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A Split Personality - 72%

OldSchoolKid, March 26th, 2009

So for my first review on the archives, I have chosen to take on one of the most maligned recordings on this site.

I have noticed a clear split of opinion and what I am going to attempt to do is resolve this divide. I don't expect to change anyone's mind either way, nor am I trying to. I simply hope to offer a different perspective, somewhere in between the sides already taken.

Eric Peterson, in the liner notes to the band's first "Greatest Hits" album, admitted that the record was written as an attempt to get some radio airplay, and it is in this confession where one begins to see, in retrospect, the divides that plague this band's existence.

Yes, this is some of the most watered-down production ever heard on a metal album, with its bouncy bass tone, clicky kick drums and edgeless guitar tone. Furthermore, most of this record abandons the relentless pacing of "The Legacy" in favor of a mid-paced, song-oriented vibe.

Yet, and here is what I see as the first great divide, it seems the Skolnick influence has introduced some tasty "hot jazz" elements to the band's brand of thrash. Listen closely to the progessions on the title-track as well as some of the soloing (as well as "Confusion Fusion"). The instrumental track aside, this jazzy influence really adds much of the character to this album, gives it a faster pacing than what was normal for radio and a dynamic all its own that lesser thrash acts populating the scene couldn't find. Without that pull, this album is probably much worse than it is.

Not that this is a horrible record in my opinion. You definitely have some classic Testament here, such as the title track, "Sins Of Omission" and "The Time Is Coming". The thing is, you also get some serious "misses" as well, snoozers such as "Envy Life" and "Greenhouse Effect" that just plod along to their own sonic death about 3 minutes too late. The rest of the tracks are good enough, listenable if not exactly earth shattering. I mean the songs are just fine but that watered down production really does them no favors.

Ultimately, Testament did themselves something of an injustice in releasing this unresolved mish mash of personalities. It's radio-friendly thrash lite wanting to be something more progressive. It's a little too much of this and not enough of that. It's a real inconsistent batch of "hit or miss".

What this album is, most of all is a cross between the album Eric Peterson "thought" the band should make (in pursuit of "exposure") and the album Alex Skolnick wanted to make (something reflecting his own evolving tastes and playing). It ends up being the best and worst of both, which is why so many deride this album as (to quote one reviewer) "pussy thrash" and why this album DIDN'T push Testament to Metallica-like staus, though many regard this as a classic and don't understand why it just never happened for them!