REVIEW: TESTAMENT – “Titans Of Creation”
The unhinged aggression of “Children of the Next Level” opens the proverbial gate with a bang. Its lumbering gallop adorned with Eastern-tinged harmonized guitars provides vocalist Chuck Billy with ample space to flex his gravel-throated muscles. Three-quarters through, a tom heavy breakdown leads the way into a riff-fest, seemingly meant as a vehicle for guitarist extraordinaire Alex Skolnick’s mix of atmospheric guitar histrionics and unrestrained shredding.
On a record that runs the gamut of Testament’s stylistic indulgences, the lead-off single “Night of the Witch” is firmly in the “heavy” Testament camp. Despite coming across a little bit like Frankenstein’s creation with its random collection of riffs, it proves to be a true monster of a tune. Billy spits vitriol over an angular thrash riff before the almost bluesy harmonized pre-chorus leads the way into the supremely heavy groove of the chorus.
“Ishtar’s Gate” highlights Testament’s latest secret weapon, bass player Steve Di Giorgia. The start-stop bass riff of the intro, adorned with eastern-scale guitar melodies, resolves to a bass-heavy verse before the band heads off into a driving chorus. Juan Urteaga’s muscular mix doesn’t skimp on the low end and it really does the band justice, giving the set a clean modern sheen.
The intro to “Symptoms” ups the progressive ante, and reminds us that the current incarnation of Testament contains some of the best musicians in the metal dome. The unequaled rhythm section of The Atomic Clock, drummer Gene Hoglan, and Di Giorgia provide an ample canvas for principal songwriter Eric Peterson to paint his tasty riffs on. The measured dirge of the verse and chorus invokes spontaneous headbanging with Skolnick taking a notably excellent lead break.
Songs like the groove-heavy “The Healers,” with its effortlessly executed sixteenth note choruses, and the thrashy “Code of Hammurabi” give Billy a soapbox to spew his supremely metal-themed cautionary tales. While Billy isn’t exactly Leonard Cohen, it’s abundantly clear that he’s read a book or two, and it shows on a collection of tunes that observes the fucked up state of the modern world through a historical lens. The record was written prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but I’ll be damned if I don’t find analogous easter eggs around every corner. On “The Healers” Mother Nature is not only the great healer, but also the great leveler, and “Code of Hammurabi’s” declaration that an “eye for an eye for an eye, the strong will not injure the weak” reflects the collective unrest of the population in the wake of some especially power-hungry politicians.
Elsewhere, the standout “City of Angels” marries some fluid bass playing by DiGiorgia to Billy’s LA serial killer themed, melodic, mid-tempo elegy. The sparse choruses stand in defiance of the old school chug of the verses before the middle eight hits with a compact guitar solo and an extended wah wah pedaled bass solo that would make Geezer Butler proud.
“Curse of Osiris’, the last fully formed and most satisfying tune on the record, is a thrash metal leviathan. The breakneck speed of the verses crash into a blast beat adorned, black metal-ish chorus; which finds Billy reaching deep into his toolkit for a throat-shredding shriek worthy of the song’s Egyptian Lord of the Underworld namesake.
On Titans of Creation, the thrash titans in Testament turn in another solid release, further establishing themselves as one of the “trve” gods in the pantheon of metal.