Venturing out to Toronto for a concert is something I’ve done many times, but rarely by car. This became solidified for various reasons; those being a torrential downpour of rain, rush hour traffic, and lack of finding a proper parking spot until after a lengthy search of the surrounding area of my destination was conducted. Yep, I’ll be reverting back to public transit next time for sure.
So with a damper on the beginning of this night in full swing, I ventured into the historic Phoenix Concert Theatre to witness the carnage put forth by the legendary Bay-Area thrash titans Testament and their also legendary tourmates Sepultura. I would have liked to say that I got my first live taste of Prong to open the show, but this time delay made it impossible to arrive on time.
So with a quick pace I managed to get into the club just in time for the starting of Sepultura’s set. For loving this band since my first taste of their material upon hearing ‘Arise’ as a teen just entering high school, I was excited to see what the 2017 version of the band could bring to the table. After thoroughly enjoying the critically acclaimed ‘Machine Messiah’ album, tracks such as ‘I Am The Enemy’, ‘Phantom Self’, ‘Sworn Oath’, ‘Alethea’ and ‘Resistant Parasites’ gave me a feel for the new material in a live setting which was powerful and tight. And not one to disappoint the hardcore fans, the band dipped into classics such as ‘Choke’, ‘Desperate Cry’, ‘Inner Self’, ‘Refuse/Resist’ and ‘Ratamahatta’ before sending the crowd into a frenzy with “Roots Bloody Roots”, with Derrick Green’s sweaty and commanding performance amping the crowd up and setting the stage well for the night’s headliners.
And after a relatively short set change, it was time to revel in thrash metal perfection with a band that has been plying that craft without deviating from their directive for years, the Chuck Billy fronted Testament. Now as a point of reference, I came away from their previous tour stop very underwhelmed due to the fact that the band played less than an hour as the headliner, which had all of us fans scratching our heads at the end of the night. So I tried to go into this show with lower expectations and just hope that the band would play a lengthy set comprised of a great mixed-bag of their recorded catalogue. The band delivered on this hope, and then some.
The band started off the set by representing their newest album ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ with the title track, ‘The Pale King’ and ‘Centuries Of Suffering’ coming off exciting and vibrant to an adoring Toronto crowd. ‘Rise Up’ satiated people’s appetites for material from the previous album ‘Dark Roots Of Earth’. After a blistering solo from guitarist Alex Skolnick, ‘Electric Crown’ (my favourite track from the group) gave the fans a nod to the old-school, with ‘Into The Pit’ keeping the older material flowing.
After a talk from Billy about how the band wanted to switch up the set list a bit from previous tours, the boys surprised us by playing ‘Low’. With ‘Stronghold’ and ‘Seven Seals’ belted out fresh off the new album, the set ended with crowd favourites ‘Souls Of Black’ and ‘The New Order’. I will mention that interspersed between the second-half of the set were solos from guitarist Eric Peterson and drummer Gene Hoglan, with a personal highlight for me being a bass solo by one of my all-time favourite bass players in Steve DiGiorgio. Finally getting to see him live after being so awestruck by his inventive playing over the years was a real treat for me.
And after a great set of now-and-then highlights, the group came out to an encore of ‘Practice What Your Preach’ and ‘Over The Wall’, which was the perfect way to end the set in my opinion.
Let’s face facts; Testament isn’t reinventing the wheel with their material these days. That’s not to say that they’ve become complacent or old-hat in today’s crowded metal climate, but they play the music that they want, and continue to pump out exciting and solid material which their dedicated fanbase will eat up. Their live performance maintains tight and feverish to this day, and this old-school band definitely can show the new crop of bands how to give back to the fans that have stayed so true to them for so long.