Testament
First Strike Still Deadly (reissue)

Albums such as this where a band takes some of their classic songs and re-records them with updated production are kinda tricky business, because your always gonna have fans that say “what was wrong with the way it sounded before? I liked it that way” and turn away from it. In the case of Testament though, I, being the Testament fanboy that I am, think they’ve done pretty well with First Strike Still Deadly, a collection of ten songs split between their first two albums, The Legacy and The New Order.

First I gotta say I love the song selection – all of my favorites from those first two albums are represented here, though I would’ve love to have seen “Apocolyptic City” or “Do or Die” included as well. Most of the songs benefit greatly from the updated production values, especially all the tracks from The Legacy (“Over the Wall”, “The Haunting”, “Burnt Offerings”, “First Strike Is Deadly”, and “Alone in the Dark”) as it gives them much more punch and heft. The riffs have been made to sound heavier, Skolnick’s leads and solos are pushed forward and clarified much more to really jump out and grab your attention, and the drums (handled here by John Tempesta) seem to hit harder to add more strength to the final product.

From The New Order, “Into the Pit”, “Disciples of the Watch” and the title track are also improved by the re-recording, though on “Trial by Fire” and “The Preacher”, they seemed to have lost a certain quality and some of charm that the old, rawer styled production gave them.

Vocals: Chuck Billy for the most part stays true to his original performances, though naturally his voice is a bit deeper, and in some places here and there has changed the delivery to his more guttural approach that didn’t surface until the later albums. The most interesting and surprising thing though is the inclusion of original Testament (then known as Legacy) vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza, who of course left the band to join Exodus following the departure of Paul Baloff on “Alone in the Dark” and a Testament cut I’ve never heard before “Reign of Terror”. On “Alone in the Dark”, you can tell that those vocal lines were meant for Zetro as he sounds good and very natural singing them, though Chuck Billy will always be THE vocalist for Testament – they just wouldn’t be them without him.

In conclusion, if you’re a Testament fan, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t check this out, unless your just that against the idea of them tampering with some of your favorite tunes, because they’ve done a hell of job of re-recording and actually improving upon the originals.

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Written by Larry "Staylow" Owens
April 14th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Dan

    There’s nothing wrong with these re-recordings, it’s just that it’s kind of weird to reissue a record that was probably contractual filler in the first place. Like reissuing “Best of Iron Maiden 2006”


  2. Commented by: Staylow

    I think you’re right about the contractual obligation thing. Prosthetic reissuing it though was to just make it available again. They bought the rights to this, Demonic and The Gathering, all of which were out of print due to being released on the now defunct Spitfire Records.

    That may have been a useful bit of information for the review looking back now…


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    love this album, bought it the first time it came out. when done well, this sort of thing is really cool. but it can go the other way – witness Dimmu’s Stormblast redo – they sucked all the charm out of that one.


  4. Commented by: Chris Ayers

    Staylow, you’re correct, but what bums me is that the original album (only from 2001, mind you) isn’t really that hard to find. If it were impossible to get, and Ebay prices were $50+, THEN maybe I’d understand. I reviewed it back then — and I reviewed it again for Exclaim magazine…and loved it both times. I’ve really gotta see Alex Skolnick with the reunion band, though!


  5. Commented by: Dimaension X

    Why re-issue a re-recorded album? There are too many bands that do this (Nevermore’s Enemies of Reality, Sigh’s Gallows Gallery, Kamelot’s Ghost Opera, etc.)

    Why can’t bands just get it right the first time and leave it, instead of doing the “George Lucas Digital Updated Umpteenth Version”. How many times are we expected to buy the same album again and again?


  6. Commented by: SerenityInFire

    The original actually was reviewed on the old Digital Metal website. The reissue actually has the cover from the Japanese version of the original release.


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