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Lucky Limeys get trampled - 80%

autothrall, September 2nd, 2012

While Live in London is technically the 'fourth' Testament live release (if we're including the EPs), and my patience seems to draw thinner each decade of a band's existence in terms of purchasing such items, I have to admit that it's by far the best. Not only because it features the original lineup of the band on fire, tearing through the greatest material of their career (1987-1992), but because no one has been able to capture their stage sound quite so fully and menacingly. These are the studio songs you love, given ample girth and power, and providing a dream gig for anyone who has, for whatever reason, constantly missed them when they came about on their numerous tours...

Issued as both an audio CD and DVD presentation, this and the following 2008 full-length Formation of Damnation provide an excellent 'second wind' for the Californians' career. Every track in this set is a classic revisited, with a relatively even distribution across the the first five albums (even The Ritual getting some love with "Electric Crown" and "Let Go of My World"). The guitar tone is crushing, with mighty palm mutes and dynamic breadth that sound superb whether the band is chugging along at mid pace or engaging one of their older school barrages like "Into the Pit". The drums are deep and haughty, the bass just as prevalent as on any of their studio records, and what's more, Skolnick is a living frenzy throughout, his leads exciting and one has to wonder how these two camps ever survived without each others' company. Chuck Billy is great, as every time I've ever seen him, putting a slightly meatier spin on the vocals than the old days, if only because Testament has wisely decided to not to entirely abandon the influence of their heavier records like Low and Demonic. Fine by me, since I've never had much of an issue with either.

I worship the sheer magnitude of the band's sound here, with the crowd hiss casually blanketed over the instruments to remind the listener where they are, without ever obscuring the musical delivery. There are a few moments of gang shouts or transitions where they don't seem quite as tight as one could hope, but these are rare enough not to mar the overall experience. Obviously, if given the choice, I'd say to go for the DVD over the CD if only because that visual element is important to 'being there', but even as a standalone this destroys Live at the Fillmore, Return to the Apocalyptic City, and the reissued Live at Eindhoven 87. Finally an engineer had done right by this band, and thanks to a near spotless performance these mighty and magnificent tunes are given their due. "Raging Waters", "Trial by Fire", even "Souls of Black" sounds superb, even with the smokier vocals. The one Testament live you can feel great about dropping some coin on, even if it's not the simplest to find these years.


The Live Album We've Been Waiting For - 95%

wildchild13, August 30th, 2009

Testament is one of the greatest thrash metal bands of all time. Why they did not join the ranks of the "big four" is a mystery to me. They were a hell of alot better than Anthrax, that's for sure. They never released an album that truly compromised their original style (Metallica and Megadeth), never released "joke songs" (Anthrax), and never flat out released the same album over and over again (Slayer). Testament has always stuck to their guns, and while changing it up a bit in later offerings, could never be accurately called "sell-outs".

What we have here is a live album, and a damn good one at that, that captures the reunited original Testament line-up. This alone was enough to immediately take notice, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. Since everyone had left the band prior to the shift to a thrash/death metal style, save for Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson, the song selection completely ignores anything beyond "The Ritual". To put it more simply, this is a "greatest hits" type set list. The main draw here is the return of Alex Skolnick to Testament, and he doe not disappoint. The songs on this album have not been played like this in years, as no one could quite fill Skolnick's shoes. His crushing riffs and masterful solos really show just how talented this man is at his instrument. "Electric Crown", "The Preacher", and "Sins of Omission", showcase his great leads and blistering guitar work the best. Skolnick and Peterson support each other just as well as they ever have, and it is refreshing to hear them play together in a live environment once again. "Practice What You Preach" was made for the Skolnick/Peterson guitar assault, and they pull it off with finesse. Another vital part of Testament that went missing for a number of years, Greg Christian, also returns to the fold. Greg is one of the best bass players thrash would ever see, and once you hear his playing, especially on "Trial by Fire" and "Souls of Black", you'll find it hard to argue. John Tempesta is behind the drum kit for the first half of the album, and original Testsament drummer Louie Clemente, plays on the second half. As much as I like Louie's drumming, I can't help but to point out that Tempesta really stole the show. This could be due to the fact Clemente gave up playing after he left Testament, or maybe Tempesta is just a better drummer overall. Chuck Billy's vocals are still powerful and raw, but seemed to have suffered some due to his health problems at the time. He does have a little trouble hitting some of the higher notes, but overall he still commands every one of these songs, and his mix of old and new style vocals work very well.

The set list, as previously mentioned, is superb. I cannot complain at all about the songs that were selected. The only complaint it is possible to make, is the songs that were not selected. I would have really liked to have heard "Burnt Offerings", "Alone in the Dark", and "Perilous Nation" with this lineup and, had these songs (and one or two others) been included, the set list would have been perfection. As far as what was included, the songs sound just as good, if not better than, the studio versions. This album marks the first time both "Sins of Omission" and "Electric Crown" were included on an official live album, and were quite a treat for me personally. The sound quality on this album is about as good as any live album I've ever heard. There is a good bit of audience interaction, and in truth the band seems to really feed off the energy of the crowd. All these things combined make for a truly awesome live experience that shouldn't be missed.

In conclusion, this is the best live album Testament has put out thus far. As much as I would like to give this a full 100 I cannot bring myself to do so. The reason being Billy is not in his usual top form and the set list seems a bit too short. That being said, I give this a 95 as it's almost everything a fan could ask for. Crank it up and enjoy!

Holy Crap - 85%

pinpals, November 30th, 2006

Testament was probably the best (and the biggest) thrash band to never have an album go "gold" (500,000 copies sold). Some people see Testament as a cheap Metallica rip-off, but while there are some similarities, I think that the band is unfairly overlooked because of the poor production on their early (and best) albums.

Thankfully on this live DVD from 2005, these production problems are non-existant. The DVD is mixed perfectly so that every instrument is audible. This is probably the best aspect of this live set. I think that watching this live DVD and listening to the live CD of the same concert completely changed my opinion on Testament. Take "The New Order" for example, the main riff is awesome, there's no other word to describe it, and that thrash breakdown in the middle is so powerful it rivals anything that Overkill has done in that area. The fact that these other portions of the song are much more enjoyable make Alex Skolnick's solo that much more sweet. A true thrash classic that I overlooked until I heard it here. And it isn't just this song that is helped by the production job, nearly every song here is as good as or better than the studio version. Skolnick stays true to all of his solos, just adding or revising certain areas to take them from amazing to perfection. His guitar tone is unbelievably good as well. Just hearing him shred sends a tingle down my spine.

Eric Peterson's riffing, along with Skolnick's, is so much more brutal as well thanks to the great sound. Check out "Into the Pit," another song that I was indifferent to until I heard it here. The two songs from "The Ritual" are much more enjoyable because the guitars aren't as watered down as they were on said album. Surprisingly, Peterson also has a few leads, such as the first solo in "Sins of Omission" and a short intro lead to Skolnick's towering solo in "Practice What You Preach." Peterson even contributes some black metal screeches, similar to what one would hear on his Dragonlord albums.

John Tempesta does a fine job, as usual, on drums, and it's disappoitning that he has to be replaced in the second half by original drummer Louie Clemente. Clemente is competant, but in thrash "competant" just doesn't cut it. I would rather have had Paul Bostaph or even Nick Barker (both who have played with Testament at some point) come out, but I can't complain too much.

The setlist is another highlight. The band sticks to songs from when Skolnick was in the band (which I see as a positive) and pretty much all of the essential songs are here. The band probably was forced to do two songs from "The Ritual," which would explain the inclusion of relatively unknown "Let Go of My World," but even though it isn't great, it isn't bad either and the production makes it much better than the studio version. Kudos for their addition of their incredible, sadly overlooked ballad "The Legacy." Damn, Skolnick's solo is so good in that one.

I have a few small complaints, though. First off is the editing. The angles are always switching too fast. During Alex Skolnick's solos I want to see Alex Skolnick playing. I don't need to see a close-up of ugly fuck Chuck Billy making faces at the crowd. Nor do I need to see three different views of the drummer. That is only necessary during when he is doing something interesting on drums. And yeah, Chuck Billy is an ugly fuck. I only want to see him when he's actually singing or growling, it gets annoying seeing him play air-guitar on the pole that holds his microphone. His "THRASH, DIE" crap during "The New Order" would have been better left on the cutting room floor as well.

Even so, the concert itself is incredible. It's great to see Skolnick get so into it when he's doing his solos. Even though his main focus is Jazz, he hasn't completely abandoned the genre that gave him his name in the first place, in stark contrast to Vivian Cambell, who mocks anyone who has heard Dio's "Holy Diver" album with the shit he puts out in Def Leppard. A worthwhile DVD for even mild Testament fans, because hearing this concert gave me a new respect for this band and made me appreciate their contributions to thrash all the more.

Testament Slays 'Em All - 100%

Vegetaman, January 20th, 2006

This DVD is fairly straightforward. You can either watch the concert, or the 10 minute interview that shows the band passing out beer to the crowd or Chuck Billy doing a beer bong. It also shows Alex Skolnick's prowess at playing more than metal on his guitar, not to mention explains about why they came back together and their plans to record an album in the future. Not only that, but Louie's surprising exclaimation that after leaving the band circa 1992, he hasn't played in the 13 years since then (instead selling furniture in NYC). Which is why John Tempesta is also on the DVD.

The concert audio is amazing, and I have to agree with what Chuck Billy said. "With Alex back, we finally sound like Testament again." Beyond that, Eric Peterson displays some sick picking skills doing all downstrokes on some of the fastest palm muted riffs I've ever seen. And amazingly he and Alex are in time with each other for the whole album. And Chuck Billy's voice is spot on, as is Greg Christian's bass playing. The drumming, while changed from the original sometimes, it still just spot on. Gives it a new flavor, I believe.

The DVD starts with The Preacher, which features a great guitar harmony with Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, and then goes full on thrash. Cut to Alex Skolnick guitar solo, and then back to song. Overlay awesome singing, and you have the first track. Then it turns into The New Order, which features some really insane extended reach on the high e string that Alex plays with ease.

Then it goes through The Haunting, Electric Crown, Sins of Omission, (intro, thrashy riff, guitar solo, return to thrashy riff, and repeat for the next song) and then it comes to this awesome bass intro from Greg Christain into Souls of Black, for which Eric Peterson does some unique sounding backing vocals for. Then comes Into The Pit, for which the crowd goes nuts on. A very high energy performance.

Then you get the great intro to Trial By Fire, which is Eric Peterson playing this arpeggio while Alex Skolnick does this crazy sweep picking intro and then melodically plays his way through the song. Then comes Practice What You Preach, which features a great guitar solo and a very neat part where Eric is playing the riff and Alex punches in (you can hear the amp come to life, a great moment), and then Let Go of My World.

Next comes the shining point of the DVD, The Legacy. Surprisingly not on the album of the same name, this track is a great accoustic intro to which Alex plays the most insane melodic lead over and fills for the whole song until it gets heavy.

After that comes a great thrash track, Over The Wall. An insanely fast and complex riff that causes everybody to go nuts that is in the crowd. Then after Raging Waters and a very heavy version of Disciples of the Watch; all three songs containing this insane guitar solos full of sweep picking and mild, yet tasteful, melodic shredding - the DVD is over.

My only complaint is that the DVD was too short! It was about 70 minutes long, and I really wish Testament had played Alone in the Dark, but I know they didn't because Steve Souza wasn't with them to sing it, but other than that this DVD does not disappoint. For a band line-up that hasn't played together in 13 years, the energy they can create is astounding. Not to mention how flawless their playing is, and you can just tell that they're all glad to be back together again after all this time. So if you get the chance, definitely pick this up, it's always a good watch - and the band interview is quite insightful.