Testament is easily one of the most popular bands from the mid-1980s Bay Area thrash scene. For nearly 30 years, they have provided us with consistently strong thrash metal that remains fresh and interesting to this day. Although most of us prefer the early work from albums like The Legacy and The New Order, 2008's long-awaited The Formation of Damnation reminded us that Testament could still produce some of the finest old-school thrash available. In the next few months, they will finally release a new album, The Dark Roots of the Earth, which is already promising to deliver more of the same blend of speed and aggression we've come to expect. This Testament show, however, was not a showcase for any of the new material. Instead, it was a simple celebration of what Testament has already done, an evening for fans to jump, mosh, sing and headbang with a classic band playing their best tunes.
I've been to lots of concerts over the years, but I have to say that Testament is one of the happiest live acts I've seen. I mention this because with all this band has been through, from health problems to personnel changes, I wouldn't think they could find such joy from performance. I was wrong. From start to finish, Chuck Billy greeted fans with a giant smile and horns raised proudly. When he wasn't singing, he used his portable microphone stand as a guitar stand-in and pretended to finger the chords (even some of the solos) as Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson produced the actual notes. A consummate showman, Billy kept the fans' attention focused on the music, the rhythms, and the words. I was particularly impressed with his ability to get the audience to hold their arms up as though holding the handlebars to a chopper during "Henchmen Ride." With my own fists raised in the air, I felt something of the energy and the excitement that was in the air all night.
Alex Skolnick's guitar playing was in top form. I was a little worried that his professional expansion into jazz music would create some boredom with his earlier work with Testament. But he played with such great enthusiasm--and looked so happy to be on stage--that my worries didn't last. Skolnick played most of his solos right on the edge of the stage, his guitar raised to his hip, his hands fingering the notes with dexterity and grace. Skolnick is one of my favorite metal guitarists and tonight's show only solidified my feelings. No less talented, Eric Peterson brought a great deal of harmony and rhythm to the show. Sure, he doesn't play as many flashy solos, but he nevertheless sets a standard for excellence.
In all my years as a Testament fan, I've never given as much thought to the drum parts and, particularly, to Greg Christian's bass playing. After tonight, I need to go back and listen more carefully to the outstanding rhythm section of this band. I was especially impressed with Christian's bass technique. He has a fluid style, but is not content to simply play easy root parts that keep listeners connected to the chords. Instead, he roams around the fretboard, bringing virtuosity to his playing that was fun to watch. If you ever get to see him perform, check out the way he moves his hands from note to note. He has a great technique that lots of players could learn from.
I could probably go on about this show for several pages. I should mention that the supporting band, Truce, is a Salt Lake City-based thrash act that has been around for a long time. They aren't touring with Testament, so other people won't get to see them in other cities. They played a great set, however, and sounded amazing. Too bad they don't get more attention. The night, though, belonged to Testament, a band that clearly has years of quality music left in them. If you get a chance to check them out, I'd recommend it.
2. The Preacher
3. The New Order
4. The Persecuted Won't Forget
5. Practice What You Preach
6. Over The Wall
7. Souls of Black
8. Into the Pit
9. The Haunting
10. Electric Crown
11. Henchmen Ride
12. More Than Meets The Eye
13. Disciples of the Watch
14. D. N. R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
15. 3 Days of Darkness
16. Formation of Damnation
Review and Pictures: Carl Sederholm