Album review: TESTAMENT – Brotherhood Of The Snake

Nuclear Blast [Release date 28.10.16]

How many bands with let’s say a 20-30 year lifespan can you name that have consistently released excellent albums from album #1 to <insert latest>? It’s not as easy as it seems. Most bands with that length of a career will stumble a bit, maybe do an album that treads a little from what brought them to the game, or completely abandon the genre altogether. Of course, sometimes there are drastic line-up changes that will inevitably create a different feel to the music. When I asked myself this same question, one band jumped to the top (which was convenient really as I was going to write about their new album.) That band? Testament. In the nearly three decades since the release of their debut album Legacy, Testament has persevered through changing music fads, line-up changes, and health scares, yet have always managed to release albums that consistently pushed them beyond the previous, testing the limits of thrash metal, and typically coming heavier, stronger, and better for it.

Their newest, their 11th studio release, Brotherhood of the Snake, is yet another hallmark in the bands legacy. This is the third album since the triumphant return of guitarist Alex Skolnick (and if I personally have a dark mark on this bands career it was the loss of Skolnick as he has been one of my favorite guitarists since he first dazzled my ears many ages ago) and I believe their best. It’s a full throttle, hard charged metal extravaganza. Right off the bat it’s the most old school thrash album they’ve done in a while, yet they’ve kept it super heavy and dark, the same trajectory they’ve been on certainly since the reunion, if not prior.) Not only is Skolnick an all-time favorite of mine, but Eric Peterson is an amazing player too. Both men bounce off of each other perfectly, creating such a savage guitar assault throughout. As if that’s not enough adding legends Gene Hoglan and Steve Di Giorgio on drums and bass rounds out a four man metal machine unlike any other. For my money, this is the best line-up musically Testament has ever had. Finally, adding the consummate thrash frontman Chuck Billy, whose dinstinct voice has set them apart from so many others, sounding just as fresh as ever. However, nothing makes a band stronger than having fantastic songs, and Brotherhood of the Snake is certainly full of them. With “The Pale King,” “Centuries of Suffering,” and “Born In A Rut” are instant classics. Even a song like “Neptune’s Spear,” which if I’m being honest I wasn’t expecting much from the title, is as brutal as any song from their past.

Clearly Testament have had a long, storied career in the thrash metal world. Coming in during the period that Thrash Metal was starting to come to prominence, they very easily could be one of the Big 4 bands right now had things played out a little differently. Certainly one of the greatest bands of the genre ever, they’re still keeping it real and doing it right, providing an unrelenting metal fist with the album Brotherhood of the Snake. This is a no bullshit album from a no bullshit band. Buy it…now! *****

Review by Chris Martin

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