Testament – Titans Of Creation (Album Review)

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A titanic explosion to rock the pillars of creation.

It would be quite a stretch to say that Testament, one of the premier thrash outfits to come roaring out of San Francisco in the mid-1980s, ever left the scene. Nevertheless, there is a sentiment among old school thrashers that following the close of the decade that witnessed their birth as a mad thrashing powerhouse, that Chuck Billy and company had abandoned the impact-based, riff-happy approach that typified their seminal offerings. This isn’t to say that recent outings like “The Formation Of Damnation” and “The Dark Roots Of Earth” have been slouches in any sense, but there has been a definitely tendency towards a more groove-oriented modernity to their sound ever since the release of 1992’s “The Ritual”, arguably this band’s attempt at rivaling the massively popular outings of Metallica and Megadeth from said time period. In this age of ongoing, primitive thrash revivalism, it seems that the hour is right for these veterans to turn back the clock a bit on their sound.

Although definitely an exercise in crushing, high-fidelity modern thrashing from a production standpoint, 2020’s “Titans Of Creation” sees a notable return to a more old school brand of thrashing from the standpoint of execution. Most of this owes to Chuck Billy’s colossal vocal assault toning down the low-pitched grunting quality for something a bit closer to the classic, mid-ranged gruff style that first saw him being compared to James Hetfield back in the day. Naturally it’s not a full on throwback to his 1987 vocal persona which was painted with occasional Ian Gillian meets Rob Halford moments when shrieking in his upper range, but what is one display here definitely has a nimbler quality to it, which plays off well against a very involved and borderline tech-thrashing approach out of the rest of the band (one would expect no less from a rhythm section juggernaut consisting of the likes of Gene Hoglan and Steve DiGiorgio), sometimes winding up in borderline clean-sung territory. Even more enthralling is the frenetic riff work of Eric Peterson and Skolnick’s spellbinding solos, rivaling and perhaps surpassing his seminal moments on “The New Order”.

As with the case of a number of recent outings by fellow members of the Bay Area elite such as Death Angel and Exodus, this is an album that does not live by speed alone, but definitely has a greater share of it than its immediate predecessors. Gallop-happy crushers with plenty of detailing peppered on top like “Children Of The Next Level” and gear-grinding monsters like “Night Of The Witch” don’t pull any punches, but showcase a level of nuance and development that is a bit more indicative of where thrash metal was headed just before its original denouement in the early 90s when Forbidden and Heathen were moving the style in a more intricate direction. On the other hand, speedy flashes of rage like “WWIII” and “False Prophet” hearken back to that more excessive period of the mid-80s where it was all about how could go the most insane in the pit without committing suicide, opposed on the more grooving side of the spectrum with the slower-paced yet still vicious “Symptoms”.

“Titans Of Creation” Album Artwork

While most of the aforementioned songs are not without some degree of precedence in Testament’s recent past, if having a bit more bite to them, there are some pretty jarring surprises that seem to come from right out of left field. The off-kilter melodic yet smasher of a mid-paced anthem “City Of Angels” proves to be the longest and most complex of the pack, occasionally exhibiting a quasi-ballad character and showcasing some of Chuck’s cleaner vocal moments, to speak nothing for the fancy bass noodling out of DiGiorgio and a healthy degree of Black Sabbath influences smattered among the middle section of the song. The closing instrumental “Catacombs” gets a bit trippy with some orchestral additives like something out of one of The Mummy films, with a thrashing backdrop of course. But the real outlier of the bunch is the almost blackened thrasher “Curse Of Osiris”, which sounds halfway like something left over from Eric Peterson’s latest stint with Dragonlord.

It’s incredibly early for attributing a title to the current era of metal music, but if this album and the recent slew of amazing offerings out of thrash metal’s older guard is any indication, it will likely be remembered as the era of comebacks. As stated early, Testament is a band that never really left the scene even when it all but died in the mid-90s, but there has definitely been a few clear moments of ebbing in what most would rightly dub a career dominated by a consistent flow. “Titans Of Creation” is one of these new classics that can easily go toe to toe with the seminal offerings from the style’s heyday, all the while still being sonically appropriate for the current age. Opinions may vary, but yours truly would go so far as to call this the best thing to come out of Testament’s arsenal since their riveting debut “The Legacy”, and few would deny that it’s anything other than the highest impact thrasher out of them since the end of the 80s. A must hear occasion for any self-respecting thrash maniac, and definitely an album that will still be relevant in the years to come.

Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Released Date: April 3rd, 2020
Genre: Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • Chuck Billy / Lead vocals
  • Eric Peterson / Rhythm, lead guitar & vocals
  • Alex Skolnick / Lead guitar
  • Steve Di Giorgio / Bass guitar
  • Gene Hoglan / Drums

“Titans Of Creation” Track-listing:

  1. Children Of The Next Level
  2. WWIII
  3. Dream Deceiver
  4. Night Of The Witch
  5. City Of Angels
  6. Ishtar’s Gate
  7. Symptoms
  8. False Prophet
  9. The Healers
  10. Code Of Hammurabi
  11. Curse Of Osiris
  12. Catacombs

“Titans Of Creation” will be available in the following formats

  • CD Digipak
  • Light Blue Cassette (Limited to 250)
  • DLP + CD Mail-order Box Set (Limited to 1500)
    • Includes Earth Element Vinyl
  • Vinyl
    • Fire Element Edition Vinyl (Limited to 2150)
    • Air Element Edition Vinyl
    • Water Element Edition Vinyl
    • Blue Vinyl (Limited to 500; Retail)
  • T-shirt
  • TS+ DLP bundle

Pre-order your copy of “Titans Of Creation” in the format of your choice here.

9.1 Excellent

Though often relegated to second-tier status by mainstream outlets due to getting to the scene a tad later than the Big 4, Bay Area thrash titans Testament have unleashed a formidable creation to rival them all mere months into the new decade

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9.5
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