Testament, ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ – Album Review
For those of us that are old enough to remember the early days of thrash, it’s gratifying to see so many bands from that era still around and making good music three decades or so later.
Testament are one of those thrash bands that have been releasing albums since the '80s. Four years after the very well received Dark Roots of Earth, they are back with Brotherhood of the Snake.
It’s the first Testament album for bassist Steve DiGiorgio, who rejoined the band in 2014, since 2001‘s First Strike Still Deadly. Gene Hoglan is back behind the kit for the second straight album, with the lineup rounded out by vocalist Chuck Billy and guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick.
Brotherhood of the Snake has a lyrical storyline running through it. “There’s a connection between the alien world and religion, and the whole storyline came from it,” Billy says. “There’s a story of a Sumerian race 6,000 years ago that went on crusades to basically dethrone religions. The earth was basically the place where their leader, 'The Pale King,' set people to be imprisoned and mine for gold. It got the ball rolling.”
The album’s ball gets rolling right out of the gate with the title track, a heavy, ominous song with urgent riffing, ample grooves and a ripping solo. Using a singsong delivery for the first half of the track, Billy switches to a growl for the song’s latter part, adding extra brutality to the proceedings.
His melodic singing is at the forefront of songs like “The Pale King," and while he's no Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson, Billy gets the job done. The guitar work of Peterson and Skolnick is stellar throughout, delivering a seemingly endless supply of killer riffs and memorable solos.
For those who have a hankering for thrash, you’ll find an amply supply on Brotherhood of the Snake. In fact, Peterson asserts that they haven’t had this many thrash tracks since The Legacy, their 1987 debut. “Stronghold” gallops along at lightning speed, as do “Centuries of Suffering” and “Black Jack.”
Testament balance that with darker, mid-tempo songs such as “Seven Seals.” The album ends on an intense note with “The Numbers Game,” which Billy wrote with Exodus frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza. It’s one of the heaviest tracks on the record.
Brotherhood of the Snake is an album that can crush you like a boa constrictor or sink its fangs into you like a rattlesnake. Thankfully, the only venom is that in Billy's voice, and the antidote is to play it repeatedly at maximum volume.
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