The reviews of TESTAMENT‘s live efforts were less positive for a while a year or so ago. As a long time fan of the Bay Area thrashers, this was of course something that wasn’t at all nice to read. Although the latest reports have told tales of a band that was back on track as a live band, I can’t help being a wee bit concerned if we will witness any outages in terms of the band’s performance tonight.
It turns out that there’s nothing to be concerned about.
The venue is now almost full, and as the intro begins, the air is loaded with expectation. The title track of the latest epos, Brotherhood of the Snake, brings both stage and audience to life. It is clear from the outset that Testament are in good shape and ready to thrash.
The volume of Chuck Billy’s vocal isn’t always loud enough in the mix throughout the next 75 minutes, but the big native American moves around the stage comfortably and generally appears to have a blast of a time. Let’s face it, Billy’s voice is very characteristic and has been the main identifier in Testament’s music throughout the years alongside Peterson’s guitar sound.
Eric Peterson, the only other constant factor in Testament since 1987 besides Billy, is also in constant movement, churning out those mighty thrash riffs, both new and old. I see him as a little riff machine, solidity incarnate and less flamboyant and attention-seeking than his fellow six-stringer on the other side of the stage, Alex Skolnick.
Skolnick, with the characteristic white streak of hair, is in a way a peculiar, but also very likeable, guitarist. When you watch him, it is obvious that he has a burning passion for the music he plays and for his instrument, and that he wants people to listen. But at the same time, he comes across a bit, well, awkward in a geeky way. Often he is turned half way towards drum maestro Hoglan and therefore away from the audience. Possibly a jazz thing? No matter; it is a true pleasure to listen to Skolnick’s treatment of the strings.
The rhythm section of Testament is a chapter in itself. Steve DiGiorgio, who’s played in countless bands, most notably in Death and Sadus, is simply an amazing player. It’s astonishing to watch his fingers dance over the fretless instrument and recreate both his own and Greg Christian’s bass riffs on stage.
No less amazing is the drum god Gene Hoglan. Having paid his dues in countless bands as well – including Death with DiGiorgio, as well as Dark Angel, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad, etc – the man is a phenomenon. His playing is impeccable.
Practice What You Reach…no, wait, PREACH!
The Copenhagen audience (Swedes included) are easily persuaded into getting the floor moving. ‘Rise Up’, ‘The Pale King’ and ‘Centuries of Suffering’ are appropriately applauded and there is considerable movement amongst the crowd. When Skolnick opens ‘Electric Crown’ with a solo of sorts, the audience becomes a tad more frantic.
As Chuck Billy then announces that it’s time to get ‘Into the Pit’, a fair amount of chaos breaks loose, and it’s a joy to behold.
‘Dark Roots of the Earth’ follows, then ‘Stronghold’ from Brotherhood, after that the biggest surprise for me, namely the title track from Low. My excitement will not end! I love that album!
Between ‘Low’ and uber-classic ‘Over the Wall’, Billy gets distracted by a young maiden who adjusts her bra in the front row. Much to the amusement of both himself and the crowd. A shame the lady forgets to share with the rest of us…
‘Practice What You Preach’, the title track of the album that has always been my personal favourite Testament offering sends my arms and horns into the air yet again, as does ‘New Order’ and ‘Disciples of the Watch’. Fantastic songs!
The title track of ‘The Formation of Damnation’ ends the set on a high note.
No encores are given, which is slightly disappointing, but, then again, this has been a truckload of thrash the way I love it, and my initial concern was, thank the metal gods, put entirely to shame by Chuck Billy and his merry men.
Brotherhood of the Snake
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Into the Pit
Dark Roots of Earth
Over the Wall
Practice What You Preach
The New Order
Disciples of the Watch
The Formation of Damnation
Playing Time: 75 minutes
Chuck Billy - vocals
Alex Skolnick - guitar
Eric Peterson - guitar
Gene Hoglan - drums
Steve DiGiorgio - bass