Album Title: Titans Of Creation
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 3 April 2020
2020 will already go down as the year in which I finally ditched the crazy notion that maybe I don’t like doom metal that much. With a plethora of cracking doom releases tickling my sweet spot, I could no longer keep up the pretence. With that in mind, I think I may have to re-evaluate my thoughts towards the thrash metal genre, too. Sure, I like the usual suspects that are commonly referred to as the ‘big four’ but outside that, I’d never really considered myself the biggest fan of the genre. But one scan of my ever-increasing CD collection will reveal albums from Exodus, Heathen, Derision and many more nestling within.
And then there’s Testament. I wouldn’t ever have considered myself a die-hard fan of the band, one of the ‘second wave’ of thrash that emerged in the 80s. But every time I hear that a new album is on the horizon, I waste no time in checking it out. The same is very true of album number thirteen of the band’s career, ‘Titans Of Creation’. For a start, there’s that famous logo surrounded by brilliant artwork courtesy of Eliran Kantor; it draws me in like a moth to a flame.
Then there’s the music itself. When I reviewed the Oakland band’s previous release, ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ back in 2016, I was drawn right in by their winning combination of aggression, muscularity, attitude and subtle sense of melody. I hoped that this record might have a similar impact upon me too. As it turns out, I think it might have had an even stronger impact than the last. Whether it’s the dystopian background against which this record sits, or some other reason, there’s a sense that this album has arrived at the perfect time; it is a great collection of 12 songs to assist with relieving some of the pent-up frustration and anger that is threatening to engulf large swathes of the human race currently. And, based on the sheer power and force with which this latest thrash attack is unleashed, I’d pity the strain of Covid-19 that came anywhere near Messrs. Billy, Skolnick, Peterson, DiGiorgio and Hoglan.
The sheer uncompromising nature of this veteran quintet can be summed up in no better fashion than via the opening song of the album, ‘Children Of The Next Level’. There’s something immediately intoxicating about the tone of the guitars and the way that, within seconds, they are skipping and galloping along with real intent, whilst offering some irresistible groove to help get the head banging. The rhythm section provides one hell of a foundation underneath, whilst Chuck Billy’s instantly recognisable voice rises above the multi-layered beast beneath, one that writhes, batters and ever-so-subtly buries the odd melody or hook deep beneath the surface to strike when Testament think you’ve listened long and intently enough. The solos are a thing of ripping beauty, as are Hoglan’s bursts of speed and precision behind the kit.
It’s a tough act to follow and, to a greater or lesser extent, the solid ‘WW III’ avoids being hamstrung by its predecessor. Mind you, with the machine-gun drumming, lightning-fast riffs and sprawling chorus, it simply couldn’t fail to rouse even the most cursory of thrash fans.
Given my penchant for melody whatever the genre, it comes as no surprise that I adore ‘Dream Deceiver’, a song that comes alive via what is a killer melodic chorus that lets Billy unleash his inner crooner. It is classically old-school, but it is delivered with such skill and fervour that it simply cannot be argued with, especially when yet more virtuosic and flamboyant solos cut loose.
Have I mentioned the sound of the guitars yet? I have? Oh stuff it, they deserve more praise. The tone of the riffs triggers something vaguely primeval within me and I cannot get enough of them. Just listen to the churning groove within the incredibly powerful ‘Night of The Witch’, a song that also features some vocals from Peterson alongside those of Billy with extremely positive results. I get the feeling that this song is deliberately, a little more theatrical, underlined by some intriguing sounds towards the close. Speaking only of the guitars at this juncture though would be very remiss of me because every instrument sounds great on this record, a product of a Juan Urteaga (Trident Studios and Andy Sneap masterclass.
Within such a consistently strong record, it is difficult to tease out individual songs for praise. However, one of the obvious candidates is ‘City Of Angels’ simply because it’s overall tone and approach is somehow unexpected. It is slower yet full of galloping, groovy, monstrous riffs, whilst the bass comes to the fore much more than ever before, demonstrating much more than a simple thrash attack from DiGiorgio. The slightly Middle Eastern flavour within ‘Ishtar’s Gate’ is a nice touch too, whilst ‘Symptoms’ might not be my favourite composition, but it demonstrates yet more dancing bass work from DiGiorgio and brilliantly engaging and complex guitar playing from Skolnick and Peterson.
‘The Healers’ is another of the more immediate tracks on ‘Titans Of Creation’ thanks to some clever use of understated melody, whilst ‘Curse Of Osiris’ is an interesting blend of blazing thrash and a demonstrable black metal element, complete with classic black metal riffing, notes and higher-pitched rasping, snarling vocals. It is definitely an eyebrow-raiser, but excellent nonetheless.
By the time the instrumental closer, ‘Catacombs’, with its chugging riff and swathes of atmospheric keys dies away, I’m left in no doubt that I am a thrash fan, whatever I might otherwise believe. To be honest though, when you’re listening to an album of this quality, it would be hard not to get sucked in and pulled along for the ride. Years of experience and know-how, not to mention a perpetually-burning fire in their collective bellies means that Testament have brought us yet another thrash metal album of the highest quality. And what’s more, it is this album that has finally made me realise that I do love thrash metal after all. For that alone, I am indebted to the thrash metal juggernaut, otherwise known as Testament.
The Score of Much Metal: 91%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: