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When you think of the big 4, what do you think of? - 88%

TrooperEd, May 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1987, CD, Megaforce Records

Well, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, obviously. I think it's universally agreed on (by the smart people anyway) that those four particular artists get to be in that category because they were the first four thrash bands to pioneer and release albums before other thrash bands did. Mustaine was a little more late to the party than the supposed second tier, but he had a doctor's note from Metallica. But the reason I ask this is because it seems like for the past ten years or so, the thrash collective has been begging for Testament to be included and the colloquialism be upgraded to the "big five." That would be well and good, if Overkill and Exodus weren't much worthier contenders for that spot for punctuality alone. Granted Exodus wasn't very consistent after Bonded By Blood, and I always thought Overkill was more consistent than Testament. But for whatever reason, Testament has been seen as more loyal to their sound and more consistent than any other thrash band, therefore they've had more hype than most. Couple that with the return of Alex Skolnick and apparently a few well received albums, and I'd like to further make the supposition that quite a few thrashers would like to kick Anthrax out and place Testament in their position. Full disclosure: As of this writing I have not really sat down and dissected For All Kings yet, and Lemmy forbid I pick it up and it sounds like the second coming of Darkness Descends. Point being, Scott Ian was quite possibly the second trendiest, scheming little douche next to Lars Ulrich. Joey Belladonna is only back now because Ian had no other choice, as a result of he pissing off the metal community by endorsing practically every questionable trend in metal for the practically the past 30 years, from I'm The Man to Slipknot. Testament didn't quite have that problem, or at the very least when they adopted new ideas they seemed to be ideas that the extreme crowd loved a lot more (e.g. the death metal vocals on Dog Faced Gods).

Alternate titles for this review include: "The original Trivium Crusade" because like it or not folks, this sound is that of a Metallica clone. Granted you could make that argument for thrash in general, but with Testament's first couple of albums in general it's inescapable. Now when you examine The Legacy's Pleauretokillium (an element I just made up that is the main structural composition of thrash; incidentally, its symbol on the Periodic Table is Dd), it is composed of a more melodic and controlled nature. The girls that ran away screaming from Bonded By Blood and Beneath The Remains may in fact stick around to give this a listen. I bring this up because at the time The Legacy came out, I imagine Metallica was in the position of ever increasing success, but they had just lost Cliff, and even then Master of Puppets wasn't universally accepted as much as people like to retroactively claim (just listen to Cliff's interviews on Cliff em All). There are some small bits of what some hessians refer to as "random hippie crap" on this album, but not as much as say, The New Order or Practice What You Preach.

Of course, there are some sonic differences as well. Tonally, Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick choose to attack with a bit more reverb than the nightmarish amp army of Ride The Lightning. Not to mention, regardless of how one feels about Kirk Hammett's playing, I don't think anyone with two brain cells to rub together will deny Skolnick's superior soloing skill and composition efforts. Tempo wise, this is very much a fast album, but there is something slightly sloppy about the execution that keeps this from being hailed as an instant speed-thrash staple along with the likes of Reign In Blood. Then of course we have the voice of Chuck Billy, whose tone has forever cursed (or blessed, depending on your point of view) Testament to be compared to Metallica. His normal delivery doesn't quite have the apocalyptic menace of Hetfield during the Lightning through Justice days, but we see Billy execute highs that Hetfield just never could, even in his Sean Harris worship days (see: First Strike Is Deadly).

Highlights: I'd be hard pressed to find any thrasher that doesn't love Over The Wall, a world famous bugle call demanding one find the nearest crowd and surf on top of it with the masochistic intent of falling over the rail onto the hard concrete. Other favorites of mine include Do or Die, Testament's most infectious singalong with a little help from Evil Has No Boundaries; and Curse of the Legions of Death (shortened to an acronym presumably for space purposes), a brief but violent burst of speed with percussive punches throughout, just in case you thought this short trip to the corner-store wasn't going to involve a crash or two.

But the ultimate legacy of, well, The Legacy is the album's closing back-to-back salvo of Alone In The Dark and Apocalyptic City. Hell these just might be the high water marks of Testament's entire career. The former being where the band's melodic tendencies shine like diamonds in a sea of broken glass Jaegermeister bottles, despite sacrificing precisely zero percent of the band's thrash assault. Chuck Billy is particularly menacing here. Apocalyptic City stays almost too true to its title, showcasing a maniacal, frantic pace. Don't be fooled by the clean intro, within a minute you'll suddenly feel the ground beneath you give way courtesy of Louis Clemente's thrash attack, and if you have any brains at all, you better run for your life to whatever ground is still temporarily standing. One of the all time greatest closing numbers of any album ever.

The Legacy is the one album by Testament you must own. Take the cries of copycat, whiffle thrash or whatever invective that has been hurled at the band over these past thirty years with a grain of salt. If you want to know where to venture after you're done exploring the big four (possibly even during your thrash 101 lecture), one could do much worse than The Legacy.