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One of the heavier Testament albums; a killer! - 97%

Lane, January 13th, 2022

Bay Area thrash metallers Testament had a hit album with the previous one, 'Practice What You Preach' (1989), as it entered several charts and almost achieved a gold status, plus got voluminous airplay. With 'Souls of Black' the band revisited old late 1980's demos and bits, and rushed it out, as they've said it themselves, because they needed to hit some big tours. Damn, they put out four full-lengthers in about three and a half years!

With this one the band got back to under a 40 minute long album here (an intro plus 9 "proper" songs, as it were). In my opinion, there is no one redundant second on this one. They also boosted the heaviness factor starkly. I remember I thought that this was way too non-melodic and rough for my liking back in the day, and a definite drop in quality (the previous album was my introduction to Testament). However, my view has drastically changed during the years. I don't remember exactly when I started to realize how cool an album this is, but I think the sea change happened after hearing and being disappointed with 'Demonic' in 1997 (that album I still think is the weakest one from the band, and I wish they can keep it like that; definitely looking good thus far...) and started going backwards their discography again.

Opening with dark and brooding acoustic introduction (Spanish guitar style), 'Face in the Sky' is a face-melting thrash treat with "evil" written all over it. Its pace varies between fast and mid-paced. The guitars sound absolutely hefty, like fucking jet motors! And at the same time, ripping. Beautiful. Sometimes it sounds like the band was nearing death metal, even. When Chuck Billy's vocals fly in (great effect there), it is clear the band are back with the vengeance: Mr. Billy sounds more powerful, too. Reverbing drums add mightiness. Tight riffing, guitar screams and enigmatic and unique solo from Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson are totally energetic. 'Falling Fast' is partly a very suitable name to the song; it is not a drop in quality, but is a tad faster. The title track steers towards more melodious path, and also stomping groove, being a throwback to the previous album's more positive vibes. However, the album mainly keeps more abrasive afterwards, except for the slow song (which kind the band began to add on the previous album) namely 'The Legacy'. It can be called beautiful and is a fine abnormity to rest of the songs. Still, no matter if it's harsh thrashing or ethereal balladry, there emotions abound everywhere. The music is very adhesive. Also, it was, as were the lyrics, a full band effort.

Mr. Skolnick was able to mix high skill and melodiousness in his guitar soloing, from tapping to great use of whammy bar and to more rock music bits. He has always had a totally recognizable style, and it is in a great show here. Every songs features trademark Testament melodics, and even the chord progressions are highly memorable and kind of hummable. Eric Peterson's rhythm playing was always fine, and both guitarist beautifully coalesce here. The bass guitar by Greg Christian has more rubbery sound this tie around, and not that metallic clanking of the previous album, boosting the heaviness factor higher.

Well guess what? Mr. Billy is another unique part of the band. He sounds mature here, often pretty low-registered. This was his most powerful-sounding effort theretofore. But yeah, he uses high higher register, too. He's like more melodic and human-sounding version of the original Legacy vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza (best known as the Exodus vocalist). The lyrical content deals with horror, depression and rotten politics/politicians. Yes, some think statements about politics and nature and such things may suck, but if you ask me, they are totally thrash, right?! They are also well-written.

Testament put out five studio albums during the 1990s, which is a lot. They must have been burnt out, as it was in 2008 when the next one was released (not counting the re-recorded versions album 'First Strike Still Deadly'). 'Souls of Black' remains as one of the heavier ones from the band, to this day, and while being heavy-as-fuck, it is not lacking in catchiness department like 'Demonic'.

"I could laugh and play and live in any other way, then the devil took my soul."

(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)