Testament

Titans Of Creation

Written by: RUB on 24/04/2020 00:14:20

Many have and will continue to argue that Testament deserves a spot amongst The Big Four of thrash metal, which has thus earned the band the title of ‘the fifth member’ thanks to the countless legendary albums they have released since their inception all the way back in the mid-‘80s. Compared to the other four members of this esteemed club, in recent times Testament have differed in a significant way, however. In the last 12 years, they have released at least two highly acclaimed albums — “Dark Roots of the Earth” in 2012 and my personal favourite of those: “The Formation of Damnation” in 2008 — and I don’t believe I’m stepping on any toes when I say the other bands can’t boast such a claim. It simply looks like the Oakland, CA-based thrashers are living their second youth, seemingly revitalized with every new release — and this is even in the shadow of lead singer Chuck Billy’s being diagnosed with and beating a rare kind of cancer back in 2001, and more recently, both him and bassist Steve DiGiorgio’s having been struck by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year. All this hasn’t stopped Testament from releasing their 13th full-length with the quite fitting name “Titans of Creation”, so that only leaves one question to be answered: does it sound as fresh and vigorous as the band has done in recent times, or will we finally see the aging thrashers slowing down?

One thing is certain: the group’s creativity has definitely not waned. Clocking in at almost one hour, “Titans of Creation” is perhaps a tad too long for my personal liking. But nevertheless, the second single “Children of the Next Level”, kicks off the album in a breathtaking manner. The intro to this thrash-banger should sound instantly recognizable to any Testament fan, and as Billy’s distinct harsh vocals chime in, there should be little doubt that this is one of those songs that will always be aired at future concerts. The drumming from the one and only Gene Hoglan serves as the perfect delivery mechanism for the fast pace for the album set out by the twin guitars of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson. The sound is still very much a modern take on the thrash metal genre (not least because of the insanely crisp production) but it makes the music sound fresh and should thus strike a chord with both the older segment of Testament’s fanbase, and surely also the younger one.

A couple of tracks into the album, I must, however, admit that I am struck with a sense of disappointment. It’s not that the songs aren’t good or well-written, but to me they lack that special feeling, that X-factor that has made Testament into one of the standout bands on the current thrash metal scene. It might sound arrogant, but I’ve come to expect something truly magnificent from these veterans like on the two records mentioned in the introduction to this review. It seems as though on both this album and its predecessor “Brotherhood of the Snake”, the group haven’t quite managed to utilize their abilities and writing prowess to the full extent. It’s not like “Titans of Creation” is absolute garbage, mind you; Testament on autopilot still seem to produce good music, but none of it comes close to their ‘80s and ‘90s material — or even the two previously mentioned records from 2012 and 2008, respectively. See “WWIII” and “Dream Deceiver” as examples of this. Individually, these tracks are actually pretty good. They deliver straightforward thrash metal with some nice melodies and infectious riffs, but these elements alone just don’t cut it for Testament anymore, given that they have quite recently proved themselves perfectly capable of penning mind-blowing tracks, too.

But now to the good part, and why “Titans of Creation” of course isn’t a garbage album at all. As already mentioned, “Children of the Next Level” is, simply put, an awesome track, but also “Night of the Witch” helps elevate the record further. Its second half contains perhaps the biggest number of highlights on the album, with both “False Prophet”, “The Healers”, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all “Curse of Osiris” all offering something a bit more special than your dime-a-dozen Testament chops. Without going into too much detail, the latter literally made my jaw drop when I heard it the first time when listening to the entire album in one sitting. Out of nowhere, black metal elements on a Testament album, you say? Don’t mind if I do! Just as I thought this album would be somewhat along the ‘usual’ lines, the band drop this track second to last and catch me completely off guard. Surprises like this are what keeps the listener on the edge of their seat, so I’m very puzzled by why Testament elected to place it as the penultimate track, especially given that when you want to release an album almost an hour long, you need those extraordinaire hooks and tracks throughout the album that truly stand out in order to render the listening experience so much more enjoyable.

On a quick, final note, the great album covers are really standing in line for 2020, and the artwork for “Titans of Creation” is no exception. It is truly a thing of beauty in its resemblance to pictures depicting the cosmos of ancient European mythologies. The piece by Eliran Kantor shows how mythological titans shaped and molded the human DNA and civilisation, and look a lot a Renaissance-era painting. Again, I can easily see this hanging on my wall, just like it really compliments the album nicely.

So there you have it: “Titans of Creation” didn’t quite measure up to my expectations. Perhaps they were set too high, but that only speaks in favour of the band, if anything. I would still recommend the record to any fan of the thrash metal genre, but perhaps I’d also recommend them to focus their attention on the tracks mentioned in the ‘Download’ section below, as this is where the true gold is found. I’m very pleased to say that the album also managed to catch me completely off guard with the aforementioned, very un-Testament-style track near the end, which underlines even further why this ultimately isn’t an easily forgotten album. It’s packed with groove, rhythm and aggression, but still mixed with plenty of melody as listeners of Testament should be familiar with, and while it is of course far too early to look forward to the next album from these Bay Area thrashers, I cannot help but hope they can rediscover their edge and write yet another breathtaking album worthy of the classic label.

7

Download: Curse of Osiris, Children of the Next Level, The Healers, False Prophet, Night of the Witch
For the fans of: Annihilator, Death Angel, Exodus, Forbidden, Overkill, Slayer
Listen: Facebook

Release date 03.04.2020
Nuclear Blast

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