them. And the aggression level is not in question here. If you're a new thrash fan picking up your first few CDs, with little info or experience with this Bay Area quintet's discography, you might be bowled over that these veterans still hit the boards this hard. But it's not the first time I've felt so underwhelmed...there was the album Demonic which had a brutal, groovy title track and then little else to offer it became so mundane, or The Gathering, which had a fairly strong reaction, but ultimately felt to me like they were doing the rounds, only more heavy for the death metal audience contemporary to its release. This one suffers a lot of the same symptoms, and while they were certainly present on Dark Roots of Earth, that album benefited from a few fresher ideas and more impressive foundations for the songs.

This is not all a bust, and the latter half of the album has tracks like "Neptune's Spear" which are still engaging and have some picking patterns we haven't heard within the Peterson/Skolnick realm, but for every spark like that, you get a dull counterweight like the insipid opening of "Centuries of Suffering" which has one of the most boring note progressions I've heard in their career. Those are the moments where Hoglan's powering beats and fills, and Chuck's hoarse growls carry everything. The last four tracks are clearly superior to everything that came before them, but even then there is just not enough charisma there to really save it. The leads, while solid, don't really offer any sort of emotional elevation to the pieces as they should. Superficially, Brotherhood of the Snake has the volume, forcefulness and finesse to satisfy some army of Jango Fett-like assembly line thrash fanatics, and maybe some of the old school crowd will just be thrilled that they can dish out such a beating so deep into their years, but I was left wanting less of a checklist of technical qualities, and more of an affirmation of why Testament helped vanguard that second tier of 80s thrash so hard.


The opposite of anything cool - 19%

Empyreal, November 3rd, 2016

This is an extremely worthless album. I'll be the first to admit I'm not familiar with Testament's old material, so this review won't address that stuff or their worth as a band – just the supreme suckiness of Brotherhood Of The Snake. I get that it's tough for older bands to stay relevant sometimes, as especially thrash bands usually expend their best work on their earliest albums, with the genre's focus being so much on youthful vigor and aggression. But honestly, this is a garbage album, just utter pig slop.

This is shiny, clean, Andy Sneap-produced thrash with zero surprises, a lack of any nuance and no really catchy songs. It's aggressive and well played, but that's about all it is. The songwriting is strictly deficient, with every song just chugging along with generic, vanilla riffs you've heard a thousand times before, only played here with little actual energy and in the most predictable ways possible. Chuck Billy's vocals are utterly banal, a faux-gritty sneer with a really irritating timbre to them, and he doesn't really emote or sing any good vocal lines on here, just sticking the whole time to that constipated half-growl. Just so fucking awful.

Honestly, there's barely anything to say about this album – all the songs are near-identical, with the only variance being between a midpaced chug and a slightly faster midpace. The writing is so utterly cliché – it's like the stuff a cheap movie producer would order a hungover intern to find to put in the background of an action movie so they can avoid paying a real band. There are no good hooks and no moments where the band actually injects something to make a song stand out – no melodic passages or clever turns that would make the songs even slightly different from one another or worth hearing at all. Just the bare minimum for a metal song – tired, contrite thrashy riffs you've heard a thousand times over, with shitty barking vocals overtop.

I've never been so bored when listening to something that should be blood-pumping and exciting. But this seriously is just so bereft of anything interesting. It's music that seems annoyingly glib and content with being mediocre. This isn't very extreme in terms of speed or heaviness, but it also has a lack of any catchy choruses or memorable riff sets. Instead it's just kind of there, like the proverbial lump on the couch of heavy metal. Isn't this sort of music supposed to be rebellious, standoffish, loud and proud? Brotherhood Of The Snake is the literal antithesis of that. The production alone, even without taking the music into account, is proof enough – it's utterly soulless, polished and sterile. No risks taken, nothing that actually grabs the ear. It's metal elevator music.

I hate to pigeonhole the fans of anything into one stereotype, but six years ago, I said Testament's Formation Of Damnation was “music for stupid people.” I could easily denounce that as a hasty and rude generalization made by a much younger me, but I don't feel like it. Instead, I'll say that THIS album is music for people who comment on YouTube videos with “You say Justin Bieber, I say Metallica” comments. It's crap that has no merit aside from being metal, which should not be a merit in and of itself. Not to disparage you if that's all you want from music – like what you want. Maybe you'll like this if you really love generic thrash. But if you want anything interesting, creative, ear-catching or complex, Testament isn't for you.

I guess if I had to say anything positive... at least it's not a Megadeth album? Yeah, let's go with that.

The Pale Kings - 91%

Larry6990, November 3rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Nuclear Blast

While Metallica floundered for years, even now struggling to claw back their dignity - some veteran thrash bands never faltered or fell. I always credit New Jersey's Overkill as being the most underrated of these, and a few others such as Exodus and Annihilator who have found their feet again. But the titans of Testament always slip my mind in this respect, mainly because they genuinely have never put a foot wrong since their debut dropped in 1987. Their sheer consistency hides them from the limelight because there is no controversy surrounding them. But it is bands like this who deserve the most limelight! A cruel 4 years after their epic "Dark Roots of the Earth" album, Alex Skolnick and co. thrust their collective fists into your face for another 45 minutes of solid thrash metal done the way only Testament know how.

Once the opening blast of the title-track explodes into your ear-holes, you know it's business as usual. But you couldn't be happier about it! This might be the fastest blast-beat in Testament's catalogue, and although they've got nothing to prove, it's a...erm...testament...if you will, to their staying power. This was the first song released as a single from the album - and it was a hell of a choice. A memorable chorus, a slicing riff, and an intriguing outro section seguéing perfectly into the next track. The other single chosen for release was track 3: "Stronghold". Chock full of old-school intensity, it's the thrash anthem 2016 was waiting for, and my personal favourite on the album. Shouting "UP RISE STRONG-HOLD!!" along with Chuck is utterly irresistible.

Speaking of good ol' Chuck Billy - he is indomitable once again. 100% in control. Total charisma and brutality in equal measure. For a man who survived a near-death experience with cancer in 2001, his characterful roars have only aged like a fine wine. Check him out on the chorus of "Canna-Business" - sheer power!! The rest of the band follow suit - I mean, this is basically a supergroup! The mainstays of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson make a formidable duo on the strings; Steve DiGorgio (!) is a little hidden by the mix, but such a talented veteran bass player cannot be eclipsed. And behind the kit once again is...Gene Hoglan...yeah, no explanation needed. Oh, and the mix is handled by Andy Sneap. No explanation needed. This is a goddamn supergroup on all fronts.

There may not be any 7-minute-plus epic a la "Throne of Thorns", but that doesn't eliminate any aspect of progression from "Brotherhood of the Snake". The title-track uses an unconventional structure; there is a sense of development throughout "Centuries of Suffering"; and "Seven Seals" is definitely a slow burner. But let it burn! Skolnick's solos are also a dominating feature of the album - never quite appearing when you expect, but always performed with flair.

The true highlights of this LP are the traditional high-energy thrashterpieces (yup, that's now a word). "Canna-Business" does seem a little brief - but the vibrancy shot into the first half is as addictive as its subject matter. The mid-to-fast chug of "The Pale King" is a neck-breaker straight from 1988. And "The Number Game", with its clever lyrics and punishing breakdown section, makes for the perfect closer. Nothing here comes off as forgettable or repetitive.

2008's "The Formation of Damnation", 2012's "Dark Roots of the Earth" and now 2016's "Brotherhood of The Snake". Will the inexorable steamroller of Testament ever be halted? God I hope not, because these guys have been kicking ass since 1987 and show no signs of even putting a toe on the brake pedal. Testament fan? Buy it. Thrash fan? Buy it. Metal fan in general? Buy it. Each thrash metal band this year is raising the bar even more for Metallica - and it's almost their turn...

"They've been watching you.
Through shape-shift eyes,
In Sumerian disguise,
By the Gods who decree our fate!"

The snake-cult initiates it's brothers - 87%

slayrrr666, October 28th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Nuclear Blast

Still continuing to lead the underground, Bay Area thrash legends Testament have steadily risen in stature over the years to feature a discography that rivals many of their peers and puts them pound-for-pound as a top-tier level contender for the genre’s elite units. Following up their last album with a hiatus of only four years this time that sees founding bassist Greg Christian depart for a returning Steve DiGiorgio as well as Gene Hoglan moving from a session member to full-time drummer, their eleventh full-length album was released October 28, 2016 on Nuclear Blast Records.

As has become the norm since their late-90s resurgence, the majority of the album features the band’s now-trademark riffing style in full force. Employing their patented twin-guitar riffing style that carries this along with utterly ravenous precision, the record dives through a variety of strong, multi-tempo’d tracks that brings about a wholly vibrant thrashing energy while being able to drop back into a less-energetic but still hard-hitting rhythm for the main sections of the tracks. Mixed alongside these efforts are more simplistic, straightforward mid-tempo crunchers that are all quite adept at delving into their guitar-based muscle while easing off the throttle and providing a strong, perfectly crafted balance that makes the band so engaging and enjoyable. Their ability to adapt to these varying stylistic attacks, along with a heaping dose of melodic accessibility to match their strong riffing and tight, professionally-played performances, has been what’s made them so strong over the years and is a vital part of this one. Though these are all quite appealing for the most part, there’s still a small part of this one lacking that most important aspect of their signature sound which is the more memorable and vicious riffing. This really seems to opt for more straightforward rhythms and simplistic paces here which never really develops that one over-enthusiastic blast of raging thrash that has followed the band throughout their career, and too much of this one is stuck in the mid-tempo for the majority of their tracks and it really becomes noticeable on the second half where it’s not as engaging being filled with admittedly weak and filler tracks which is hardly a facet found in their career until now. It’s undoubtedly fun, but doesn’t extract that one factor which has been featured on their more prominent efforts.

As the band is still one of the more prominent and respected bands in the genre, this release still manages to solidly fit in their discography even with a few rather clunky, disposable tracks as the overall sense of fun established here makes this one far better than most attempts at the style and is still a solid choice for all fans of their previous work and thrashers in general.