Back in April, we ran a very abbreviated review of this album. However, given its prominence--and the prominence of the legacy act in question--it feels deserving of a full writeup. Enjoy! - Ed.
Written by: Beaston Lane
Testament has dealt with many ups and downs throughout the course of their 30-plus year career, but their 13th release continues a hot streak that began with 2008’s comeback record, The Formation of Damnation. Once again, the band showcases their mastery of all things thrash metal, exploring their usual mystical, mythological, and dystopian themes. Longtime fans of Testament will find much to enjoy on this record, but it certainly won’t extend an olive branch to those on the fence.
Regarded as one of the finest thrash metal bands since their 1987 debut, The Legacy, Testament’s exceptional career eventually hit an impasse. After 1992’s The Ritual, the band descended into turmoil, with constantly changing personnel on the three following albums and palpable stylistic shifts. In 2001, Chuck Billy was diagnosed with cancer, effectively putting the band on hiatus until his recovery. Since Testament’s original lineup reunited in 2005, they have joined the ranks of Overkill as one of the most consistent bands in thrash metal, putting out solid records about every four years since 2008. That pattern doesn’t falter in 2020.
The band’s modern power is present at almost every moment on Titans of Creation, which helps everything stay turned up to eleven. Lead singles “Night of the Witch” and “Children of the Next Level” are gleaming examples of Testament's specific brand of 2000’s thrash--sinister, catchy, and heavy as hell. Even on mid-paced, (slightly) balladic songs such as “City of the Angels,” Testament is able to punish the listener with colossal chugs in between eerie guitar harmonies. Consistent has been a word synonymous with Testament for more than a decade, and it can be equally synonymous with this album’s track-listing.
As always, Alex Skolnick, Eric Peterson, and Steve DiGiorgio bring entertaining riffs and epic instrumental sections to the table, and Gene Hoglan keeps the nasty double-bass beats churning. The instrumental section is generally similar to that of previous albums, and there are only a few breaths of fresh air. Chuck Billy’s voice is clear and powerful whether it’s grumbling The Gathering-esque growls or singing soaring cleans that could find their home on The Ritual. On track nine, “The Healers,” both Billy and the instrumental section strike a perfect equilibrium between brutality, technicality, and catchiness. These elements comprise a deeply personal song about the three “healers” who helped Billy beat cancer which is both soothing and stirring.
While those that wanted to hear something totally new from Titans of Creation will have to hold out hope for overt experimentation on the band’s next record, that doesn’t mean this record is devoid of creativity. Billy lets his little-heard modern high-pitched scream rip during the choruses of “Night of the Witch” and the brutal and inventive “Curse of Osiris,” which also features many blast beats. DiGiorgio’s nimble bass-playing is also prominent in the mix, providing a thumping backbone to Skolnick and Peterson’s powerful riffs and anchoring the bare-bones verses of “Ishtar’s Gate.”
Despite the band dabbling in some uncharted territory, the greatest weakness of Titans of Creation is how many of its songs are interchangeable with efforts from Testament’s previous 2000’s records. “False Prophet,” one of the album’s most entertaining, mosh pit-fueling tracks, builds off of a main riff that feels like an identical twin to that of “Rise Up” from 2012’s Dark Roots of Earth.
Sometimes, Titans of Creation blends together, becoming lost in its own coherence to thrash tropes. The overall tempo and structure of most songs remains the same, and there aren’t many obvious highlights throughout the 59-minute runtime. In addition, album closer “Catacombs” does little more than add two minutes to the overall runtime, and “Code of Hammurabi” is easily overpowered by its predecessor, “The Healers,” and its successor, “Curse of Osiris.” Sometimes, getting your head pounded in for an hour gets a bit monotonous. With the two duds subtracted, Testament would’ve had a leaner, more memorable ten track album with higher replay value.
All things considered, Titans of Creation is another sufficient installment in Testament’s consistent 2000’s era. For all of the album’s triumphs, there are few missteps, but in the end no fan will be disappointed with the superb musicianship that runs throughout. “Catacombs” may have served the album better as an intro track, but then again, does a Testament album really need an intro in this day and age? The band’s reputation clearly precedes them, and Titans of Creation wastes no time in once again solidifying Testament as thrash royalty--just in case anyone still had doubts.
Testament - Titans of Creation was released April 3rd from Nuclear Blast
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!