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Testament live

| June 1, 2009

House Of Blues, Chicago
Friday, May 15, 2009


Contrary to what you’ve heard, a classic, Bay-Area thrash-metal band released one of the finest albums of its career in 2008, marked by a return to form, crisp production, and an ability to capture what made the band great in the first place.

Testament, despite a yawning popularity and artistic gap, have more in common with Metallica than the uncannily timed releases of The Formation Of Damnation and Death Magnetic. While “The Black Album” taught Metallica how to expand its base even if the cost was a neglected bassist and drug issues, Testament’s passionless foray into commercial metal (1992’s The Ritual) hurtled the band in an opposite direction punctuated by the departure of a key member, guitarist Alex Skolnick. As such, the ’90s were lost overcompensating in a death-metal bent that was based more around Chuck Billy’s growl than anything to offer the genre. Testament’s march into obscurity was halted by Billy’s cancer diagnosis, which coincided with an artistic rebirth.

The band owns a handful of essential thrash cuts, but Formation finally capitalizes on the promise of 1988’s The New Order. It was a, er, testament to the album’s strength that Friday’s set was actually buoyed by its presence, especially after the faceless squawl of the intervening years.

Though bassist Greg Christian is also back, the classic lineup was left incomplete by drummer Louie Clemente’s absence. No matter – Christian and one-time Slayer keeper Paul Bostaph provided an unwavering foundation for Eric Peterson’s jackhammered chord progressions and Skolnick’s lattice-like solos. The show’s songs were supposed to be selected through Myspace voting, but what ended up happening resembled none of the available picks.

Testament began in the pulpit with “The Preacher” and “Practice What You Preach,” staving off the new album until mid-set. When it arrived, however, “More Than Meets The Eye” tethered itself to some whoah-ohs in an unintentional reference to Chicago punk and Naked Raygun. “The Persecuted Won’t Forget” followed, utilizing a riff that carried the paralyzing awe of an electrical storm. That was it until the encore, but despite the night’s brevity, there was little room for complaint.

Though their inclusions were predicitable, “Over The Wall” and “Into The Pit” menaced the audience with both their size and speed, and made Skolnick’s gentlemanly Les Paul-shaped guitar seem terribly out of place. On the build toward a closing “Disciples Of The Watch,” Testament weren’t afraid of the death-influenced “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “True Believer,” much less the murky ballad “The Legacy” or an under-rehearsed “Electric Crown.”

Testament’s faith in all of their material was admirable, though it’d be a crime if they didn’t put as much into the album that resuscitated them as their fans do.

Steve Forstneger

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Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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