When you are looking for a good solid thrashing there is nothing like a little Testament to set you right and this craving need was what drew over 1000 Metal maniacs to New York’s home for Metal – B.B. King Blues Club tonight. It was only a couple of years ago that the Bay Area Thrash Metal juggernauts had reunited with their full compliment of original members and delivered the CD and DVD “Live In London”. So great was the response to this release that new music would be planned for the not too distant future. The only difference in the lineup roster would be in terms of drummers as original member Louie Clemente would be replaced by Nick Barker who in turn would be replaced by Paul Bostaph. Testament music has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of Metal heads and while they never achieved the status of Metallica or Anthrax, their sound has never really suffered over the years nor did the band stray from its original course purely for the sake of commercial acceptance like some other bands had done over the years. They would bring with them two unsigned openers tonight and the task of gearing up the crowd fell to both Martyrd and Nethereal. I had never seen Martyrd perform before and tonight would not change this for me, and while I enjoyed some of what Nethereal had done when I caught them at another show, this evening was all about Testament for me and no one else would have managed to keep my interest. Based on the faces in the crowd when I walked in, I could tell that no one was left bored before Testament was set to come out. The show itself had been sold out for weeks and this was one of those events where you saw the audience filing in early to get a preferential spot either up front or at the bar. The best way to describe the mood and flowing energy around the club was best left at electric. It was a feeling that you had to be in the room to best appreciate but I am sure you can trust me on this.
When the time came for Testament to hit the stage it was like an explosion happened inside the venue as the energy put out from the stage was returned in kind from the audience who quickly became a swirling mass of circle pit participants and crowd surfers. I had positioned myself over to the left of the stage where guitarist extraordinaire Alex Skolnick was doing his thing and that was fine by me since the surfing bodies were primarily making their way over around singer Chuck Billy’s area. They would open the set with “Over The Wall” and follow it with “Into The Pit” and from moment one the band sounded both tight and determined. Their set list would be primarily composed of established classics because while their new album “The Formation Of Damnation” was ready to be released it would not hit the shelves for another month or so. There was no need for them to do more than a couple of tracks from the album with so many excellent tunes to address from their back catalog. The bands sound was nothing less than crunching and for those who wondered how Bostaph would do on the drums with the band, well let’s remember that he did work with Slayer for about ten years and this fact allowed him to prove that he was a more than a capable player on every tune tonight. “Apocalyptic City” had only just begun when the security folks started to mobilize deeper into the photo pit trench that I get to wander around in for a short time at such events and they were definitely needed as body after body crowd surfed into the area only to be caught and returned to the crowd. Having been to a number of insane shows in the past I was glad to find them on point tonight since this crowd was totally off their rocker. Generally I always make it out of the madness unscathed but tonight a boot would clock me in the back of the head and leave me out of it for a few minutes. Still I was able to rock as hard as those around me and keep up with the antics both on the stage and around it. “Practice What You Preach” found the audience singing along almost as loud as Billy was and one of my all time favorites “Electric Crown” sounded better than ever. Alex Skolnick was almost always smiling during the set and his guitar playing to the point of perfection. Let’s face it, this is a busy musician who not only finds time to play Metal, but also keeps a jazz trio operating and tours with the holiday behemoth Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I expected nothing less from him, and when they made their way too the new track “More Than Meets The Eye” you could hear how all of these influences combined had made him that much better a guitar player. I wasn’t on the side of Eric Peterson for long but he also appeared to be digging the vibe of the show and the overall jubilance of the audience. Like I said earlier, Testament was one of those bands who kept their sound true, and by doing that have kept their fan base loyal until the seeming death. Chuck Billy was also interested in talking a little bit to the crowd tonight as he talked about the new album on Nuclear Blast Records entitled “The Formation Of Damnation” and some of its highlights. The set tonight would feature only two of the albums numbers but from them one could easily grasp how heavy the band has remained in their new material. They did not experiment outside the box and instead remained with what they knew and excelled at. He also made mention of the band being featured on the Metal Masters tour that was to be headlined by Judas Priest with direct support from Heaven And Hell and this struck me as funny since it didn’t seem to be etched in stone yet. He also said that they would only get a 30 minute set and leave it to the classics with no talking. With Testament material having a little more momentum in the live sense that is at least a good eight numbers. Chuck also welcomed back bassist Greg Christian into the fold and he really just kept to his playing as opposed to offering up much in the way of comments about this. He is a solid player who I was happy to see in a band that he worked so well in.
Overall this was a killer night without any doubt and I took notice of several cameras that were recording parts of the performance. I hope that we can all enjoy that footage somehow soon, and as I understood it was something connected with MTV. This really surprised me, as to my knowledge the farthest thing from Metal is that network, but either way, it was nice to see a band so deserving being offered up as much positive praise and enthusiasm as Testament was getting tonight. The new album is sure to be a satisfying part of the long time fans day and will even be one that sets newer Metal listeners on their ear. Welcome back Testament, even though you have never truly gone away from us.
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Official Web Site: www.testamentlegions.com
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