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The Formula For Their Modern Sound - 79%

Testament1990, November 19th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Spitfire Records

After their lowest point that they will probably ever be at in their entire existence 1997's Demonic. Testament recruited the legendary Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and bass extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio both of whom would help along with Testament mainstays Eric peterson and Chuck Billy pioneer the sound and formula Testament would use to write records in the 2000's and onward. The band also got back James Murphy for this release who did the unthinkable back in 1994 on Low replacing the best lead guitar player in thrash Alex Skolnick. This is the last album before Chuck Billy would be stricken with cancer in 2001 forcing the band into an indefinite hiatus.

The production/mix here is okay I may get shit on for this but by this point in Testament's career the days of analog tape recording were gone and in the late 90's we got the start of the way of modern recording and mixing. No longer did albums have a unique vibe and atmosphere to them separating them from every other band in history like the albums from at the latest the mid 90's on back had. This late 90's era was the start of albums being super polished and almost inhuman sounding. I'm no producer or engineer but anyone with ears can hear the difference in records from the early 90's on back and the records made in the modern era. Most people will disagree with me as a lot of metal fans love the modern sounding productions/mixes more than the classic metal productions/mixes but not me, this is my main problem with modern music and even modern music from classic bands. Albums from this era and onward sound sterile and lifeless and will always be inferior to the old school analog ways of making albums to me.

While I do enjoy this record a lot this is my least favorite good release by the band (Demonic does not count it will always be dead last for me when it comes to Testament albums). This record is still really good though but that whole 1987-1990 era is gone, long gone. Even the Ritual and Low while were not full on thrash releases were Masterpieces of different avenues and still had that classic production/mix. The Gathering has its good moments no doubt but this album is a giant step down from the string of albums Testament released from 1987-1994, however this is a gigantic step up from the mess that was Demonic. The band meshed a lot of different influences of the time and brought the thrashy side of the band back after almost dismissing it completely on Demonic. The songs here are brutal and fast majority of the time and Chuck uses almost every vocal style throughout the album. The only styles he doesn't tap into was his softer voice that he used in Testament's epic ballad tracks and his super high pitched voice used on the debut. Chuck still sounds badass here and found his trademark modern style that he still uses today.

Peterson and Murphy are pretty good here they mesh nice with one another. The riffing is really tight and is Eric just doing what does best and that's riffing at an extreme level. Murphy is alright here but his leads aren't as crazy and dynamic as they were on Low. I almost feel like he dumbed down his playing here compared to Low when he come in replacing Alex Skolnick he probably had a chip on his shoulder to put it all on the line with his solos. Murphy also doesn't remember the recording of this album as he had brain surgery shortly after to remove a tumor. Murphy still shreds here and is one of the best shredders in the genre it's just this album is more rhythm centric in my opinion. The rhythm section Lombardo and DiGiorgio just go off like they just rip on this album it's not even funny how good the drums and bass are here. They really came together and gave Peterson a fast and brutal foundation to craft some of the most brutal songs in Testament's discography and those 2 have one hell of a performance on The Gathering. Despite how good Dave Lombardo and Steve DiGiorgio were on this release I still think the original lineup was the best lineup Testament ever had. Clemente and Christian were a highly underrated rhythm section that always get overshadowed by the the bands future rhythm sections

Overall this a solid album and there is no bad songs here all of them hit hard and never let up. There is some mellow intros and sections like the beginning of "Riding the Snake" and the verse parts in "Eyes of Wrath" and there is a lot of brutal songs on here. This record is pummeling especially for its time of release in 1999 during the era of nu metal and old bands conforming to the sound of the times. "Legions of the Dead" is almost like a modern version/sequel of "Curse of the Legions of Death" off their blistering 1987 debut The Legacy. All of the tracks here are good and are the start of what I would consider the modern era of Testament. Despite the 9 year album hiatus they would take due to Chuck's cancer diagnosis in 2001 this is where the band transitioned into what they are now with 1997's Demonic being the dividing line between the classic era and the modern era of the band.

Gathering Improvement - 70%

Petrus_Steele, April 30th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Prosthetic Records

Whatever Testament; or mainly just Chuck and Eric were doing to build up a better record and direction towards their next installment, it worked. Recruiting one of the best drummers, the not-so fond drummer of Slayer that is Dave Lombardo did an amazing job. His drumming massively helped in the composition. The returning James Murphy also laid better riffs and tone for the music than what he wrote in Low. Also, recruiting one of the most accomplished bassists in extreme metal, Steve DiGiorgio gave the bass in Testament a distinct taste. As a technical pioneer to death metal, I’m sure they welcomed him with open arms. Hell, with two former Death members and former pioneering thrash metal drummer, this album makes Testament look like a supergroup - and it’s already sounding like a powerhouse.

I didn’t feel the bass in the mix for The Gathering; at least in its first portion, but I’m certain it was challenging enough and helped in not making the music sound so typical. The guitars sounded alive as they should, but even then it’s not comparable nor beatable to what Alex Skolnick wrote. As for the drums, they sounded more progressive, and I don’t expect a thrash metal drummer to unload consistent blast beats, but I believe it would have helped. After all, this album is death metal… arguably. Chuck still sounded like James Hetfield (I should really stop using this tiresome example), but at least you can recognize it’s Chuck and not someone else because he was unrecognizable in Demonic. His death growls are still not that impressive. It sounds more like raspy, unclean vocals. Nevertheless, as I write this review, I found a recent article/interview that states The Gathering was Chuck’s most comfortable album to record. So at least the man enjoyed what he’s doing in the studio.

D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate) is an example of how death metal can be groovy; of course, leaning towards groove metal as a genre. But the song itself was pretty refreshing for its speed and vocal layers. You can hear it clearly in Riding the Snake, especially the technical aspect Steve offered. Probably one of the best Testament songs and what actually made me want to listen to them, Legions of the Dead is short, fulfilling but brutal. This was the most accurate Testament song that sounds like death metal. From here on out excluding Careful What You Wish For but including the instrumental bonus track Hammer of the Gods, the album sounds much better. You can listen to the bass more, as well as the much faster and hard-hitting drums and the guitars being crunchy and crisp.

The next four songs after the opening song rely more on rhythm and brief sequences, which was overall diminishing in result. The guitars and drums mostly sounded convenient, but that’s about it. Same with the long and forgettable Eyes of Wrath that focuses more on the instruments. And then you have True Believer, a Metallica-worship song, even with the bad groove execution in the middle. I’m just going to leave it at that.

The Gathering is yet another one of those one-time records. Much like The Legacy, it wasn’t the most exciting record I’ve heard, when originally I thought it might just be my favorite album, of theirs, but it’s better than nothing. It didn’t feel like Testament and more simply like a supergroup, yet still delivering something people didn’t really anticipate. Thankfully, it makes Demonic forgettable. The best songs are D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate), Legions of the Dead, Sewn Shut Eyes, Fall of Sipledome, and the instrumental bonus track Hammer of the Gods.

The Mark Of Modernization - 71%

Sweetie, November 14th, 2019

Widely known as the record that ended the experimentation and embarked on the sound that they would stick to, The Gathering is something of a breath of fresh air from Testament. While the previous three records never completely stepped away from the thrash roots, they kept a safe distance from it. Here, it completely resurfaces. And with the legendary Dave Lombardo behind the kit, the drumming goes above and beyond. There's also a sturdy surface here that the band hadn't had in almost a decade. So on paper, this should be an incredible record, right?

Well, the truth is that it's a bit of a weird one for me, despite all of this. There are tons of songs that jump out. "Legions Of The Dead" boasts incredible break-neck speed and blast beats that stay solid from start to finish. Opener "D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)" is one of the best songs they ever wrote, also being the first song they played when I saw them for my first time. The slow crawl from classic Chuck to growling chuck in the chorus is immaculate, and the way that riff hits you is pretty untouchable. "Eyes Of Wrath" also gets a slot in my heart because of it's calmer passages intertwined with harsh chugs. And man, that solo? Borderline progressive. This segues incredibly into "True Believer" which capitalizes on melody while maintaining a darker presence. Hell, the entire first half of The Gathering in general is complete fire!

The key words there are "the first half," though. After this things lose a lot of the flavors that made the first six or seven tracks so good. "Careful What You Wish For" is the last song that heavily induces anything hooky, as cheesy as the chorus may be (it's still fun). After that, this disc begins to feel run-of-the-mill, with song structures that don't offer much. Not to mention, the production is naturally going to make things more susceptible to being a bit more generic. I can admit that Steve Digiorgio's bass-lines never lose much momentum, especially during the instrumental breaks of "Riding The Snake." But that isn't enough to allow everything else to walk away unnoticed.

But, there's still plenty to get out of this, and I applaud the band for losing and finding themselves among they years of change. Really, the whole album works similarly to a thrill ride. The first half is intense and extremely fulfilling, but you sooner or later you notice that the best is behind you. If nothing else, The Gathering paved the way for the next two Testament records, both being ones that I find to be remarkable.

Doesn't quite gel - 81%

gasmask_colostomy, June 22nd, 2016

I think that whatever your general view on Testament may be, 'The Gathering' goes against that view. If you see Testament as one of the true gods of 80s thrash who missed out on the big league due to timing, you're going to wonder what happened to the kind of songwriting that 'The Legacy' brought with it. If you think that Testament are an unpredictable and inconsistent band who never maintain the same quality or style between and even during albums, you're going to be surprised that 'The Gathering' manages to keep it together for most of its length and references most periods of the band's existence without drawing in many new facets. Then, if you came late to the Testament party via the "post-cancer" albums ('The Formation of Damnation' and 'Dark Roots of Earth'), you're going to look upon this album as somewhat of a warm-up to the purer, riffier, or angrier songs displayed on those releases. Or, on the other hand, if you don't know anything about Testament but just like metal, you're probably going to enjoy yourself quite a lot and find some minor things to grumble about.

For me, 'The Gathering' is a slightly odd album, since it has a very distinct aura of being a "modern metal" album, yet also sounds a little dated now. What makes it very strange is that it isn't dated enough to be retro - like a lot of the original thrash - but just dated enough to dampen the edges of the production and make it seem slightly awkward compared to an album from 10 years later. By this, I don't mean that the production is bad, though maybe the guitars a bit dry and the whole thing doesn't gel totally, but rather that the way the songs are written and arranged would be almost unthinkable any time after 2005. There are other albums like this - Armored Saint's 'Symbol of Salvation', Overkill's 'Necroshine', Annihilator's 'Carnival Diablos' - that are organized to include lots of different styles of metal song, mostly reliant on strong vocals and a combination of catchy riffing and melodic soloing, seeking to capture the listener by simply having good songs rather than being the heaviest or the fastest. The reason that this sounds so much like an initial shot in the first wave of "modern metal" is partly because of the grooviness and fatness of some of the riffs, coupled with a tendency to include both mainstream and extreme elements, often at the same time.

The album as a whole is made up of largely mid-paced songs between 4 and 5 minutes in length, telling us that we shouldn't expect progressive complexity or too many ideas outside the box in terms of song structure. In general, we get a solid riff or two to set the song up before Chuck Billy introduces himself, belts through a chorus or two, gives James Murphy a shot at things, and then the song is driven home with either another chorus or a burst of guitar. Going up and down in tempo and complexity is also a great idea, since nothing ever gets dull, except for a few mindless moments in 'Riding the Snake' and the over-simple 'Down for Life', which nonetheless provides an entertaining singalong. 'D.N.R.' gets things going at a fast pace before the mid-paced numbers dominate, cranking things back up for 'Legions of the Dead' and the rather more varied closer 'Fall of Sipledome'. The meat of tracks such as '3 Days in Darkness' and 'Careful What You Wish For' are based on a kind of momentum that doesn't touch thrash but centres on a kind of boldly lurching groove, the former having a monster set of riffs and a great sense of dramatic timing, while the latter shows the skills of the rhythm section with a whole barrage of time changes from Dave Lombardo and grimly twisting fills courtesy of Steve DiGiorgio.

What surprises most about all this is that, despite the evident individual skills on show, there are fairly few times when the whole band comes together and sounds great as a whole, instead of by themselves. '3 Days in Darkness' and 'D.N.R.' are probably the peaks of the album, though the latter certainly has no stand-out moment, even if '3 Days' gets its fill of guitar tasties just right. Of the other songs, there are numerous parts to be picked out of each; for example, James Murphy's great solos in 'Eyes of Wrath' (otherwise too sluggish and slow to develop) and 'Sewn Shut Eyes' (which lacks momentum), or Chuck Billy's dominant phlegmy barks in 'True Believer' (despite being slightly forgettable). That's what makes 'The Gathering' merely a good album with good songs rather than a great one, since it doesn't manage to build a sense of excitement from one song to the next, nor do the band deliver as many direct hits as a line-up with this calibre should. I listen to 'The Gathering' a lot and find it enjoyable, but it doesn't really represent a pinnacle in Testament's career despite the mild interest of its place in a modern stylistic vanguard.

Even the most flawless gem-cut can recede in value - 70%

autothrall, September 5th, 2012

The Gathering is all too aptly named, for it's born of a marshaling or mustering of the band's forces, a strengthening of the levee after it nearly broke through the largely unwelcome and unappreciated Demonic flood with its near complete traversal into the sodden realm of 90s groove metal. Testament returned here to the propulsive, enormous Bay Area thrash stylings that built it, without completely abandoning the heightened aggression level of the two prior albums, and thus there was a great deal of rejoicing upon its arrival. To an extent, this is one of those 'best album evar' enterprises that its own squealing fan base seemed to forget a year or two down the stretch. The ratio of killer to filler is tenuous, but for at least a half dozen songs, it offers the pure, punishing escape of their 80s classics cloaked in an admirable, turn of the century studio brawn.

Amazingly, The Gathering also boasts what must be the highest profile roster in the band's career, with Slayer skinbasher Dave Lombardo sitting in on the drums, bass virtuoso Steve DiGiorgio taking over for Ramirez, and James Murphy returning to the lead guitar position. Essentially, the two Testament loyalists (Billy and Peterson) backed up by extreme metal royalty, and gods do they all sound fucking great here. No offense to Louie Clemente, John Tempesta or Gene Hoglan, but Lombardo's performance on this record is the singular greatest drumming on any Testament release. His mix is far more robust than one might be used to with his Slayer input, but that runs parallel to the style of music here, and he excels at both the accelerated thrashing and breakdowns. The kicks and snares sound superb, the cymbals a little dingier, but he's the best navigator to steer a track like opener "D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)", one of album's strongest, to success. DiGiorgio is remarkably selfless, keeping himself busy without overextending or indulging himself as he often did on the Sadus records.

But I have to hand the M.V.P. to a tie between the guitarists. The riffs Murphy and Peterson mete out in this feel more savage, complex and compelling than the two albums prior. I love how taut the pair are through the rampaging opener, or the more surgical riff progressions in cuts like "Riding the Snake". Billy is also firing on all cylinders, returning to the subtly melodic nature of his earlier career inflection but still weaving in a lot of the guttural growls he honed through the mid-90s, especially on "Legions of the Dead", which delivers pure death/thrash in a way Demonic never could, writhing tremolo riffs carved into the primal, exhausting thrust. The choruses in "D.N.R.", "Down for Life" and both about as catchy as anything off Souls of Black, and this album is overall quite deep in terms of the variation offered, from fun and fancy grooves to faster blitzes style after "Into the Pit", to everything in between. In fact, by all 'technical' accounts, this should be one of my fave thrash records of all time, so balanced, professional and polished in delivery.

The reason it's not: for all its strengths, The Gathering is one of the most easily forgettable Testament efforts, because it's really just an embellishment on the catchier tracks the band was writing during its prime. The riffs, while revitalized, never feel all that fresh or new, only heavier and angrier, and I am all too rarely compelled to listen through this, despite how goddamn clear and present a danger it exudes from the stereo speakers. Billy and Peterson certainly culled exemplary performances form their extended family for this outing, but aside from 3-4 of the individual songs, nothing really stands to memory, like a well directed and filmed sci-fi action film that just has no heart, no theme upon which to clasp the imagination. It goes without saying that this is superior to Demonic in every department, but in retrospect I find myself returning to even Low more often than I do this, which was shocking when I take into account my initial, strong reaction. If anything, at least this 'righted the wrongs' of its predecessor, and got the Californians' back on track, albeit a short-lived one that would kick off the longest hiatus of their history.


Resuscitating The Fossilized - 90%

Tlacaxipehualiztli, August 22nd, 2012

I take a look at the members of this gathering: Billy, Peterson, Murphy, DiGiorgio and Lombardo. Yep, definitely good line-up, don’t you think? Or maybe it is better to write thrash dream-team? The five veterans ready to create something uncommon. The musicians known from such bands as Slayer, Sadus, Obituary, Death, Disincarnate. And of course Testament. The first impression is obvious, but at once the main question appears: what is the final result of this gathering? And the next one, did they overcome the mighty debut album “The Legacy”? Two fundamental questions I am going to answer in this review...

Reading some interviews after releasing the album, Peterson said about one thing, namely Dave Lombardo had been this person which I describe as flashing point. He had a great contribution in making “The Gathering” living proof of thrash existence. Now it is hard to write if their previous album was a commercial triumph, for sure “Demonic” was quite successful mix of death and thrash from my point of view, however after joining DiGiorgio and Murphy (again on the board), I was expecting really killing metal offering, much better than lps without Alex Skolnick. The album, released by Burnt Offerings, saw the light of day in the middle of 1999. And my first feelings were enthusiastic, except for better front cover as compared to “Demonic” and very modern (but what is important: not sterile!) production, the music was amazing, from the very beginning the first three songs are just destroyers of the silence, like a battering ram that crushes the wall. After several seconds of bodeful intro, the massacre begins. Forget about slow and monumental tunes of “Demonic”. “D. N. R.” is very fast, with straight forward riffs and fine double bass attack, for sure this is thrash, but taken from another unknown dimension. It makes the song is… really fresh even nowadays, and what is more, this ‘freshness’ is met very often through the whole album. Vocals – again there is no surprise, with every record Billy proves he is the number one in thrash vocal family! He shows incredible mix of clean vocals and deep yet very understandable growls. Even the whole structure of this track is maintained in rather simple way, everything effectively smothers the listener senses. “The Gathering” is entering its gate…

… and the next “Down For Life” isn’t worse! Faster a bit, again very interesting guitar riffs (man, Peterson/Murphy duo!), and changes of tempo. But the best is yet to come, its name “Eyes Of Wrath”: simply it is the essence of Testament’s style, from perfect vocals to perfect music. During this song, finally the bass lines are shown but only in moments of guitar calming down. And I think this is serious fault, why the hell the bass lines are hidden so deeply under the guitar traces? In spite of this, I can write about this killing thrashing song as one of the best in the era of no Skolnick. Writing more about this, one thing must be blazoned out, I mean the first solo lead appears after 4:30, it is different, less classic, more climatic show and these tunes end this highly interesting song.

Yes, three thrash cannon-shots were already heard, but the rest isn’t such super as this holy trinity. For sure I can point out “Legions Of The Dead”, it is the fastest one, maybe there is the best solo, but I have an impression that this is only similar track to “Murky Waters” from “Demonic”. And for sure “Riding The Snake” with mysterious opening, broken structures and excellent second part, as well as glorious “Sewn Shut Eyes” with absolutely devastating Billy vo-kills, overall guitar work and drums cannonade. I wrote about good points, so there is a place to indicate the weak points. I think the feeling of disappointment gets out of the mediocrity. It’s hard to believe it, once again I think about the line-up, and… “True Believer” or “3 Days Of Darkness” (with awful chants “ooooo….”) don’t maintain these superb feelings from the beginning. The same is in the last “Fall Of Sipledome”. Simply these three tracks didn’t convince me. For the first listenings everything seems to have its place, each element isn’t accidental. Unfortunately the deep insight into the entirety (especially into three aforementioned tracks) shows that seesawing emotions aren’t anything uncommon…

Ok, I hope you remember the question I asked some words ago. In my case it is obvious I compare any new offering from the band, to the mighty debut album. And for certain I can declare that “The Gathering” didn’t beat the debut, as well as “The New Order” and “The Ritual”, my most beloved Testament masterpieces. I think my overall mark is rather high in spite of some weaker tracks, but when I read the line-up I can even say about disappointment or frustration. I expected really great album with the highest mark on the end, but as the speedway proverb goes “names don’t ride”. From the other hand I would be a liar in root and grain writing that “The Gathering” is weak album. No, it is not, the music is still fresh and kicking ass, I still listen to this very often, but I’d like to sum some things up: the potential and talent of James Murphy is wrecked here, just like unfortunate hiding of DiGiorgio bass lines during time of sound realization. Seemingly there is a bootleg coming from Dynamo live show (2002), where bass is simply audible and it sounds perfectly. Unfortunately I haven’t heard it yet. Compositionally the band shows the inequalities: the great and the weak songs, with absolutely excellent beginning of the album. I think it proves this line-up is only ship with Bill, Peterson (both as firm as a rock) and three mercenaries, though I am convinced that Lombardo showed the best drum work in his career (yes, forget about Slayer!). Also it proves that the only line-up of Testament is following: Billy, Peterson, Skolnick, Christian and Clemente (or Dette on drums, I will never forget his show on “Live At The Fillmore”…). Anyway “The Gathering” is the last studio album of the band that I praise to date. Both “First Strike Still Deadly” and released after nine (!) years “The Formation Of Damnation” are disappointments for me, and I hope their newest “Dark Roots Of Earth” will show the thrashing furious power and energy. The line-up is almost complete, only Clemente is replaced by Hoglan…

Not Dead Yet - 91%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, May 13th, 2008

When I bough this album back in 2000 I remained speechless. It was so violent for me and also for a band like Testament that, after the first two great efforts, always remained in a transitory and strange position with not that good albums and the classic thrash metal influences that were fading away. Demonic album went a bit too beyond for the classic Testament way of playing, being quite death metal. The band was quite good at this genre but they were too different from the early days and finally with this great The Gathering we have the right balance.

There was a big expectation for this album before it was published and the unbelievable line up (James Murphy, Dave Lombardo, Steve Di Giorgio, Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson) achieved the goal of increasing this expectation for a great album and Testament didn’t let me down. The Gathering is amazingly furious and powerful with lots of great songs on it, especially on the first part, finding the balance with thrash metal, death and not annoying groove parts.

“D.N.R.” is one of the most violent songs ever by Testament. The riffs are brutal and pounding, thanks also to a bombastic production that exalts and give power to each and every instruments in a shocking way. The band, on its side, is truly devastating. Really, it was since The Legacy that I didn’t listen to this music by Testament. Lombardo at drums is so fast that in some points he almost reaches the blast beats. Chuck’s vocals are on the borderline between the old cleaner tonality and the recent death one. Perfect.

“Down For Life” is amazing with a sort of faster mid paced tempo that will lead this song ‘till the end. The riffs here are more groovy without losing the thrash aggressive patterns and heaviness. Anyway, they are fucking catchy as the drum work by Lombardo, that with his famous fast rolls on the toms, gives to the sound a higher impact and variety. “Eyes of Wrath” is one of the most obscure songs here, beginning with a sort of distorted arpeggio to finish in a hyper distorted riff that is perfectly broken by the return of those strange sounds during the whole song.

“True Believer” continues on the way of the almost mid paced heavy music with a great sense of melody and catchiness through always violent riffs as the following “3 Days In Darkness” where the groove is more incisive in the guitars. As you stated from my other reviews I’m not a groove fan by in this case it’ s so heavy and catchy that I cannot resist in doing some hadbanging. “Legions Of The Dead” reminds that “C.O.T.L.O.D.” but in death metal style. Fast and furious. If “Careful What You Wish For” (awesome) and “Allegiance” show more grove tempos, “Fall of Sipledome” is the classic kick on the teeth to conclude the album.

All in all, a great album forged by one of the greatest line ups ever and the result is evident to anyone. This is one of the most furious and inspired modern thrash metal albums ever and one of Testament’s best. Hands down.

About 4 good songs - 38%

BurntOffering, April 17th, 2008

Well, this is a disappointment. I don't see why this album gets so much praise. Sure it's got quite good production, but the songwriting just does not cut it. It's like Low, but even weaker. What's really the worst about this album is that parts sound so damn promising and instead of working on that they end up fucking around with mediocre riffs and ideas. The backing band behind the two original members is quite spectacular. Lombardo, Digiorgio, Murphy, but their input seems to be pretty damn minimal. Lombardo does quite a nice job considering the music he has to work with, but Digiorgio and Murphy seem to be nonexistant.

The album starts of quite nice actually. DNR is fast, brutal, evil sounding, catchy. Everything you'd want from a thrash song, but it does have one flaw. Lack of lead guitar. That's one complaint about this album that I have. James Murphy plays on this album and from the amount of lead guitar on here it's hard to tell. Down for Life is more midpaced and upbeat, but still quite a nice song.

After that the album starts wavering. Eyes of Wrath is crap, no riff intensity and overall boring. True Believer has a really fucking catchy middle break with some nice soloing, but the rest of the the song is basically like Eyes of Wrath. 3 Days of Darkness has a cool chanting part along with a nice riff, but the rest of the riffs and arrangements sound forced and make the song sound goofy and modern. After that we get a sweet Death Metal-esque song in Legions of the Dead. Some killer riffs in this and Chuck's vocals are growled. This is this album's Dog Faced Gods.

The rest.....filler and uninspired. It's not worth the time.

So after starting out with two great songs, going off kilter and having two songs that are half good, and then one more good one before totally going off the deep end for the 2nd half of the album we get a really sub-par album. At least it's better than the last abortion Testament gave us.

Just go get the Legacy, or download the first two songs and Legion of the Dead.

Brilliant nineties Thrash: a rarity - 95%

Agonymph, May 26th, 2007

When it comes to the opinions on Testament’s 1999 ‘The Gathering’ album, the field is clearly divided into two sides. For one side, ‘The Gathering’ is a further departure from Testament’s initial sound, not drifting as far into the Death Metal area than its predecessor ‘Demonic’, but nothing compared to what the band was doing on ‘The Legacy’ and ‘The New Order’. The other side enjoys ‘The Gathering’ as an outstanding Thrash Metal album, which tops virtually any Thrash album released in the 1990’s. And although I understand and respect the opinions of the first side, I am definitely a part of the latter. There is simply too much to enjoy on the album to just weep about the fact that this is not ‘The Legacy’.

Opening track ‘D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)’ is a true kick in the face in that matter. As soon as the first guitar riff starts, with a pounding rhythm section underneath, you’ll be blown to the other side of your room with a smile of pure thrashing euphoria. Chuck Billy seems to have made a return to clean singing again and Eric Peterson’s riffs are simply killer. ‘D.N.R.’ is quite simply the best opener Testament has recorded since ‘Over The Wall’.

But it’s hard to go wrong with a lineup such as this one. Although Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson are the only remaining members from the original lineup, they are accompanied by fine musicians. Completing the guitar duo with Eric Peterson is James Murphy, while the rhythm section is comprised of bass master Steve DiGiorgio and none other than Dave Lombardo on drums. An interesting thing is that DiGiorgio isn’t nearly as present on this album as he is on any other album he plays on. On this album, it’s rather his sound than his skillful playing that really adds something to the result.

However, an all star lineup such as this one can only properly function if the song material is good enough. That is most certainly the case on ‘The Gathering’. The funny thing is...even though it was the overall Death Metal sound that made ‘Demonic’ my least favorite Testament-album, it’s the two Death Metal songs on this record that rank among my top favorites. ‘Legions Of The Dead’ is a full-blown Thrash fest, with Eric Peterson riffing at full speed, Dave Lombardo drumming all over the place and Chuck Billy grunting all his rage out on top of that. And the closing track ‘Fall Of Siple Dome’ is nothing short of amazing. The ultra heavy intro smashes your skull in, the killer riffing tears the flesh from your face and the more tranquil middle part – the only part of the song with clean vocals – gives you goosebumps and time to breathe, before the speedy ending gives you the final blow. Count Dave Lombardo’s incredible double bass work to that and all I can conclude is that this is simply one of the best songs Testament has ever recorded.

Another favorite of mine is ‘True Believer’. Chuck Billy does an amazing vocal delivery on this song and it’s structured really well. The mellower verses build up to the heavily pounding choruses very nicely and all that together makes ‘True Believer’ a powerful track. But there’s enough to enough to enjoy on the rest of the album as well. There’s a few slower and more grinding parts thrown in for variation, as displayed in the heavily grooving ‘3 Days In Darkness’ and the mystical, Arabic sounding ‘Eyes Of Wrath’. ‘Down For Life’ has a thrashing groove that reminds me of OverKill’s more recent material. Not surprising, figuring that OverKill-guitarist Dave Linsk is an enormous fan of this album.

The production by Andy Sneap is – of course – flawless. There’s something different about this album’s production as compared to Andy Sneap’s other work though. Sneap’s productions tend to sound a little over-produced, but everything on ‘The Gathering’ sounds natural, without making it sound outdated in any way. It seems like Sneap really tried to make something special out of these recordings.

Quite simply; ‘The Gathering’ is a brilliant Thrash Metal album. Fans of the genre should own this album, if only because good Thrash Metal albums were a rarity back in the late 1990’s. But even if that wasn’t true, this is a quality album that deserves to be heard by anyone who has a heart for this genre.

Overhyped - 54%

pinpals, May 23rd, 2007

For some reason, it has become the cool thing for "real" metalheads to write off Testament's early work and focus mainly on the supposed genius of "Low" and "The Gathering." Look at the lineup: fretless bass wonder Steve DiGiorgio, shredder (or journeyman, depending on if you're nice or not) James Murphy, and Dave Lombardo of Slayer. Look at the awesome song titles: "D.N.R. [Do Not Resuscitate]", "Riding the Snake", "Sewn Shut Eyes"... On paper this album is amazing!

Sadly for us, all is not as well as it seems. Only one of the three above give a performance that merits mentioning, and that is Dave Lombardo. Throughout the album, he pounds away on his drum kit, at times amazing with his speed ("Legions of the Dead"), and other times with a newfound subtlety that he never demonstrated with Slayer. James Murphy, however, is almost completely absent from this album. He just has a few solos that are boring and add nothing to the songs they are in. Even his best one, in "Eyes of Wrath," doesn't measure up to anything Skolnick did with the band. Andy Sneap's production, while giving Testament the first good sound of their careers, does DiGiorgio no favors. And it's not as if he does anything outstanding. If you listen closely, every once in a while he's doing something interesting, but for the most part he gives perhaps the most uninspired performance of his career.

"But if everyone is more restrained, that must mean that there is more room for stronger songwriting, right?"

In a Although Testament has moved away from that death metal garbage they embraced on the previous album, they seem to have replaced it with groove. "3 Days in Darkness" and "Riding the Snake," while not outright terrible songs, just rely on a simple riff to carry the whole song. No interesting solos, no sped up parts, just fucking groove. HAVEN'T WE LEARNED FROM PANTERA WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ALL WE DO IS GROOVE? That's right, you sell millions of records. Perhaps that is why so many people see this as Testament's best. Unfortunately, neither groove nor weak performances are even the biggest problem this album has. The songwriting itself is shabby, to say the least. "Allegiance" has no point whatsoever, while Chuck Billy growls about how someone (metalheads, I assume) should be united. Wait, that sounds familiar, oh yeah, that's right, Judas Priest did that twenty years ago. And while we're talking about stolen ideas, it needs to be mentioned that the "I can't help my" part of "Down for Life" is directly taken from Slayer's "Behind the Crooked Cross"! "Fall of Sipledome" sees Testament trying to write some death/thrash epic or something and it fails miserably.

All is not lost, however. "D.N.R. [Do Not Resuscitate]" sees the band (minus Murphy) hint at what could have been. The riffs crush, Chuck Billy sounds like he is going to reach through the speakers and strangle any neck he can reach, and Lombardo shows calculated insanity on the drums. Man, this song never fails to get the adreniline flowing. "Eyes of Wrath" has a good set of riffs and a nice break near the end to which all heads must bang. "True Believer" is probably the most accessible on here, a nice breakdown halfway through in the ", dust to dust" part.

Yet even with these three songs, the album as a whole is beyond disappointing. I guess they were trying to sound modern, but this doesn't hold up well at all. The best purpose that this album can serve is to be a gateway album for fans of metalcore who will probably marvel at its heaviness. Metalheads that are more familiar with the genre and with Testament will probably not find much to like here, so be forewarned.

Could've been great... - 59%

Mungo, March 25th, 2007

Testament's final studio album is quite an average one, although pretty good if compared to what came before it. On 'The Gathering' there is a 'supergroup' lineup of sorts, with Lombardo, DiGiorgio and Murphy among the two Testament regulars Billy and Peterson. By the premise alone, this would be an awesome album, in which each player would contribute their talents to create a masterpiece. However, it is a release that, while not bad, fails to stick out in any discernible way.

After the terrible 'Demonic' this is actually quite good. But compared to other thrash releases and metal releases in general this just reeks of mediocrity. It isn't even that much of a thrash record, as there is still a few groove songs present. The riffing doesn't really stick out as being anything brilliant, and everything has been done before. While some riffs are awesome (such as the ones in 'D.N.R.') there is so much averageness on display it just ruins the record. There isn't much in the way of soloing either, and although there are more than on 'Demonic' they don't make you crap your pants like Skolnick's did. They sound like they're there for the hell of it, as some songs would be better off without them. The drum work is quite good and should be coming from Lombardo, and he offers some pummeling rhythms. Chuck Billy's vocals are also quite good, and a clear step up from the half assed ones on 'Demonic'. While he has strayed away from his 'classic' thrash vocals he exhibited on the first album his vocal work on here is still more than competant. The growls are used in moderation while his superior clean singing rightfully takes up most of the songs.

Most of the songs are either good or bad, with the exception of the opening track and 'Legions of the Dead'. The riffs on here are simply amazing, and can hold up to what was being released in the 80s easily. Unlike some of the others, it stops when it should so it doesn't sound overlong. Chuck's vocals are excellent with some awesome Death Metal growling combined with his trademark clean vocals. 'Legions of the Dead', is the closest they ever got to Death Metal with a fast paced, death-ish riff underneath growled vocals. Unfortunately there are also some really bad songs as well. 'True Believer' drags on and on with annoying interludes in between, while 'Riding the Snake' is an example of a song which could simply be classified as "what the fuck?!". The ones in between just blend into each other, sounding like a blur most of the time due to the riffs not being distinctive enough.

'The Gathering' is a missed opportunity. Had the band at the time realised their full potential shown in the standout songs at the time of writing, this would be an awesome thrash record and the perfect way to end their career. However, what really happened is we got two great songs, two really bad ones and eight which are just plain average and don't sound different to each other. It's not bad, just irritating to think how good this could've been.

Fantastic, but not the best album ever written - 87%

lord_ghengis, March 3rd, 2007

Whether or not you'll like Testament's 1999 effort can be figured out by answering a simple question. Are you a thrash purist? If the answer is yes. Chances are you will not like this album. If you're a passing fan of the genre, who is willing to see the genre screwed around with, and have a few other influences having large effects on the sound. Chances are you will love this album.

I for one think that this album is fantastic. There's a hell of a groove, the vocals are not thrash vocals, more or less a thrash-death hybrid, there's a lot of chugging riffs, about half the songs are slower, groove driven songs, and to be honest, only about three songs hit me as pure thrash. I have no problem with this, but as you can see from other reviewers, people who do will think this album's worth about a 50%.

To tell the truth, I never really liked early Testament, they just sounded too similar to Metallica, who were far superior to Testament. This is a completly new identity and is simply crushing. Yes, this is mixed by Andy Sneap, so no matter how fast the music moves, the production is going to damage the foundations of your house.

The songs fit into three main catagories, thrashing monsters (DNR, Legions of the Dead, Fall of Sipledome), heavy groove driven songs (Down for Life, 3 days in Darkness, Riding the Snake, Allegience, Sewn Shut Eyes) and very slow groove songs, with thrash breaks (Eyes of Wrath, True Believer, Careful What You Wish For). So yes, there's not too much true thrash here.

The band here is an all-star group, with some very famous names (in the world of metal) amoungst the standard duo of Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy. With a team of James Murphy, Steve Digeorgio, and Dave Lombardo siding with these two, the result is surprsingly groove driven. With only a few solos found within, and most of those being short 'outro' solos.

I haven't heard much James Murphy, but since his early days he really seems to be content with what he's achieved, and knows that he'll always be refered to as 'death metal god James Murphy', he really seems to be coasting with his riffs over the last few years. Resulting in his riffs being grooves, rather than crazy riffs that challenge the mind. Eric is as always over-shadowed by his axe partner, and also seems to be content with developing a good resume of people he's played with.

With that said, the riffs are good, not to mention catchy as hell, and, when needed, as aggressive and infuriated as any you'll ever hear. The guitar sound is amazingly heavy, in fact it makes most of Andy Sneaps other guitar mixes seem patheticly weak. It's that crushing.

I'm with the fans on the drumming, Dave Lombardo is at his incredible best. The drums move from quite amazing double bass beats, to his normal frenzied fills. There's really not that much to say, it's Lombardo, it's going to rule, it's general knowledge.

Chuck Billy proves to be probably the whole reason why this album works for its fans, and fails for is deprecators. He is downright godly on The Gathering, His voice and styling is original and nearly impossible to replicate, yet not obscure or random sounding. It just sounds perfect. Almost every groove on the album, no matter how many there are, and how often you'd just like to hear some mind-numbing thrash is carried through to highly enjoyable levels by Chuck. Of course, they are death tinged, which pisses off some people, and they do work well with grooves and promotes the sometimes excessive use of them, which also pisses off some people.

The Gathering is a very strong effort, there are a few too many plodding songs, and not enough all out fast songs, because the three (or four if you count Down for Life, despite it's incredible groove) really don't get old, even after many listens. I've already stated some clues as to whether not you'll like this. Hell, even if you don't think it sounds like a good album, pick it up anyway, the first two songs and the other two thrashers are totally worth the $15 I paid for it. Who knows, the rest might surprise you.

Wow, I think Testament just schooled everyone! - 97%

JVK, June 14th, 2003

In 1999, right in the thick of the nu metal age, when some of the worst music ever made was being forced down the throats and ears of listeners, the thrash band that never gave up was hard at work creating what is easily one of the most essential metal albums ever. No that is not an exaggeration, Testament’s The Gathering is not only their personal best work but easily a true heavy metal classic.

Right from the start, it had the makings of a masterpiece. Despite the absence of Alex Skolnick, guitarists Eric Peterson and James Murphy of Death are an arsenal of riffs and chops and fellow Death member, Steve DiGiorgio provides technical but pounding low end. As if that weren’t enough, Dave Lombardo (who needs no introductions!) is so graciously providing the double-bass-laden beats.

Ever since their metamorphosis on 1994’s Low, the band has been honing their new sound and have finally perfected it. Testament is maybe the only Bay Area thrash band that neither pussied out or stayed stuck in their 80s ways. Human tank, Chuck Billy seamlessly segues from his semi-melodic screams to terrifying growls that put most death metal vocalists to shame while merciless chugging guitars are propelled by the thick grooves of the rhythm section.

The songwriting on The Gathering is nearly flawless. The opening song, “D.N.R.” bludgeons listeners with its thrashing blastbeat giving way to “Down for Life”, reminiscent of Overkill’s “Elimination” and easily one of the catchiest metal songs ever. “Sewn Shut Eyes” and “Fall of Sipledome” are lessons in bludgeoning death metal and “Allegiance” is almost reminiscent of White Zombie on steroids. The highlight of the record, though, is “Legions of the Dead” which is without a doubt, the successor to “Dog Faced Gods” with its frenetic pace and epic scale.

This is one of the few heavy metal albums that has absolutely no faults. Testament have forged the perfect combination of heaviness, hooks, speed, and musicality. While bands like Metallica aimlessly grab at straws releasing awful material and still others can’t seem to get out of the 1980s, the best Bay Area metal band remains true to their commitment to metal, maybe even more so than Slayer. If you don’t go out and buy The Gathering, I’ll have Chuck Billy suplex your sorry ass onto concrete.

Damn the man! - 91%

mrbungle44, August 6th, 2002


This album blew me away. I've had this album for quite some time and everytime I hear it I am impressed with the album. It's thrash Metal for those who don't know...hell, Testament is a very well known Metal band and with this in mind I will not go into much, if any, detail on their previous work.

The Gathering is a great album. It has pretty much everything any fan of Metal would enjoy and for those who don't know what that is: 1)intense drumming 2)thrashy riffs 3)powerful vocals...the only complaint I have with this album is the lack of solos. The Legacy for one is my favorite Testament for solos, that entire album rules and with killer solos which are the best parts of the songs (on the most part) but this isn't The Legacy, it's The Gathering.

If The Gathering had as many solos as any of ther Testament album it would slay but it wouldn't be the same album and because of this I like it the way it is...To describe the sound a little more would be fairly easy I suppose. Imagine thrashy riffs that could only be done by Eric Pederson accompanied with great drumming by none other than skin pounder Dave Lombardo and ofcourse, the gutteral vocals of Chuck Billy. The vocals don't vary much on this album but it doesn't take away from this album at all.

I know this review gives little to the imagination but if you are to take any advice at all, find samples of Fall of Sipledome and Legions of The Dead...and if those samples aren't enough, then you're probably dead. Ofcourse, this is strictly opinion.