After 4 years and a slight lineup change, Testament has returned amongst a very crowded 2016 with their next record, “Brotherhood of the Snake”. Testament seems like one of the most divisive thrash bands, and even my own opinion on them seems to waver every once in a while. Fortunately, “Brotherhood of the Snake” is a record that should make a believer out of all thrash fans. It is filled to the brim with high-speed thrashing classics, and impressive technical performances. The rhythm section of Gene Hoglan and Steve DiGiorgio aren’t as technical as they were on albums like “Individual Thought Patterns”, but they’re both masters of their craft at this point, and know exactly what to do. On the title track, for example, there are several excellent bass fills that show up at exactly the right moment. Similarly, Hoglan just crushes all throughout the record (particularly on the high velocity closer “The Number Game”), as he consistently unleashes effortless-sounding double bass work.
But as legendary as Hoglan and DiGiorgio are, they aren’t the primary reason why people listen to Testament. The band’s three longtime members have all stepped up to the plate on “Brotherhood of the Snake”. Despite early comparisons from the band to “The Gathering”, this album is much more classic Testament. Chuck Billy mostly uses his throaty singing voice, with the occasional death metal growls. The deeper vocals don’t dominate any particular song, and are used to add brutality at just the right moments.
Eric Peterson’s riffs are as potent as ever (especially on faster tracks like “Stronghold” and “Centuries of Suffering”), but where he has really stepped up his songwriting is in his use of harmonies. Never before has a Testament record seen such frequent use of harmonized guitars, and the result is that “Brotherhood of the Snake” feels like the most progressive and diverse Testament record, even if it isn’t exactly a prog metal record. “Neptune’s Spear” features the most impressive and lengthy section, where the lead guitars wander for several minutes and show the band exploring new territory. And then there’s Alex Skolnick. If there’s one member of Testament you could always rely on to get the job done, it would be Skolnick. His shredding is as good as ever. There isn’t much more to say about his performance because he’s always on-point, but this record definitely features some of his most jaw-dropping work.
Though Testament comprises 5 incredible skilled musicians, what matters most is always songwriting, and “Brotherhood of the Snake” absolutely delivers in this regard. The best songs tend to be speedy from start to finish, which is why “Stronghold”, “Centuries of Suffering”, and “The Number Game” stand out as highlights, but even the songs that could be considered slower have their more upbeat moments, in addition to plenty of the classic Testament groove ("Born in a Rut" being the best example). If there is one element of Testament’s songwriting that can be easily criticized, it would be the lyrics. Both “The Pale King” and “Canna-Business” come to mine as low points, but even weak lyrics can’t bring down an otherwise killer record (this is thrash after all!). While I wasn’t initially all that excited for “Brotherhood of the Snake” due to how many great thrash albums have come out this year, it is clear that Testament can stand alongside any other band playing thrash in 2016. Time will tell if this album holds up as well as their previous work, but “Brotherhood of the Snake” has all of the ingredients are a great thrash record!
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"Centuries of Suffering"
"The Number Game"
4.7/5 or 94%.
Written by Scott