First Strike - Still Deadly
~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen
This is truly one hell of a great album. For those of you who aren't familiar with Testament, they were one of the first 80's thrash bands to hit the scene, and they did so with a pretty big bang... for the time, that is. As metal continued to get better production, Testament kept up. Their last full album, "The Gathering," was as hard and heavy hitting as any other contemporary metal album, and Chuck Billy even developed a deathy sort of growl. So over this period of time as things were a-changin', and Testament was able to keep up and show the youngsters how it was done - you still have to wonder, how many people really spent time listening to Testament's first two releases?
Early Testament was pretty influential, and bands like Nevermore and The Haunted aren't afraid to express their gratitude for Testament's work. Er... that didn't sound very metal, now did it? Let's say that Nevermore and The Haunted were influenced by Testament and don't hesitate to tell their fans that "TESTAMENT KICKS ASS!" There we go. I can only imagine, however, that anyone used to thrash-based music with better production would have some trouble adapting to the old-school sound on Testament's "The Legacy" and "The New Order." And that, my friends, is where "First Strike - Still Deadly" comes in.
I have to say, this is one of the best representations of thrash I have ever heard. Instead of just remastering their old work, Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy got together an all star Testament lineup to re-record their classics and show all the young'uns how it's really done. They managed to retain the original thrash sound; they didn't just make this into a heavier sort of album like their more recent releases. In any case, when they produced this CD they set the intensity throttle to FULL. Ah, there we go, now I'm talking metal!
John Tempesta provides a thoroughly pounding drum performance, liberally adding a lot to the old songs compared to their original form. Steve DiGiorgio adds his patented bass handiwork, quite adeptly filling out the rhythm section along with Tempesta. And even Steve Souza (he was the vocalist before they were known as Testament), who wrote some of the material used on "The Legacy," returns to contribute vocals on the last two tracks. I think the most surprising return member in the lineup, however, would have to be Alex Skolnick. Anyone familiar with his Testament work should know that this is a big deal, in part because of the rumored shaky terms on which he broke up with the band years ago. His fluid and classy lead lines helped define the early Testament sound, and on these re-recordings he actually even updates his solos. They're now faster and more impressive than ever.
Eric Peterson's playing follows along perfectly, and he tosses in a solo or two of his own as well. Chuck Billy's vocals stay pretty varied, and he never resorts to his newfound deathy growl - these songs aren't being played again to show you what a modernized Testament might sound like. This could have been straight out of the 80's (in a good way), if production like this for metal bands existed back then.
Each of the tracks is played superbly, making this a must have release for metal fans. That's right, all metal fans. Anyone who is into Testament likely has it or plans to get it. Anyone who couldn't quite stomach their older releases because of the production definitely needs to check this out. And anybody who has never heard of Testament before needs this too. These songs were a defining moment in thrash history, so go on and buy this already.
Testament - Official Web Site: