Concert Review –Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/27/2017)

When you have two of the best and most iconic Thrash Metal bands of all time playing together in the city, you know exactly where you have to be.

OPENING ACTS: Prong and Sepultura

As much as I enjoy the Phoenix Concert Theatre and obviously the bands that were going to play last night, I truly and deeply hate the weekdays rush hour traffic to get from my town, the suburban Oakville, to Toronto whenever there’s a good metal concert I want to attend. At least the weather was fantastic (even with a short storm that happened at around 7pm), with the temperature being above 20 degrees, which means no one had to carry their burdensome jackets like what always happens when a concert is in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, due to traffic (and because I had to eat something before heading to the venue), I completely missed the performance by American Crossover Thrash power trio PRONG. I have absolutely no idea if it was a good concert or not. Well, probably yes as the group spearheaded by Tommy Victor has all it takes to deliver great music to the audience, but unfortunately I can’t say a word about what they did last night, not even write down their setlist.

Band members
Tommy Victor – lead vocals, guitar
Jason Christopher – bass guitar, backing vocals
Art Cruz – drums

Fortunately, I got to the Phoenix Concert Theatre just in time to see the always amazing show by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal masters SEPULTURA, who are currently promoting their latest album, the very experimental and exciting Machine Messiah.  Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Eloy Casagrande put on an electrified performance on stage from start to finish, blending several songs of their new album like the excellent Phantom Self and Sworn Oath with all-time classics such as Desperate Cry, Inner Self (my favorite of the night) and Refuse/Resist, and of course the song most fans at the venue wanted to hear, their ritualistic hymn Roots Bloody Roots. The sound was very clear, cohesive and powerful, just like what the band offers us in their studio albums, proving Sepultura are a band that always provides their fans the same high level of quality found in their studio versions when they transport those compositions to the stage. As usual, the highlights of their performance were the insane riffs, solos and other awesome tricks done by Andreas with his guitar. That guy is one of the most gifted guitarists in the history of heavy music, which means if you’ve never seen him playing live, don’t miss that chance the next time “Sepultura do Brasil” visit your city.

Setlist
I Am the Enemy
Phantom Self
Choke
Desperate Cry
Sworn Oath
Inner Self
Alethea
Resistant Parasites
Refuse/Resist
Ratamahatta
Roots Bloody Roots

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

After a short bathroom and beer break, it was time for American Thrash Metal behemoths TESTAMENT to create a sonic Armageddon in Toronto with their unparalleled aggression and refined technique. I guess I always say the same thing about Testament, but all band members are extremely talented and way above average, in special the guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick and the human earthquake Gene Hoglan. Those two are not simple musicians, they’re demonic beasts when armed with their instruments, delivering the best of the best when it comes to heavy music.

Blasting some of their newest creations from the best metal album of 2016, the superb Brotherhood Of The Snake, especially the kick-ass tunes Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold, with old school songs and newer classics, they delivered a flawless performance for the delight of all metalheads at the venue. A few songs from their setlist deserve some special attention, like the brutal and sensational Rise Up for its enhanced mighty power when played live, the high-octane Centuries of Suffering for the insanely intricate magic Gene does behind his drums, and Electric Crown for the amount of groove and feeling flowing from the band’s instruments.

My only complaint about the concert was the excessive amount of solos, one for each band member. As much as I love each guy from the band, I personally prefer regular songs than solos. If they replaced those solos with newer songs like “The Number Game” or “Native Blood”, or with classic like “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “Burnt Offerings”, it would have been just perfect, but that’s just my opinion. The whole concert was fuckin’ awesome anyway; not even all those solos were able to cool down the audience, mainly because whenever there was a solo there was also a demolishing classic right after it, like when they played the circle pit-generator First Strike Is Deadly after Gene’s drum solo.

Before playing the encore, the iconic Chuck Billy, who by the way is singing better and better as time goes by, therefore being able to perfectly replicate his sensational deep growls live without making any extra effort, told the fans a story about when they were in Texas hanging out with the guys from one of the most respected, energized and violent bands of all time, the one and only Pantera, drinking Jack Daniel’s (and probably taking other stuff as well) with them. Can you imagine that? Testament and Pantera together? The 90’s were definitely the best period for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that. Chuck said that after a lot of drinking, something hit his head (maybe a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or maybe it was the alcohol itself) and he told the other guys he had the name for their new album. It was going to be called Practice What you Preach, one of their biggest hits, and one of the best of the night as well.

There was still time for one last sick mosh pit with Over the Wall, and after all was said and done you could see how happy all fans of Testament were with their amazing performance. As Chuck said, I hope all promoters in Canada turn their eyes to Testament more often aiming at having more concerts all over the country, not only two or three cities. Let’s hope that those promoters listen to the deep voice by Chuck and we have more of the brotherhood of Thrash Metal in our currently not-so-cold country, because after such brilliant performance last night I’m sure all Torontonian fans of Testament are eager for more of their music.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Alex Skolnick’s Guitar Solo
Electric Crown
Into the Pit
Low
Throne of Thorns
Stronghold
Eric Peterson’s Guitar Solo
Eyes of Wrath
Gene Hoglan’s Drum Solo
First Strike Is Deadly
Steve DiGiorgio’s Bass Solo
Urotsukidôji
Souls of Black
Seven Seals
The New Order

Encore:
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

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Album Review – Testament / Brotherhood Of The Snake (2016)

Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet or die.

Rating1

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snakeRight after taking your first listen at Brotherhood Of The Snake, the eleventh studio album by American Thrash Metal servicemen Testament, you’ll realize what you have in your hands is a newborn metal classic. From start to finish, Brotherhood Of The Snake offers fans of both old school and modern Thrash Metal everything we love and crave in this type of music, from deep guttural vocals and supersonic blast beats to intricate and hellish guitar riffs and solos. And after Brotherhood Of The Snake, we can also say Testament brought into being a new first-class trilogy in heavy music, as all albums released after the band’s huge time off from studio in the early 2000’s, those being The Formation Of Damnation (2008), Dark Roots Of Earth (2012) and now Brotherhood Of The Snake, are beyond magnificent.

Featuring a menacing and classy artwork by Israeli artist Eliran Kantor, who has been working with Testament in all their releases since 2008, Brotherhood Of The Snake transpires pure Thrash Metal in all its 45 minutes of duration. Of course there are also their classic mid-tempo and slow, heavy tunes, but more than half of the album is comprised of high-speed thrashy material that will certainly ignite some demented mosh pits during their live concerts. Regarding the main concept of the album, Chuck has stated in one of his interviews that the album draws lyrical inspiration from the ancient astronaut hypothesis, namely through the Ancient Aliens television program. Furthermore, he said the title comes from the name of an ancient secret society (set up thousands of years ago by an alien named Ea or Enki, by the way).

The initial cavernous roar by Chuck in the title-track Brotherhood of the Snake is the epitome of the whole album, being barbaric, intimidating and thrilling at the same time. Moreover, the perfect riffs by both Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick are mightily enhanced by the thunderous beats blasted by the juggernaut Gene Hoglan, making the lyrics sound even more meaningful in the end (“They’ve taken the tablets and hidden the scrolls / To deceive the ones they protect / The truth of creation, mutation of man / Entombed in the vatican walls”), with the song’s heavier-than-hell ending being just the icing on the cake. And it looks like their Thrash Metal onslaught has no time to end based on the amazing The Pale King, where it’s possible to savor the potent sound emanating from each instrument due to the crystal clear production of the album, in special the rumbling weapon carried by Steve Di Giorgio. In addition, Chuck treats us all with another of his flawless performances on vocals in this rhythmic and raw composition, something only a band like Testament can provide.

testament-2016Stronghold feels like a tribute to themselves and to the golden years of Bay Area Thrash, a fuckin’ kick-ass mosh pit-generator with bestial vocals and even more bestial backing vocals with the guitars by Eric and Alex penetrating our bones and lacerating our spinal cords mercilessly. In other words, this is a sonic orgasm for fans of fast and furious Thrash Metal from the 80’s, and I guess I don’t need to repeat myself and say it will sound absolutely perfect when played live. Following that thrashy storm, we have Seven Seals, showcasing beautiful guitar solos by Eric and Alex as well as intelligent and meaningful lyrics powerfully declaimed by Chuck, all embraced by heaviness to the second power, and it doesn’t matter if Gene is playing at full speed or if the song demands groovier and more rhythmic beats, he always delivers. And Born in a Rut, another groovy composition with fierce drums and a more serene (but also obscure) aura, concludes the first half of the album on a high note, perfect for enjoying a cold a beer while banging your head to another lesson in heavy music by Testament.

Another sensational hymn by Chuck and his unstoppable horde in undoubtedly Centuries of Suffering, where the dynamic duo Eric and Alex are once again on fire with their boisterous guitars, delivering riffs and solos that sound like if they were forged in the fires of the underworld. Not only that, what Gene does with his drum kit at around two minutes is truly impressive, increasing the song’s quality and ferocity to a whole new level. That guy is indeed a human wrecking machine. In Neptune’s Spear (a beautiful name for a first-class song), I can’t decide if the pounding drums by Gene or the blazing guitar riffs and solos by both Eric and Alex are the best elements of it, not to mention the aggressiveness brought forth by Steve and his unique bass sounds; whereas Black Jack is the ultimate soundtrack for an insane cards game “in the city of sin”, with its straightforward lyrics being boosted by its demolishing instrumental.

brotherhood-of-the-snake-boxset

Brotherhood Of The Snake Limited Edition Book Boxset

I’m neither pro nor against the theme explored in Canna-Business as I believe each one of us has the freedom to do whatever we want with our lives, and that’s why I want to focus on the music itself rather than on the discussion if that’s right or wrong. The whole song is evidently overpowering and electrifying, as expected in any composition by Testament, a high-octane chant with Chuck barking like a beast as well as providing some really deep vocals and vociferations. And lastly, The Number Game keeps the fire of Thrash Metal burning high and bright, with the performances by Chuck and Gene trespassing the frontiers of aggressiveness. No words can describe their awesomeness, especially the crazy beats and fills by Gene, therefore I suggest you simply go listen to it nonstop and don’t forget to break your fuckin’ neck headbanging to its brilliant hellish riffs.

There’s a series of videos on Nuclear Blast’s YouTube channel where Testament discuss each song of the album, their inspiration to write Brotherhood Of The Snake and the ancient alien theme, among other topics, like you can see for example HERE. I personally recommend you go watch those videos to get more involved with such an epic album, and of course if you’re planning on buying this instant classic just go for the Limited Edition Book Boxset, which includes the CD, the complete album on five brown 7 inch EP’s, an oversized 7 inch booklet, a 40×60 inch poster flag and a metal pin. Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by Testament, one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet or die. As simple as that.

Best moments of the album: Brotherhood of the Snake, Stronghold, Centuries of Suffering and The Number Game.

Worst moments of the album: Obviously none.

Released in 2016 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Brotherhood of the Snake 4:14
2. The Pale King 4:51
3. Stronghold 4:00
4. Seven Seals 5:38
5. Born in a Rut 4:57
6. Centuries of Suffering 3:34
7. Neptune’s Spear 5:27
8. Black Jack 4:21
9. Canna-Business 3:47
10. The Number Game 4:38

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums