Testament
Titans of Creation

Okay friends, lets just skip all the rigmarole and pointless backstory and just get right to it. Testament‘s newest release, their twelth full-length of all original material, Titans of Creation, is good. Really good. Actually, I’d say it’s pretty damn great. In fact, it may be the best thing the Bay Area thrashers have released since the turn of the 21st century. It’s definitely better than previous album, Brotherhood of the Snake, and The Formation of Damnation, and it may even beat out Dark Roots of Earth, though the jury, aka my opinion + time, is still out on that one. If nothing else, Titans of Creation is the most “classic” sounding album from the band’s recent output; meaning, while as a whole the record could be described as a mix of The New Order meets The Gathering, individually,  the songs run the gamut of the group’s entire 20th century, mostly successful, reign of thrash metal from The Legacy to The Gathering.

Sounds awesome, does it not? Well, it is pretty awesome . Lets be honest though, after a thirty-seven year existence and a long established sound and style, Testament isn’t one to throw many curve balls, at least not in the last twenty-plus years, so expecting something “new” or out of the ordinary from the band isn’t really on the plate. Though being reinvigorated and full of youthful exuberance clearly is; not only is it on the plate,   it’s dished out in heaping, hungry, man sized portions of thrash-tastic bliss.

Shittin’ and gettin’ right from the get go, album opener, “Children of the Next Level”, wastes zero time in establishing itself as a contender for a bonafide classic Testament powerhouse. The song is a fattened, groove filled, thrashing banger stocked with what makes Testament, well, Testament. With catchy and rocking riffage, fantastic lead flairs, actual guitar solos, courtesy of mainstay axe grinder, Eric Peterson, and the always impressive talents of Alex Skolnick, Chuck Billy’s always outstanding vocal prowess, Gene Hoglan’s driving drum wizardry and Steve DiGiorgio’s fingers of destruction, “Children of the Next Level”  easily takes its place amongst other notable album openers  like “Over the Wall”, “Eerie Inhabitants”, “Practice What You Preach”, “Low” and “D.N.R.(Do Not Resuscitate)”. Couple the track with the still stranger than strange, even after all these years, lyrical true story of the Heaven’s Gate cult and their thirty-nine member mass suicide in ’97, where cult members planned to ascend spiritually to a literal U.F.O. that was supposedly, trailing the Halle Bop comet, and travel to a new existential beginning, and “Children of the Next Level” ends up really cementing itself in your head.  Wild shit my friends, it was back then and still is to this day; but it does make for some great story telling.

As Titans of Creation makes its way through a 58 minute run time that successfully never seems to feel too long or bloated, we’re treated to a breadth of quality thrash  happenings. From the hard hitting, fist banging, circle pit inducers of “WWIII” and “False Prophet”, the some what toned back, but no less lethal or engaging, Souls of Black/The Ritual-esque caliber of “Dream Deceiver”, or the Practice What You Preach meets The Gathering vibe of “City of Angels” and “Ishtar’s Gate”, Titans of Creation delivers on all fronts. The ability to shine as individual pieces to the greater overall puzzle is quite impressive as well when it comes to Titans of Creation. The album is water fucking tight and about as cohesive as they come, but I’ll be damned if every player isn’t afforded the opprtunity to hold the spotlight, or at the very least be realized for the integral part that they play in the success achieved on Titans….

Personally, I feel one of the biggest aspects of this successful individual integralness, and probably one that will go mostly unnoticed or casually referenced, is DiGiorgio’s bass playing. That might seem like a weird statement to make, considering the man is an actual legend in the extreme metal world and his performances are, and have been, consistently stellar for the his entire career. Yet as magnificent of a player as DiGiorgio is, I never felt that he captured that one essential ingredient of bass tone and attack that Greg Christian was always able to achieve with Chuck, Eric, and the boys. That assault, when done right, propelled the already mighty thrash to the next level. Though with Titans of Creation, DiGiorgio delivers precisely that ingredient of tone and attack that not only helps in bringing the pain, but adds to that classic nostalgic vibe that the new album pulls of so valiantly. You can hear it so marvelously in the aforementioned “City of Angels”, where it backs and opens up the song’s Slayer-ish opening riff, and the fantastic fist banging, neck wrecking midtempo stomp of “Symptoms”, as well as the “Urotsukidōji” styled flavorings in “Code of Hammurabi”.

Everyone is simply on top of their game when it comes to Titans…. Chuck’s vocals are spot on dyn-O-mite; explosive and invocative, with so many sweet phrasings and sing-along parts and choruses. One need not look any further than the first single released for Titans…, “Night of the Witch”, for proof if Chuck has got the goods or not. The man sounds hungry, viscerally seething, and full of his trademark vocalizations (I especially dig the few seconds of the classic, deep, spoken-ish word ending on “Ishtar’s Gate”). In fact, his performance on Titans of Creation ranks right up there with his best, and taking in his age and experience with life, so to speak, he is kind of mirroring Bruce Dickinson; obviously not in sound, but in the fact that they both are delivering some of their best performances of their entire career. That’s one hell of a feat considering the pedigree and strength of Billy’s back catalog.

Of course you can’t forget to mention the drum work of Gene Hoglan, he’s a drum Lord for chrissakes’. As expected, Hoglan delivers exactly what needs to be laid down to not only support these fantastic rippers, but in many cases, helps in driving them to their fullest potential. His sense and style coupled with his uncanny attribute of being “The Atomic Clock” provides that extra flair that can result in the perfect amount of added heaviness needed; “Code of Hammurabi” is a great example of this, controlled perfection that adds so much to the song without ever stepping on it in the process. All of this ass kicking thrashing wouldn’t be possible though if not for the guitar team of Peterson and Skolnick. The two unleash one hell of a barrage of deadly riffs, licks, leads, and real deal, worthy of the term “solo”, guitar solos. Seriously, the solos throughout this album are so fucking good, that I’ve been somewhat blown away. Not only does every single track contain some form of a ripping ass lead, but every single one of those solos are note for note just as vital and essential to the songs success and overall headbusting; much like the way the leadwork in Megadeth‘s Rust in Peace is vital to its success.

Hats off to Eric Peterson. It’s no secret that he’s the main riffer/songwriter in the band, and no disrespect to the others, but without Peterson, this ship just doesn’t float. It’s his drive and vision, not too mention his trademark riffing/style and melodic flairs, as well as his use of harmonic minors and at times, the Arabian/Persian scale(s) that have made Testament the beast that it is; and Titans of Creation is honestly, some of his best and most mature thrashing work to date. Plus he delivers some great vicious vocals and Dragonlord influences on numbers like “Night of the Witch” and “Curse of Osiris”.

I’ve been quite long winded when it comes to this review of Titans of Creation, probably  and admittedly, unnecessarily so. On a career fast approaching forty years, there has obviously been plenty of time for one to have made up their mind about where they stand with the band. Having said that, all this review really needed to say is you know Testament. You know how they sound, how they write, and how they play. You know what they’re capable of and how they can throw down with the best of them, young and old. Titans of Creation throws down with the best as one of the best. From the songs, performances, production, tracklist flow, and stellar artwork, Titans… is a success. I know I’ve made a lot of comparisons and references to the band’s older material regarding the new album, and it’s true, this one does contain a vast nostalgic feel to it, but don’t let me fool you into thinking Titans of Creation is just rehashed drivel. It’s not. This is re-energized instinct and appetite is what this is; fresh familiarity, not a generic reboot. This is great stuff plain and simple.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
April 6th, 2020

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