Album Review: Testament - 'Titans of Creation'

Aging thrash metal legends prove yet again that the unrelenting passage of time is no excuse to release a mediocre album.

Forming in 1983 under the name ‘Legacy’, Testament have spent the last 37 years releasing some of the finest thrash metal ever put to tape. Releasing their debut record in 1987, Testament were met with immediate critical acclaim within the thrash underground – being compared to fellow rising starts, Metallica. This critical and commercial acclaim continued with their sophomore album selling over 250,000 and charting on the Billboard top 200. Whilst the 90s saw less critical success, Testament continued to sell hundreds of thousands of albums.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Cabral.

The turn of the century has seen recent albums Brotherhood of the Snake and Dark Roots of the Earth being considered some of the best thrash albums of the last decade, with Testament having hit a run of form that no band of this age perhaps deserves. Although, this is Testament, the band who ‘should’ be in the big 4 and the band that ‘should’ be as big as Megadeth and Slayer – so perhaps we should always expect the unexpected.

Album opener, Children of the Next Level cements Testament’s newfound energy of the new decade and kicks the album off emphatically. With a catchy opening riff and impressive energy for a band of Testament’s age, you would think that this was a band on their third or fourth album. Perhaps the most surprising quality of this album is that of Chuck Billy’s vocal performance; somehow, he still manages to deliver his yells and melodies with the same tenacity and volition that he did in 1987 – I’d even say he’s gotten better over the years, and this album really shows that. Continuing in the same vein, WWIII is another fast-paced thrasher with a nuclear warfare theme. Alex Skolnick also delivers an incendiary solo and the mid-tempo breakdown towards the end of the track is a welcome departure from the breakneck speed of the tune, offering a taste of some 90s metal influence.

Other standouts on the album include the single Night of the Witch, a song so good that it could’ve landed on The Ritual – a shining jewel in Testament’s accomplished discography. With a catchy chorus, memorable riff and some of the heaviest moments in the band’s recent career, I can see this song being a highlight of future live shows, with mosh pits ensuing as soon as the tune starts. Ishtar’s Gate sees the bass take centre stage and really lets Di Giorgio add some of the finest bass work the band has seen since Souls of Black. Penultimate track Curse of Osiris also presents a brutal thrash song with a strong death metal influence, including dissonant chordal work and some surprisingly heavy screams from Chuck Billy.

'Perhaps the most surprising quality of this album is that of Chuck Billy’s vocal performance; somehow, he still manages to deliver his yells and melodies with the same tenacity and volition that he did in 1987'.

My main criticism of this album is the closing track, a song that just feels completely pointless and ironically doesn’t provide any actually closure to the album, leaving it more open ended than the track which preceded it and giving the slight issue of monotony in the album’s pace. It does feel like every track on Titans of Creation bleeds into one and creates a slightly tiring, homogeneous mass of songs when listened to all in one sitting. I believe this is a plague that a lot of modern metal records have caught, and I don’t think it’s necessarily the conscious fault of the band. Rather, that they feel the need to compete with the modern metal giants in terms of production and tone. If you’re a fan of Testament this record isn’t going to make you dislike them but conversely, if you were a metal-head who wasn’t already a fan of the band, I don’t think this record is going to change your mind.

However, even with these minor gripes, Testament definitely still manage to offer up a solid metal record, completing a trilogy of excellent modern albums from the aging thrash band and further cementing their legendary status.