Monday, March 19, 2007

Testament-The legacy, 1987

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There once was a San Francisco based band named The Legacy that was on the rise in the mid-1980's, then a lot of things happened at once. Their singer Steve "Zetro" Souza had the chance to go sing for Exodus who were on a label and preparing for their second album. So Souza left and the band brought in Chuck Billy. They also changed their name to Testament and maybe most importantly, they got signed. Not just signed, but signed to a major in Atlantic records. So expectations were high and the band got a good push as ads for their album were in all of the metal magazines in 1987. Their video for "Over the wall" also got shown regularly on the Headbanger's Ball. That's probably when I first heard them and I picked up the tape shortly after that. I was big into speed metal in 1987 and always looking out for new bands. I loved this album and still do. Testament had a very straight ahead approach as some of the songs have very little build-up and they just plunge straight into the meat of the song. Yet they were also very good at doing seamless pace changes. Guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson just shred and tracks like "The Haunting" and "First strike is deadly" show how much these guys can do. The rhythm section of drummer Louie Clemente and bass player Greg Christian are solid as well. Clemente especially is all over the place laying down non-stop beats and giving the music much of it's heaviness. Chuck Billy has a distinct voice and he manages to sing fast yet stay both coherent and powerful in his approach. Testament were heavier and faster than a lot of the speed metal bands signed to major labels at the time. They also knew how to keep things interesting by mixing it up at just the right moment. This album also benefited from a solid production job. Unfortunately they kind of ended up being a second tier speed metal band along with Overkill, Metal Church, Exodus, Kreator and Nuclear Assault. All of these bands got close but never quite made it to the popularity level of Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. Doesn't matter though because at their best (like this album) they could shred and their debut still stands strong and it's one of the best speed metal debuts of all time. My only complaint about this album is a minor one and not something you would notice unless you hear some of their other albums. I think a number of the tracks here were written while Steve Souza was still in the band. I think at times on this album that Chuck Billy tried to sing in a style that was different from his natural voice. On later albums you can hear that he clearly has more of a range, but you don't as much of that here at times. Small complaint though because it's a strong effort and probably in the top ten metal albums of 1987.
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Don't forget this is March metal madness. So now you can go read reviews of this same album over at Hard rock hideout, Heavy metal addiction and Pulses, verses and flotsam.

**Next week March metal madness wraps up when we do KISS- Crazy Nights.


Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I think we had good parallels in our write-ups, particularly noting that Souza co-wrote the songs. You're right about Chuck Billy's vocals growing more stretched on the future albums, but I chalked it up to natural progression. What you said is something to consider.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Andre du Plessis said...

Awesome album this, I wish they currently would get back to their roots again though. Loved 'Alone In The Dark'

12:06 AM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

A good write-up. I can't wait to see the stark difference between this and the KISS review.

-- david

6:44 AM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

And I forgot to mention that I finally got another music-related post up after some international musings. Thanks for inspiring me.

-- david

9:46 AM  
Blogger DPTH International said...

Good review, I've only recently picked up The Ritual and Practice What You Preach (I love Sins Of Omission) and now I'm itching for the Legacy.

9:57 AM  
Blogger dschalek said...

You know, I picked up the band's first two albums when they were released, but I just couldn't get into them. I felt that the soft production from Atlantic (not to mention the rather mediocre songwriting) of "The Legacy" and "The New Order" really took something away from them (and put them into the second tier), and they dropped off my radar until "Demonic" and "The Gathering". It is with those two albums that they finally fulfill their early promise. Chuck Billy's health problems notwithstanding, now they're just lazy.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Ray-Souza was the best singer Exodus ever had and Billy worked well with Testement.

andre-I just wish they would do a studio album.

David-Thanks. I think KISS may be the one of the four albums where some us may have different views.

dpth-The early stuff is good and the later stuff is good, but more in a death metal kind of way.

dschalek-The early stuff was more organized and every album after the debut got more polished through to the Ritual. Low was a big change, but it was time for a change. They brought in James Murphy on guitar and he added a huge, aggressive sound. Chuck Billy starting mixing in some death metal style vocals and it worked.

4:20 PM  

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