Written by Alex Stojanovic
Brotherhood Of The Snake
The Pale King
Born In A Rut
Centuries Of Suffering
The Number Game
Release Date: October 28, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Chuck Billy - Vocals Alex Skolnick - Guitars Eric Peterson - Guitars Steve DiGiorgio - Bass Gene Hoglan - Drums
The lethal riff that commences the opening title track sets the scene perfectly for the thrash storm that is to come with the rest of the record. When this song is played live, I'm almost certain the crowd will be singing the tasty melodic lead in the middle. Gene Hoglan was not kidding when he said this song would have the fastest blast beat he's ever played. His performance on this album is probably more blistering than on both Dark Roots Of Earth and Demonic combined. Aside from the title track, he sneaks in blast beats in a couple other areas of the record.
Of course the guitar wizardry between Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick exudes superiority as always, from the crushing apocalyptic-sized riffs to the imaginative, melodic and shred-tastic solos and the harmonies of incredible potency. Then there's the one and only Chuck Billy, who is simply ageless and sounding as evil as he's ever sounded vocally, incorporating a little more of his menacing death growls, roars and shouts from the early records, along with his unmistakable melodic gritty vocals. Of course Steve DiGiorgio's impeccable bass chops cannot be ignored. They are just as much at the forefront of the album as everything else. What stands out about his performance is that instead of always following the riffs, he often noodles around them adding something different that fits perfectly.
Tracks like "Stronghold" and "Centuries Of Suffering" scream both "headbang" and "mosh" directly into your face with the relentless thrash attacks and you just can't help but obey. You'll know what I mean when you hear them. Peterson also once again manages to sneak some black metal style riffs on to the record, namely on "Centuries Of Suffering" and the album's fastest track "Black Jack". Vibes of The Legacy and The New Order shine brightly on "Canna-Business" and "The Number Game", especially with the tommy-gun riffs and the addition of Chuck's classic shouting vocals.
Unlike Dark Roots Of Earth, which contained the beautifully epic ballad "Cold Embrace", this album is completely devoid of ballads, but if you're hoping for a slower song, "Born In A Rut" is as slow as the album gets. It may be slow, but the heaviness and the groove are still pummeling. Other notable examples that show the band haven't forgotten about groove include "The Pale King" and "Neptune's Spear". The former, while still containing fast moments, contains a fair few melodic hooks as well as one of Skolnick's best solos on the album, but then again, any solo Skolnick composes hits the bulls-eye.
I love both Testament's melodic side and brutal side equally. Of course there are the fans that prefer one side or the other. If you're a fan of the brutal side, there's no denying that you will be salivating over this album excessively, but those who prefer the melodic side more, might not enjoy it as much. While the record remains consistent throughout with the heaviness, there's a fair amount of variation. Elements of The Gathering may be the most prevalent, but traces of Low, The New Order, The Legacy, The Formation Of Damnation and Dark Roots Of Earth can also be heard.
Brotherhood Of The Snake is another immaculate piece of work from the Bay Area thrash kings and it simply bursts with ferocity. It's proof that after almost 35 years in the business and 11 studio records, Testament continue to be a force to be reckoned with. They always release quality, intelligently written, brutal thrash. They may take a little longer than most bands in between records, but anything from Testament is worth the wait. To answer the question that I asked at the beginning, after hearing this record, I wouldn't say they topped Dark Roots Of Earth, but the brilliance of both albums is parallel. There's no doubting that this record will be featured on numerous critics' and fans' lists of the best albums of this year. Simply put, Testament is unstoppable.
Highs: Elements of The Gathering mixed with the band's classic elements results for a seriously gut-punching album.
Lows: No complaints from me. I think those who enjoy the melodic side of Testament more will only be slightly put off by Brotherhood Of The Snake.