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A waste of potential - 60%

Andreas_Hansen, August 24th, 2020

At the pace of one album every four years since "The Formation of Damnation", Testament continues without batting an eye to extend its gigantic discography with this year its number 13, cursed for the most superstitious, that yet seems to have its effect on our Americans. Because even though the band keeps its all-stars line-up with, just as a reminder, Gene Hoglan at the drums and Steve DiGiorgio at the bass, the trio Billy / Skolnick / Peterson keeps the same artistic aim as in its debuts without searching to widen its range with the talents of the two most recent members. Titans of Creation extends to fifty height minutes (!), as to know almost a quarter of an hour more than on "Brotherhood of the Snake" that I already found quite long. The first contact we have with this album is its artwork with a light blue that takes us back to "Dark Roots of the Earth" in 2012, drawn by the same artist: Eliran Kantor who seems quite busy these times, working on the new Havok, My Dying Bride and Heaven Shall Burn albums just to talk about 2020. Regarding the quality of Testament's artwork, there is nothing to say: I find it quite pretty.

Sadly, though this artwork might be appealing, it doesn't reflect its content, which is way more ordinary. There's nothing to get our teeth into with this "Titans of Creation", even if you like the band like me. Actually, with such a line-up, Testament can hardly fail, that's why this disc isn't a failure either. There are in it some interesting aspects but it counts way too much on the duo guitar/vocals.

I have a sharp tongue: the production highlights well the bass by giving it a very heavy and audible sound that however didn't prevent me from forgetting about who was the guy behind the instrument. Because if you are expecting DiGiorgio to do some misdeeds like in Death's "Individual Thought Patterns" or Sadus' albums, you will be greatly disappointed. First of all, no problems, the bass is clearly audible on songs like "City of Angels" or in the intro of "Ishtar's Gate" but the only thing it does is to follow the drum pattern... which is extremely ordinary as well. In terms of waste of potential, we're scoring high here. To talk quickly about the case of father Hoglan, he seems to suffer from the same symptoms as his bassist sidekick, with too little impressive fills or patterns. At the most would we content ourselves with some heavy double kick as in "WWIII", "Night of the Watch" "Code of Hammurabi" and a very short passage full of nice fills at the end of "Symptoms". Once again, nothing exceptional. For a band like Testament, it would be quite inappropriate to expect Gene Hoglan to act as he did in Death's ITP in which he fully expresses himself but just to stay in the thrash metal genre, it is possible to have an incredible play that is very linear in appearance, just like in Dark Angel's "Darkness Descends". Though almost all the beats are made of kick/snare in eighth-notes, it is delivered with such ferocity that it adds an additional layer of brutality in the songs - just like DiGiorgio in the first Sadus albums. So, Hoglan doesn't need to be in a free jazz band to make everyone understand that he's the boss and yet his work on "Titans of Creation" could not be more ordinary.

All the efforts are concentrated on the duo guitars/singing that made all the glory hours of Testament. Talking about the singing, if I had to quote the biggest advantage of this album, it would be - as usual - Chuck Billy's voice. This guy is a beast and despite being fifty-seven years old he still has a good set of lungs. Even better, he slightly changes his instrument to use sometimes a more extreme register that goes well with the song, like in the very nice "Curse of Osiris" in which the high-pitched scream seems to take its inspiration from black metal - going hand in hand with the riffs and the blasting drums - to make a copy of the latter genre... that is not bad, in my opinion, actually. We would also find an impressive performance in "Code of Hammurabi". Regarding the rest, if you're used to the band, I shouldn't have to spell it out. It is once again very classic but at least we cannot reproach Chuck to weaken with time.

Let's deal now with the second important aspect of the bands, the guitars and their famous catchy rhythmics. Searching a bit in the songs, we'd quickly find some interesting things like the main riff of "WWIII", the catchy parts of the chorus of "Dream Deceiver", the leads of "City of Angels", the main riff of "Code of Hammurabi"... but, passed the first half of the disc, we realise that the interest dies away. The more time passes the more the word "meh..." comes to my mind when it comes to describe the riffs from "Ishtar's Gate" until the end of the album so much they are ordinary or even bad like in the mediocre "Symptoms" that goes with a small groove metal aspect perfectly dispensable. Besides that, countless mid-tempo riffs could not be more ordinary and, despite all the efforts I make, they don't stay stuck in mind for more than ten minutes. Regarding the soli, though we could salute Alex Skolnick's performance in the opener of "Children of the Next Level" or in "False Prophet" we realise that we're far from the glorious hours of Testament to the point of being on the verge of scandal, as shown by the solo on "Curse of Osiris" that simply follows the melody of the rhythmic. The album ends with "Catacombs", an instrumental outro with guitars, atmospheric pads and choirs that ends quickly without having much sense nor any relevance.

More than ever, Testament is a rhythmic-based band, whose interest now lay only on Eric Peterson's massive riffs and on Chuck's still powerful lungs without getting off the beaten track despite the exploits that Gene Hoglan and Steve DiGiorgio can accomplish. Far from being their worst work, "Titans of Creation" brings nothing to a band that has anyway nothing more to prove. It might please the most fervent thrash fans but it will definitively let a bunch of them fall by the wayside.

https://www.thrashocore.com/

More like average-sized titans - 40%

gunnar_jarl, June 4th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Nuclear Blast

I've always seen Testament as a huge disappointment for all the talent wasted and the unfulfilled prospect: it's like a fine sportscar driven with the breaks pulled. They had the potential to be one of the greatest trash metal bands out there, but kind of stayed in an average/medium-high level due to inconsistency and bad label choices following their great debut The Legacy in 1987. Of course you can fully enjoy Testament as they usually are a guarantee if you need some good trash metal as background music, or some fast-paced music to listen to while running or driving your car. Nothing exceptional, songs that tend to blend into eachother, but also some nice metal music to make you pass the time and keep you company.

This album does not add or remove anything substantial to Testament's discography. It's an average album, at best, with some good moments and some bad ones (which tend to be more than the former ones, too bad). The overall reaction is yawning - with occasional headbanging. Throughout the album you have basically good, decent riffs, with some great solos here and there but your mind starts soon to wander while listening, which is never a good sign. The production is high level and it's not a bad record per se; the major flaw is mainly due to the fact that whatever good is there, gets ruined by poor songwriting choices. Generally, the culprit is the chorus, interrupting whatver good stuff is in there (which is mostly represented by the main riff alone), but you soon find out that there are many issues with the verses as well.

I never really liked Chuck Billy as a vocalist, but in Titans of Creation I found him worse than ever. Uninspired and bleak, trying too hard to sound tough. Worst of all, there is a sort of metalcore and grunge-ish aspect in his vocals here, something that haunts the entire album and personally drives me mad. Most of the songs on this album have this issue, some clear examples can be found in "City of Angels" as well as the opener "Children of the Next Level". This may be an effort to sound renovated or modern. Too bad, because you do not sound modern at all, more likely you sound a little pathetic.

Luckily for Testament, tracks in the second half of the album are slightly better, starting from the track "Symptoms". Rhythms are more oriented to speedy trash metal and that "metalcore touch" found in the first half of the album is less present. There are still however some bad songwriting choices that keeps the album on a low quality level. For instance, I cannot understand why ruining a perfectly good song like "Curse of Osiris" with that unnecessary "attempt to do black metal" chorus. It's not contribuiting to the album in general and it's completely out of style with the rest of the song. It's also pretty significative that the last track "Catacombs" is perhaps the best one, even if it's a short instrumental piece. It has an unexpected yet quite convincing martial doom-ish riff with some choir chants added (yet another songwriting false step, but I get the fact that it brings some kind of atmosphere and is coherent with the "catacomb" theme so, I'll pass on this one).

This album was a big disappointment. Not a complete mess, but it could have been better, if only they had kept a little more focus. From a band that has some 30+ years in the field, you could and should expect better.

The Formation of Stagnation - 60%

CannibalCorpse, May 27th, 2020

Testament is definitely not a band that needs another introduction put to paper. Basically, these guys are one of the most consistent old guard thrashers still putting out material in 2020. The duo Skolnick (lead) and Peterson (rhythm) has proven many times that both are among the greater guitarists of metal's veteran generation.

Initially, Titans of Creation put a smile on my face. Once more, we are being welcomed by a super-slick, crispy production job - courtesy of Andy Sneap – and a cover art that is actually fantastic this time around and I was tempted to preorder the vinyl for the artwork by Eliran Kantor alone. But in the end that smile would fade. I'm glad I didn't get the album on wax because the material itself just didn't show a lot of staying power in the long run and I simply don't like having mediocre albums in my little vinyl collection.

These words might sound a little harsh to you, but see – you are basically getting what you are expecting from Testament in 2020 with minor variations and little surprises. Indeed, the black metal flirtations on "Night of the Witch" and "Curse of Osiris" are a nice touch, the heavy grooves and memorable choruses of "Dream Deceiver" and "Symptoms", as well as the rather successful attempt of creating a convincing atmospheric pull in "City of Angels" provide some pleasant meals for the hungry modern thrasher, but ultimately that is about all that really sticks to your mind after Titans of Creation has run its course.

While being a more consistent CD as a whole, there are fewer highlights to be heard compared to its predecessor Brotherhood of the Snake, even the ear-catching moments I've mentioned earlier can't carry their momentum through the entire songs (no "Seventh Seal" or "Neptune's Spear" to be found here). There seem to be even more "stock" riffs being thrown at the listener than on that last album and the lyrical themes are not exactly a step-up either, though I guess it's been a while since you came to Testament for lyrical mastery, right?

I'm not trying to rail against the band too much here because technically speaking, this is still modern Testament and it's amazing how great Chuck Billy has preserved his voice, especially considering this man is drawing well near his 60s and had dealt with quite some serious health problems in the past (and even contracted that pesky Covid-19 virus shortly before the writing of this review – and he's survived that one too). You know what you are getting with Hoglan and DiGiorgio as well – flawless exection, no surprises.

It's a competent package, but it just doesn't stick. I've given it a few spins over the last couple of weeks but apart from the few picks I chose before in this review, it's basically all out my system within a matter of hours. I'm sure I'll try to get closer to this one again sometime in the future, but with so many more interesting thrash albums out there I'm afraid Titans of Creation is not exactly a top priority.

Except for the amazing, amazing cover art – I should put Kantor's painting on my wall instead, with Dark Roots of Earth blasting in the background, because that is the modern Testament album you should be listening to right now.

Highlights: Dream Deceiver, Symptoms

originally written for http://antichristmagazine.com

Titanic Wreckage - 35%

Petrus_Steele, May 4th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Nuclear Blast

There were multiple announcements when this record would release, the closest being to 2018. Maybe ideas weren’t intact and too much touring dates including Slayer‘s farewell tour (which kinda pissed me off because it wasn’t exactly allowing Testament to have more time writing material for this record consistently) stopped it from seeing an early release. But it’s finally here. I already mentioned in the past this has probably become a phase of releasing a record every four years. The first one, being The Formation of Damnation, wasn’t the best, but succeeded by two quality records thereafter. Titans of Creation being the worst out of the four. If you take the Billboard 200 charts into account, going from Brotherhood of the Snake that’s ranked 20 in the chart, while the new record gets the rank of 96, that’s a significant drop. Perhaps it’s a drop from mainstream, yet sounds commercial. It’s also their longest record since their first commercial record The Ritual.

The first two songs give a weak impression of the music. Sounding commercial, somewhat repetitive and nothing you haven’t listened to before. At least Chuck sounds a bit like his younger-self, or in the approach he started making music. But the music isn’t the best. The latter is potentially better with more grooves and a shredded guitar solo, but has repetitive choruses. You can also hear a traditional heavy metal sound to a song like Dream Deceiver, yet it just doesn’t work properly. Chuck also introduced shrieking of some kind in Night of the Witch, but the song itself is bland than catchy. The first portion ends with Ishtar’s Gate, resulting in a long and not so interesting, but at least there’s potential in the last two songs and the bass feels alive.

As you can see, the second portion is shorter than the first but slightly more interesting, heavy, technical, and enjoyable. For starters, Symptoms should have been the opening song for its malicious heaviness and groove. Code of Hammurabi that betters the overall sound, which most of the songs should have revolved around. It’s got great technically, sounds fresh, very energetic, and has originality. The last and shortest song being the only one to introduce blast beats to this album, and more frequent shrieking gives the album another musical outlook. The sad part of it all is the outro. It’s composed so damn well, that since I’m a death metal fan, it reminds me a lot of Nile and Nocturnus. Totally unexpected and quite undeserving.

Titans of Creation is a pretty weak record for a strong lineup. The length was unnecessary for being almost one hour long. Much like The Formation of Damnation, I had to go back and forth, though for the most part the new record isn’t growing on me. The majority of the guitars’ writing was generic, while the drums were dull. For Gene in particular, either he was absent but credited in the album, or he needed some assistance behind the kit. I can’t hear his ferocious legging machinery! Musically, the bass’s experimentation and showing some atmosphere, while Chuck makes the music sound old school again are wrothy notes, but the latter (the Chuck reference) unfortunately paled. The album does show some potential, however, the execution was bad. Maybe if it was released after Dark Roots of Earth, it could’ve sounded better. I know I’m in (perhaps a strong) minority by liking Brotherhood of the Snake, but combined with the sounds of the last two records, the heaviness kinda fades away, and the atmosphere is missing for a record that potentially suggests atmosphere, judging by its cover and title. The best tracks are Code of Hammurabi and the outro Catacombs.

Assembly line divine - 70%

autothrall, April 29th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, US)

It's rarely a good sign when the first thing everyone seems to be discussing about a new record is a disdain for its cover art, and yet that's what I encountered on numerous forums and social media outlets before a lick of Testament's 13th full-length album Titans of Creation had graced my ears. Personally I don't think it's all that bad of a choice; Eliran Kantor has a distinct painting style and I think it does translate rather well with this particular image, even if it's not quite as cool as his work on Dark Roots of Earth or Sigh's In Somniphobia. The one hangup I can agree with is that the 'titans' might have had more bestial faces, or at least some meaner scowls as they hammered out the universe and populated it with fiery wine-beings. In that case it might have been a better marriage with the band's thrashing aggression, but if you can remember Testament's earliest range of covers, Kantor's run over these latest four albums has at least been more involved and interesting to look over.

Musically, this is Testament-by-numbers to the extent that I think I've run through the entire album a half dozen times with hardly any of its riffing progressions ever really standing forth from the rest, or from the band's somewhat substantial catalog. This is certainly channeling the 'pure' thrash metal the band pioneered through it's first four albums, with chug heavy rhythm guitars moving at a bombastic middle pace as a seat for Chuck Billy's domineering vocals and the Skolnick/Peterson leads. A near comparison would be The Gathering or The Formation of Damnation, the latter of which I quite enjoyed, examples of when the band righted its ship from the death metal distractions inherent on efforts like Demonic or, to a lesser extent, Low. But for some reason this selection of cuts isn't quite breaking the skin for me as they are for others. I was no huge fan of its predecessor, The Brotherhood of the Snake, but I think one of the issues here is that the album actually becomes its most interesting when the band remembers the rhythm section it's equipped with, and takes on a more progressive and curious composition, like the opening to "City of Angels" where DiGiorgio's thicker bass lines play a more prominent roll than they do under the bulk of the rhythm guitars on most of the thrashers.

There are certainly a few positives here. The production is chunky but beautifully balances out the instruments and vocals, with a clear drum mix, a perfect heft to the bass guitar, and plenty of room for the little effects they put on the bass/guitars or occasionally on the vocals. Billy is in fine form in general, his voice carrying the perfect level of atmosphere whether he's barking out his Hetfield-like harsher lines or the hazier, melodic intonation he'll switch into. The leads are pretty well written if not highly memorable. With a lineup of musicians like this, you could very easily fly off the handle with all kinds of excess wank and showmanship, but to their credit, the Skolnick/DiGiorgio/Hoglan trio remains as mercenary and true to the Testament spirit as they've always been. Granted, a little more experimentation here, with or without the need for flashy instrumentation, might have created a more interesting overall, but this one seems to celebrate its own generic sense of momentum, with a lot of stock rhythm guitar parts that seem like they're little more than rearranged from prior albums. Even tunes like "Symptoms" with its cool melodic intro riff seem to labor under some very predictable heavier guitar patterns, like the band is constantly engineering its riffs for full moshability, and you can't fault them for keeping up with the times.

I think for fans seeking out the 'pure' Testament thrash aesthetics in 2020 this one is serviceable, like a Formation of Damnation seasoned by a dozen years of modernization. It sounded quite good blasting out of my car windows on some of my spins of the CD, but I certainly wouldn't mind if the band had the confident to spread its creative wings just a little further and perhaps craft a Titans of Evolution that offers a bit more nuance than just the expected professional musicianship and strong vocal delivery. A standardized riff-set, no real surprises other than a few death grunts and one shift into near-black metal territory during "Curse of Osiris". Decent, but they can do better.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

13th album - is it good or bad? - 70%

diogoferreira, April 28th, 2020

Superstitious or not, “Titans of Creation” is Testament's 13th album and has just been released during the darkest and most terrible times since World War II. To make it worse, the virus, which has been in the order of the day in recent weeks, has even attacked the band.

Throughout 12 tracks, Testament are orthodox without being at the same time. If the opening with “Children of the Next Level” shows us some Testament we already know, ready to rock with their aggressive thrash metal that doesn't neglect melody, the fourth "Night of the Witch" surprises with the vocal performance of Eric Peterson, which is easily compared to Ihsahn's suffocating scream. Further ahead, "Ishtar’s Gates" has an Egyptian sound trend, while "The Healers" makes us return to the USA with a song that combines death and thrash metal through an unexpected tremolo picking technique. Near the end of the album, “Curse of Osiris” is a pure and hard thrash metal song which, something tells us, shall work very well live and it will be the ignition for relentless circle-pits due to the its heaviness and speed, and one again Peterson's black metal vocal performance cannot be forgotten.

Of course, we cannot forget Steve DiGiorgio and his bass, which has a prominent moment at the beginning of “Code of Hammurabi” with lines that will be later mirrored by guitars in a straight thrash metal song.

Disease and chaos aside, “Titans of Creation” is proof that only old rags are truly old and it isn't apply to men. It still sounds good to listen to thrash metal. More: after more than three decades, Testament are still loyal to the roots, but they know how to reinvent themselves by having Peterson and Skolnick doing their best on guitars while charging heavy and complex riffs, most likely being the best duo of guitarists still active in the thrash metal scene. The reinvention also arises due to a progressive sense that is noticed throughout a cohesive record, in which the only sin is to be too long - in truth, people are less willing to listen to a 60-minute album, preferring singles or, at best, albums that are around 30 minutes long. However, Testament are on a level so unique and historical that it shouldn't even cause them significant damage, knowing that they have a loyal legion of fans who have been looking forward to this work.

Thrash metal outbursts meet adventurous experiments - 80%

kluseba, April 26th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, US)

On its thirteenth full length effort, Bay Area thrash metal quintet Testament mixes vibrant classic thrash metal tracks with some more adventurous and experimental tunes which makes for a balanced, dynamic and entertaining mixture.

Among the first category, the desperate, dystopian and fast ''WWIII'' is likely to be tearing heads off in concert but also offers some truly inspired lyrics. ''Curse of Osiris'' is even more relentless with thunderous rhythm section, chaotic riffs and some fierce black metal vocals that blend in perfectly in what might be one of the most brutal tunes in the band's respectable career.

Concerning the more experimental and adventurous songwriting, ''City of Angels'' stands out immediately with domineering bass guitar play, distorted guitar sounds and vocals meandering playfully between calm passages and emotional outbursts. The song's numerous changes and shifts approach almost progressive metal territory and make for the release's most complex and interesting tune. ''Ishtar's Gate'' once again lets vibrant bass guitars shine while the guitar harmonies indeed occasionally evoke Middle Eastern melodies without ever straying too much away from the song's stomping thrash metal basis. ''Code of Hammurabi'' yet again stands out with an excellent bass guitar overture accompanied by some complex guitar riffs before the complex tune gets simpler and straighter as it evolves into a liberating thrash metal song.

Testament's Titans of Creation grows with every single spin and keeps a nearly flawless balance between straightforward thrash metal tunes and more playful tracks with very technical instrumentation and progressive songwriting aspects. Especially the bass guitar play stands out very positively on this highly entertaining output without any fillers. Even though a few tunes in the middle section take some time to stand out, this record is one of the strongest among the band's contemporary outputs and might even serve as great starting point for new audiences to properly discover this band.

Expectations met, not exceeded - 65%

Sergeant D, April 17th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Nuclear Blast

I have been a Testament fan since my first spin of Legacy back in 1987, the year of our lord. It was also that year I saw them live in a Grand Rapids, MI basement bar, not much bigger than a dorm room. It was one of the best pure music shows I've ever seen. So yeah, I love Testament. Some albums much more than others, but overall Love.

There are many ways to review an album. It can be compared to past Artist's albums. It can be compared to other artists' work. It can be reviewed without prejudice of past artist's work. Before I review an album, I try to spend a good week listening to the album no less than 5 times through, in its entirety. I've found throughout the years, songs that immediately grab me upon first listen often don't withstand the test of time, even a half dozen spins.

My initial reaction of Titans Of Creation was that of expectations met. A Testament album always delivers a met expectation to me. This fact, however, does not mean every Testament album is created equally! What I expect from every Testament album is Chuck Billy's vocal range & growls, metal solid riffs from Skolnick & Peterson, driving bass and drums, basically a rock solid metal release.

In the case of Titans Of Creation, exceeding expectations is not the name of the game. This is the exact type of album and music that I love and crave. None of the tracks are ROL (Repeat On Loop) for me. But they are all very good, very solid, metal songs. Having spent a week with the album (now more than a week), there isn't a song that I skip. There also isn't a song that seems to make me lose focus of anything but that song, Titans of Creation is a great metal background album for me. It satisfies my base craving for metal music at every spin.

My favorite tracks are Dream Deceiver, Code Of Hammurabi, City Of Angels, and Curse Of Osiris. I don't believe this is Testament's greatest album by any means. Testament delivers consistent solid metal, sometimes punctuated by greatness. Testament is a slave to astoundingly high bar level, set by The Legacy. Not many bands, past or present, can match the greatness of The Legacy. Having said that, I try not to compare any new Testament offerings to The Legacy.

Again, this is a solid digital offering of metal. There are no auto skip songs, but also no ROL songs. I give it a 65% for consistency and expectations met.

Live By The Code That We Keep - 65%

Twisted_Psychology, April 16th, 2020

With Testament releasing albums at consistent four-year internals since 2008’s The Formation of Damnation (On election years too, no less), it’s only natural for them to stick with a reliable thrash style. Their twelfth full-length doesn’t deviate too far from that formula, riding on the defining core of Eric Peterson’s chunky guitar work and Chuck Billy’s gruff versatility. But at the same time, Titans of Creation manages to put in its share of distinct quirks.

Coming off the direct pummeling on Brotherhood of the Snake, this album feels closer to Dark Roots of Earth with its broader influences at play. Lead guitarist Alex Skolnick and bassist Steve DiGiorgio have heightened presences this time around, most notably contributing the angularly intricate rhythms of “Symptoms” and “Code of Hammurabi” and the Eastern tinges on “Ishtar’s Gate.” “Night of the Witch” and “Curse of Osiris” also see the band experimenting with black metal influences complete with more extreme drumming and Peterson’s supplementary shrieks, instantly triggering Dragonlord associations.

But with these factors in mind, the songwriting doesn’t quite stick the landing. “Dream Deceiver” and “City of Angels” come out strong thanks to their memorable choruses and more melodic touch, but neither quite reaches the height of a true staple. The album’s near hour runtime doesn’t help either; there aren’t any bad tracks on here but a song or two like “The Healers” could’ve been cut without too much trouble.

The inclusion and placement of “Catacombs” as an outro is another minor but very noticeable nitpick. It definitely should’ve been the album’s intro as its swelling symphonics build up to something that isn’t actually there. It also doesn’t help that the guitar chugs are nearly identical to those on “Legions (In Hiding).” When I listened to this album for the first time, I thought that I had somehow switched over to Low by mistake.

For better and for worse, Titans of Creation is another serviceable Testament album. It offers the tropes that fans have come to love with a few extra spices but seems to be holding back in certain regards. The hooks aren’t as effective as the 80s albums and the incorporation of extreme influences isn’t as innovative as it’d been in the 90s. Those who’ve appreciated the other albums of Testament’s comeback era should enjoy this one just as much, but I admit that Dark Roots of Earth is starting to feel like a fluke.

Highlights:
“Dream Deceiver”
“City of Angels”
“Gates of Ishtar”
“Curse of Osiris”

Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com

Yawn - 25%

morbert, April 10th, 2020

Testament, a band I used to worship until they started disappointing me in 1994. However from time to time I try some of their later stuff to see if anything is worthwhile again. In my case: trying to find out if there's something of that Testament vibe left or revived. So this week I've listened to 'Titans of Creation', their newest 2020 album. First I saw 'Night of the Witch' online which I found really shitty. So things were not looking good at first. But anyway, I took my time, put it on repeat and after three days of listening I knew enough.

In all honesty opener 'Children of the Next Level' actually gave me a Testament feeling. Stylewise balancing somewhere between Souls of Black and Ritual but it could have been 2 minutes shorter to be quite honest. Then it takes a while on the album for things to get interesting again, namely the chorus of 'Dream Deceiver' (which is the only good part of the song), or the quite interesting intro of 'Symptoms' and it's Chaos AD inspired slow bouncing chorus. 'False Prophet' is another song with a real testavibe, which has Practice-era written over it though not as catchy because the vocals are not as daring or creative as on that album. Same can be said about the quite interesting thrasher 'Code of Hammurabi ' which also suffers from monotone vocal lines. And that wraps up all the positive news about the album: four songs and one chorus which are okay in the 70-75 points region.

Worst moments on 'Titans' are easily all songs with annoying black metal riffs such as 'Curse of Osiris' (which could actually have been a great song without it) and the god awful "Behold a man of principle" part of 'The Healers'. Plain terrible! Then there are songs like 'Ishtar's Gate' which have pretty much nothing happpening, at all, and could've come straight from any weak post-thrash album in the mid nineties era.
Also worth mentioning as being bad is 'City of Angel's with it grunge verses. A song which also reveals Testament have mostly been trend followers and never trendsetters. A bass lead at the 3:28 mark which is a nod to Cliff Burton followed by a variation on Iron Maiden's galloping Powerslave riff to name but a few obvious ones. It's all way too contrived.

If you, just like me, grew up with the first four thrashing Testament albums and you want anything like that, get your hands/mouse on the realier mentioned 4 songs and quickly forget the rest of this mediocre overly contrived Ikea metal album.

The Titanic was also famously sturdy - 40%

BastardHead, April 9th, 2020

There is absolutely no denying that modern Testament's presentation is on point. Ever since their resurgence on Nuclear Blast with The Formation of Damnation in 2008, each album has been graced with a stunning piece of Eliran Kantor artwork, the production on every album has had that instantly recognizable combo of sheen and punch that Andy Sneap always delivers, Chuck Billy's gruff, howling holler remains one of the most iconic voices in thrash metal, I maintain that to this day they are still worth catching live because their energy is unreal at their currently advanced age, and the lineup is basically the stuff of dreams nowadays since Alex Skolnick returned and the rhythm section has been stocked with the twin Jeff Garcias of the metal world in Steve DiGiorgio and Gene Hoglan (the two best journeymen support players in the whole damn macrogenre).

And yet, when the fuck is the last time Testament wrote a truly phenomenal song? When is the last time they delivered a riff that truly blew your socks off? When is the last time they crafted something as instantly catchy as "Souls of Black" or "Over the Wall"? Hell I actually like The Formation of Damnation but there's no denying that nothing on there holds a candle to what they pumped out on The New Order. Every single album in the Nuclear Blast era has had unbelievably slick presentation but no matter what new thing they try, they completely fail to deliver on the most important component, genuinely great riffs and songs. Titans of Creation only follows this pattern, with another breathtaking Kantor piece, another pristine Sneap knobjob, another great Billy performance, and another way-too-long album with precisely zero great riffs. Who the fuck heard "Symptoms" or "The Healers" and decided they absolutely needed to be included?

The soul-deflating hour long runtime is an unsurprising problem, since albums dragging on for too long is a common complaint of mine, but it really hurts here because so little of interest happens despite the consistently high tempo. Hoglan's drumming seems to have lost all creativity, never once showing off his famous speed or lightning fast fills, instead falling into a comfortable metronomic performance that could have been (and probably was) recorded in his sleep, and DiGiorgio's famous fretless bass wizardry is a completely misused waste of talent on par with Jeff Loomis joining Arch Enemy. Peterson and Skolnick's guitar mastery is relegated to stock thrash riffs pulled out of a dusty trunk and their once phenomenal leadwork sounds like nothing but meaningless noise. Testament's classic era was never as extreme as their contemporaries but they still stood out on the strength of excellent songwriting and a knack for maddeningly good hooks, but they seemed to have lost this ability somewhere around six or seven songs into 2008. The only truly catchy song this time around is "Dream Deceiver", and the intensity is at least worthwhile on "Night of the Witch" and "Curse of Osiris", but those are three minor successes on an otherwise uninteresting album at the tail end of a career that has been unimpressive for years now.

I know it's kind of a meaningless critique to just call something uninteresting since it's hard to put mediocrity into words, but that's really the main problem here. Titans of Creation is less than the sum of its parts by a pretty wide margin. The few moments when Peterson gets to inject his love of the more extreme fringes of metal are pretty solid ("Curse of Osiris" is far and away the best track on the album for this exact reason), but meandering riff salads like "WWIII", "Code of Hammurabi", and "City of Angels" make up the lion's share of the album and I can't recommend listening to it in good faith. Like, it's cool that the band's vocals have diversified so much in recent years (Peterson's more extreme snarl is showcased well in "Night of the Witch") but they don't amount to anything meaningful when surrounded by more pedestrian riffs than a musical crosswalk. This is a step up from the insulting lameness of Brotherhood of the Snake but not by much. Titans of Creation is another safe and mediocre entry into Testament's late-career resurgence. Even the new ideas are wrong in the same way as the old ideas and the heart of the band has been diminished to a shriveled lump of barely-beating nothing.

There's really no place to put this, but I have to give a round of applause to "Catacombs" for being so clearly intended as an instrumental intro track but somehow winding up lost in the caboose as the last song on the album.


Originally written for Lair of the Bastard

Mixing outstanding and average elements - 65%

Tony Blackthrasher, April 8th, 2020

Testament is a highly respected band in the metal world. I guess that the main reason to that is that they most of the time have been staying true to their roots of bay area thrash metal. Also their lineup consists of 5 individual and outstanding persons, each of them is talented and fulfill their role greatly. So I’ve been wondering: why do I feel like there is always something missing in their albums to call them masterpieces?

The band had a pretty high bar this time. Their last effort, Brotherhood of the Snake was very well received and in my opinion is a solid record. We knew from the first sounds of Night of the Witch single that this one will represent a different style. And that’s a good thing to me. But did they manage to keep the level of the 2016’s release? It’s really hard to tell, since my impressions are mixed.

Titans of Creation starts with a (I could tell) signature riff for Testament. From the first notes you know what band you are listening to. And the song is also pretty straightforward and catchy so I think that it works well as an opening track. I also pointed out when I was playing the album for the first time that it has some old-school elements that make you think about the early Testament’s releases. But even in this matter I have mixed feelings since some moments were so familiar to me that I almost wanted to sing “So practice what you preach!”.

But you will be disappointed if you think that the rest of the album will be as straightforward and old-school as the opening track. I didn’t expect it to be, but also didn’t expect myself to be very enraptured and delighted about some songs and very disappointed by the others.

On one hand, you have the song City of Angels with very outstanding and thought bass lines.
I feel like they’re touching my heart in soft points. You also have a very catchy and melodic song Dream Deceiver that feels really creative in the matter of songwriting to me. On the other hand, you have parts were you can feel like the same line or riff is being repeated in eternity. And even if the songs itselves are good, you can’t pick them up well while listening to the whole album because of it’s biggest disadvantage: it’s overly long.

Seriously, why they decided to put 11 songs on the album (and the 12. outro track), while most of them are about 5 minutes long? In my opinion it kills some really good songs. They could just leave some of them for some EP, or even next album. I feel like this record lacks on one feature that every album needs to have to be good: not only consisting of good songs, but also being coherent as a whole. It also seems like they found out about it in the end of the creating process and decided to “patch” it by adding the instrumental outro song Catacombs. And it made it even worse. The song is epic and create an outstanding atmosphere, but seems pointless. I think that it could work more well if there was also a similar intro track.

But as I said, my impressions are very mixed, so I found also an enormous advantage: Eric Peterson’s vocals. Man, why he have started doing them only now? His black and death metal inspired voice adds freshness and extremeness to the songs. In fact, I think that Eric’s vocals is the most fresh element on the whole record. And I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I rate the songs where he sings the highest.

Summarizing my thoughts, I think that Titans of Creation is an interesting record with a good concept, but it was partly destroyed by adding too much songs to it and mixing creatively written songs with very generic ones. Still it is worth checking out and it would work well as a background music for work. But if you need to have a great musical experience, play just a few songs from this record or choose some other album.

Originally written for Tony Blackthrasher on Instagram and Facebook

Music For Smart People - 57%

Sweetie, April 7th, 2020

Going into the new Testament album didn’t give me super high hopes. If you recall, Brotherhood Of The Snake was my least favorite record of theirs to date, which was especially shocking after two albums that I view as excellent. Titans Of Creation dropped some ideas ahead of time with what to expect, which was alright, but it didn’t sell me. What I can say, however, is that the melodies here are definitely stronger than what came four years earlier.

A big thing to keep in mind is that Titans Of Creation is extremely top-heavy; all of the strong tunes are within the first half of the record. “Dream Deceiver” has an incredible chorus, backed by blasting spurts of riffing. The solo here holds onto that same sequence, and it’s a very smooth one. “City Of Angels” hints at a calmer song, giving off vibes of a slow-breather, before it breaks into harder riffing and attitude. It also lets on Eric Peterson’s blackened vocals, which I’m not a huge fan of, but I can overlook sometimes. The single “Night Of The Witch” does this too, as well as a few others. These songs themselves are fine, and I love the rhythm section, but I can’t get behind those sections as easily.

You can also bet you’ll find the continued use of weird song titles. “Children Of The Next Level” is one of those, another one on the front side that’s serviceable and does a solid job at making a longer and more webbed layout. Unfortunately, after the first half, this album begins to roll on and on and get progressively more boring. It certainly does not need to be almost an hour long. “Code Of Hammurabi” is flat out annoying, and the chorus here is very unflattering. “Curse Of Osiris” may as well be a black metal song, as Eric’s vocals and blast beats are laid down the hardest. That’s all well and good, but it hardly fits, especially with such a clean production.

Ultimately, I do see this as a slight step up from the previous disc, if only by a little. At least this time, some standout moments are worthwhile, and Chuck’s melodies are clear. I can’t say that the whole thing is worth hearing more than once, especially if you’re not a huge Testament fan as is. Had they trimmed out a good twenty minutes of it, and maybe loosened the reins, it likely would have been better.

Originally written for Indy Metal Vault

Titanic Mediocrity - 55%

Demon Fang, April 5th, 2020

Well gang, it’s been four years since the last Testament album, so it’s time for another excuse to tour-- I mean, release another album! The last three albums have varied in quality, ranging from slightly above average to surprisingly great and then to total dog shit. It’s weird since at the end of the day, it’s just modern thrash metal with a squeaky-clean production, courtesy of old mate Andy Sneap. But there’s a world of difference between stomping out thrashers with a keen ear for melody, and just plain old background noise. Three guesses on where the other three post-reunion albums fit, and your first two don’t count. Anyway, Titans of Creation errs closer to the latter than the former, trading infectiousness for antiseptic compositions – it’s all in one ear and out the other. Great background noise when you’re working out or something, don’t get me wrong – unfortunately, you kind of want music to stand out as well, you know?

It’s a bit of a letdown if you’re one to take press releases at face value. Like, holy shit, more black metal riffs AND compositions influenced by Mercyful Fate? Now, let me tell you, the latter is outright snake oil. If there’s any Mercyful Fate in any of these songs, it’s very subtle – as in, it’s recorded at a pitch only the band can hear. The former is largely only found in the odd tremelo picked thrash break, although “Curse of Osiris” towards the end of the album has it in its tremelo picked verse riffs and some black metal shrieks during the chorus. Now, this is probably a coincidence, but “Curse of Osiris” also happens to be the most interesting song on the album – it’s punchy, there’s some decent riffs throughout its short runtime, and the added black metal influence does generally help it to stand out from the rest of the album...

...which is otherwise just bog-standard modern thrash metal. It all comes down to the riffs, which you’ve heard a million times. Whether it’s from Testament themselves or other thrash bands, either from 1988 or 2008 – hell, I’m sure Trivium and Evile were playing these riffs to fill in the blanks back in 2006, that’s how typical they are. But it’s not done in a way where it’s like “no wonder they’re typical” – basically, where they take those riffs and create something melodic or brutal (or both). No, it’s done to where I’m wondering where the fuck those black metal riffs are at. More accurately, it’s done to where I’m perpetually five seconds away from turning this album off and putting on The Legacy.

I mean yeah, the riffs thrash on through – and Gene Hoglan’s drumming is generally lively enough to give them some lift, and the guitar solos can certainly shred. The gallop in the introductory song, “Children of the Next Level”, gives off the impression that the whole album will back up its unimpressive specifics with high energy compositions. By the end, however, it all depends on where and when you’re listening to the album. The fast thrashy riffs, the harder-hitting mid-paced riffs all backed up by Hoglan’s drumming gives you the kind of energy you’d want for a workout. People would be moshing to this shit. But Dark Roots of the Earth does the same thing, only with more melodic compositions that stick in your mind well after listening to the songs. Titans of Creation doesn’t have that. It’s good in the moment, and that’s it. Yeah, that’s a steak, but where’s my sizzle? At least put some salt and pepper on it before you cook it!

Eye For An Eye For An Eye - 91%

Larry6990, April 5th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, US)

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, Testament will release an album every few years – and it will be very good indeed. Thus sayeth the gods of thrash metal, for they are righteous and true. At this point, the Bay Area legends have transcended all qualms created by reviews such as this due to their sheer consistency, attitude and all-round badass metal-ness. They utterly exude charisma, assurance and pure fucking metal. Titans Of Creation is no more an addition to the shining Testament discography as it is a statement on their current position: they are indeed titans – and among those who helped carve the thrash metal genre as we know it today. The Formation Of Damnation was a triumphant re-establishment of their status; Dark Roots Of The Earth was a substantial victory lap; Brotherhood Of The Snake showcased their confidence to have fun with their winning streak – and here in 2020, they offer a mammoth of modern thrash metal which tramples over many of their peers with its sheer weight.

Yes, this is indeed a beefy affair. At almost an hour, and consisting of twelve tracks – most of which are between five and six minutes – it will either take a toll on your attention span or your neck muscles. For me, it’s both. I have found my focus drifting whilst deep into the catacombs (hehe) of this album – but at no point did my head stop nodding. Skolnick and co. have developed this mighty, meaty tone over the decades and this gigantic timbre has become characteristically familiar. Testament’s M.O. has become less about displaying one hefty riff, one blazing solo, or even one catchy chorus at a time – instead focusing on crafting well-written songs. Every track on Titans… brings something a little new, but they all belong to the world of the album, flow well within their 5-minute timespans, and are (in most cases) utterly fucking crushing. Sure, there may be a bit of self-indulgence here and there – I’m not sure “Children Of The Next Level” or “Night Of The Witch” need to be over 6-minutes – but, like I said: this is Testament. They’ll do what they motherfuckin’ want.

Despite its outward appearance (amazing artwork notwithstanding), this record does not feel like the next direct logical step from Brotherhood Of The Snake. In fact, there are one or two numbers which wouldn’t feel out of place on their ’90s albums. Change the (admittedly incredible) production values and “Dream Deceiver” would fit nicely onto The Ritual. The groovier offerings, like the grinding “The Healers” or the hammering “Symptoms” (especially the latter) might even reflect the Californians’ fondness for Low or…dare I say it…Demonic. “Symptoms”, in general, might be my favourite cut on the disc. It just absolutely batters my ears with bouncing chugs, boisterous gang-shouts and hulking grooves. Speaking of groove, the strangely subdued “City Of Angels” is right up there with the best groove/thrash ever delivered. The bluesy riffing is irresistible and the main riff under the verses hits like a goddamn piledriver. Check out the 3:45 mark for the kind of groove that makes your whole body collapse. For added neck-breaking, check out the 4:30 mark. I’m telling you, the riff-count on this track is off the charts!

Elsewhere, it’s thrashing business as usual, but with an added sense of grandiosity and nobility. This is partly thanks to the godly being that is Chuck Billy. I’ll give it time to settle in but, at the moment, this is looking like his best performance ever put to disc. He maintains his gruff mid-range impact for the majority of the album but occasionally delves into guttural Demonic territory. Then, a little more frequently, we’re treated to some incredible high-pitched screams such as the chorus of “Night Of The Witch” or the storming refrain of “Curse Of Osiris” (an amazingly ferocious way to close the album). However, here lies my one major gripe with this LP: the bombastic 2-minute outro, “Catacombs”, ruins the solid and furious ending of the previous song. Why wasn’t this used as an intro track? The orchestrations, sustained block chords and eerie atmosphere are the perfect way to get listeners into the mythological vibe of the record. So, my advice is: listen to track 12 first then start the disc spinning again for maximum immersion!

As I said in my introduction, any qualms raised by reviews from lowly writers such as myself are instantly crushed by the towering Godzilla that is Testament’s reputation among the metal community. It’s a new Testament album, we should all just be pissing grateful. Skolnick is pulling riffs out the bag left, right and centre; Chuck is a fuckin’ beast; behind the kit, Gene Hoglan is an even bigger fuckin’ beast…let’s face it, this is basically a supergroup at this point. From the ballsy thrash assault of “WW III” to the headbang-athon of “Code Of Hammurabi”, Titans Of Creation is a phenomenal monolith of modern thrash metal by a band whose ‘Legacy’ (hehe) will be eternal.

A titanic explosion to rock the pillars of creation. - 91%

hells_unicorn, April 4th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Nuclear Blast

It would be quite a stretch to say that Testament, one of the premier thrash outfits to come roaring out of San Francisco in the mid-1980s, ever left the scene. Nevertheless, there is a sentiment among old school thrashers that following the close of the decade that witnessed their birth as a mad thrashing powerhouse, that Chuck Billy and company had abandoned the impact-based, riff-happy approach that typified their seminal offerings. This isn’t to say that recent outings like The Formation Of Damnation and Dark Roots Of Earth have been slouches in any sense, but there has been a definitely tendency towards a more groove-oriented modernity to their sound ever since the release of 1992’s The Ritual, arguably this band’s attempt at rivaling the massively popular outings of Metallica and Megadeth from said time period. In this age of ongoing, primitive thrash revivalism, it seems that the hour is right for these veterans to turn back the clock a bit on their sound.

Although definitely an exercise in crushing, high-fidelity modern thrashing from a production standpoint, 2020’s Titans Of Creation sees a notable return to a more old school brand of thrashing from the standpoint of execution. Most of this owes to Chuck Billy’s colossal vocal assault toning down the low-pitched grunting quality for something a bit closer to the classic, mid-ranged gruff style that first saw him being compared to James Hetfield back in the day. Naturally it’s not a full on throwback to his 1987 vocal persona which was painted with occasional Ian Gillian meets Rob Halford moments when shrieking in his upper range, but what is one display here definitely has a nimbler quality to it, which plays off well against a very involved and borderline tech-thrashing approach out of the rest of the band (one would expect no less from a rhythm section consisting of the likes of Gene Hoglan and Steve DiGiorgio), sometimes winding up in borderline clean-sung territory.

As with the case of a number of recent outings by fellow members of the Bay Area elite such as Death Angel and Exodus, this is an album that does not live by speed alone, but definitely has a greater share of it than its immediate predecessors. Gallop-happy crushers with plenty of detailing peppered on top like “Children Of The Next Level” and gear-grinding monsters like “Night Of The Witch” don’t pull any punches, but showcase a level of nuance and development that is a bit more indicative of where thrash metal was headed just before its original denouement in the early 90s when Forbidden and Heathen were moving the style in a more intricate direction. On the other hand, speedy flashes of rage like “WWIII” and “False Prophet” hearken back to that more excessive period of the mid-80s where it was all about how could go the most insane in the pit without committing suicide, opposed on the more grooving side of the spectrum with the slower-paced yet still vicious “Symptoms”.

While most of the aforementioned songs are not without some degree of precedence in Testament’s recent past, if having a bit more bite to them, there are some pretty jarring surprises that seem to come from right out of left field. The off-kilter melodic yet smasher of a mid-paced anthem “City Of Angels” proves to be the longest and most complex of the pack, occasionally exhibiting a quasi-ballad character and showcasing some of Chuck’s cleaner vocal moments, to speak nothing for the fancy bass noodling out of DiGiorgio and a healthy degree of Black Sabbath influences smattered among the middle section of the song. The closing instrumental “Catacombs” gets a bit trippy with some orchestral additives like something out of one of The Mummy films, with a thrashing backdrop of course. But the real outlier of the bunch is the almost blackened thrasher “Curse Of Osiris”, which sounds halfway like something left over from Eric Peterson’s latest stint with Dragonlord.

It’s incredibly early for attributing a title to the current era of metal music, but if this album and the recent slew of amazing offerings out of thrash metal’s older guard is any indication, it will likely be remembered as the era of comebacks. As stated early, Testament is a band that never really left the scene even when it all but died in the mid-90s, but there has definitely been a few clear moments of ebbing in what most would rightly dub a career dominated by a consistent flow. Titans Of Creation is one of these new classics that can easily go toe to toe with the seminal offerings from the style’s heyday, all the while still being sonically appropriate for the current age. Opinions may vary, but yours truly would go so far as to call this the best thing to come out of Testament’s arsenal since their riveting debut The Legacy, and few would deny that it’s anything other than the highest impact thrasher out of them since the end of the 80s. A must hear occasion for any self-respecting thrash maniac, and definitely an album that will still be relevant in the years to come.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives (www.sonicperspectives.com)

Testament - Titans of Creation - 85%

Orbitball, April 3rd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, US)

This one is solid, but it's re-visiting (again) the 21st Century Testament. It's to me better than 'Brotherhood of the Snake', but only in some respects. The riffs are fresh and probably most of the music was written by Eric Peterson. The leads by Alex Skolnick were good, just nothing like is "just starting out" days. I think he was better on earlier Testament albums. He's gotta be that "aging metal guy" which he doesn't like to refer to himself as. Chuck is Chuck on vocals, nothing that much different than before. I've honestly never liked his voice, it's just something that I have to accept. The music is good and so is the production.

There hasn't been much of a line-up change really at least 3 of the founding members of the band: Chuck, Eric, and Alex. But they're veterans still putting out good music. They've never changed their style, either. It's always been thrash metal. And I think that's what's good and defines the band better. The only main criticism is that the riffs could've been a little catchier. They fall short somewhat, but I still give them a "B" for effort. And was it worth the wait? Maybe, at least there are a lot of songs and the album is an hour.

The music varies, sometimes thrash based (mostly), but in some cases clean guitar. Not much of it though. It lacks the aggression that their previous had more of. But anyway, it's still them kicking ass even in their middle age. The musicians are all top notch, but the album could've been more aggressive. They seemed a bit slower as in "aged", but that doesn't want me to not see them on tour. That is, when Chuck Billy is clear of Covid-19. He's dealt with a lot over the years and he's 57, so let's hope he's going to recover. As far as Alex goes, he's less technical nowadays. I think he's more into jazz than metal. He's kind of lost the fire.

Testament as a band on here did a good job as a follow-up, but they still need a little more innovation in the riff department. Eric needs to come up with guitar riffs that are more innovative. I kind of found them to be sort of generic in a way. But still, they're good though they just needed more aggression on here. It's as if they're less harsh with the anger. It didn't stop me from ordering this on CD, but it's just not one of my favorites. It's decent, but not nearly in any way their best. Let's hope for a successful tour when the pandemic is over. And Chuck is healthy again. I think Steve, too.

If you want to show your support for Testament, buy the CD. You can download it, but give back to the band for not changing their genre like other bands, mainly Metallica. They're still good, just not as heavy of an album. It's just better than average. I'm sure reviews of varying feedback for this one. Mine is positive, not because I'm from the Bay Area like they are, but the fact that they're still around says a lot to me. And making music, thrash music. I was really weary of what to rate this, but I thought that I was being fair. It's an honest score. Let's just hope they'll be back for recording another album in the future. Support the band!