REVIEW: TESTAMENT – “Brotherhood Of The Snake”
Owais 'Vitek' Nabi
2016 has been a great year for Thrash Metal so far. Looking back at the year, it is quite astonishing to note that so many legendary bands have dropped a release this year. Right from the American legends, Megadeth, Death Angel and Anthrax to their Teutonic brothers Sodom, Exumer and Destruction, 2016 will definitely go down as a fantastic year for Thrash Metal. With a little over three more months to go, I believe we aren’t anywhere near to the climax as yet, especially with Testament’s much anticipated eleventh studio release coming up on 28th October via Nuclear Blast Records. The band has named it ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ and trust me, every bit of this album, sounds as good as its majestic name.
The band unleash a monster in the album opener “Brotherhood of The Snake”, delivering oodles of thrashy groove-laden goodness as Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s delicious riffing pierces your cochlea during the opening moments of the track. Drummer Gene Hoglan’s thunderous crescendo follows as vocalist Chuck Billy’s volcanic roar completes this jaw-dropping intro to the album. From this moment on, you know you are in for the ride of your life. The track erupts into a mid-tempo groove monster racing towards you, infusing the faster intro riff as the chorus in between. Billy maintains his legacy as one of the strongest voices in Thrash Metal history with a perfect mix of low death growls and his trademark rhythmic screams. The opening moments of the title track itself had me completely sold on this album.
The band evolves the sound they incorporated in ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ by cranking up the groove and adding that extra punch to their compositions with amazing riffs that you will binge on. The progressive direction we saw the band take on their previous release is kept intact. So expect tempo changes and liberal melodic passages in sufficient doses. “The Pale King” continues the groove festival with Hoglan providing some exciting twists behind the kit. It is safe to say that the talented trio of Peterson, Skolnick and Hoglan reaches its true potential on this album. Never before have they sounded this great together. A great example of the magic they create can be evidenced in “Stronghold”, during the solo, a little after the 2 minute mark. If you are still sitting on your seats from that moment on till the end of the song, congratulations…you are a zombie! Bassist Stephen Di Giorgio conjures up an amazing tone on the bass and adds his punch to the compositions, and is well heard in the mix.
The band cranks up the melody on “Seven Seals” thanks to Skolnick’s mesmerizing work. The throttle on the groove is sustained and the band does a spectacular work in matching the feel of the track with its lyrics. As Chuck bellows “Step by step, the horsemen will ride…”, the band matches it with a massive-sounding stop-start section that made me visualize the lyrics of the song. I totally agree with Peterson when he summarizes ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ as ‘The Gathering’ with ‘The New Order’ meeting ‘Dark Roots of Earth’. Peterson’s composition on this album has the same aggression and intensity of the former and the melodic progressive tinge of the latter. I was glad that this album does not mess around with the Death Metal direction the band took earlier and neither does it go too much on the melodic end of the spectrum as ‘Dark Roots of Earth’. For example, there is no track like “Cold Embrace” or any evidence of too much experimentation with the band’s core sound. It is a straight up groove-laden riff monster and thrashy as hell.
The production and mixing is fantastic. Juan Urteaga and Andy Sneap do a great job in preserving the crunch of the sound and ensuring the talents of the band members are always on the forefront. You can understand Billy’s lyrics quite early and hear Di Giorgio’s twang on the lower end without much effort. In August 2012, guitarist Eric Peterson stated that Testament would record an eleventh studio album if ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ did well. I am so glad he did because ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ is one of the best albums by the band in recent times (if not the best). Right from Eliron Kantor’s stupendous artwork, the band’s compositions and the immersive production, there are zero complaints. ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ will devour you with its massive sound.