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Testament - First Strike Still Deadly (2001)
Testament are easily the best thrash band just outside the "big four". While not achieving commercial success like Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, they have made themselves a force to be reckoned with.
This album, a re-recording of songs featured on "The Legacy", and "The New Order" is worth checking out, especially if you are unfamiliar with these recordings.
As you may well know, Testament went under the name "Legacy" prior to about 1987. Originally the band was fronted by vocalist Steve Souza who, after recording a 4 song demo in 1986, left to join Exodus. It was around this time that Chuck Billy came on board as the vocalist and the band changed it's name to Testament. In 1987, the band released their first album, entitled "The Legacy". After receiving critical acclaim in the thrash underground, they quickly went on the road with Anthrax, and recorded and released "The New Order" in 1988. A string of successful albums and a few lineup changes, found the band moving in more of a death metal direction.
With this album, the band has gone back and redone some of the tracks from their first two albums, using the stylistic shifts that they have added to their sound (mainly the downtuned guitars and death metal style vocals) as heard on recent releases such as "The Gathering". Of course, Testament purists will either love or hate this album, depending on what era they prefer.
The good thing about this album is that the songs have more polish to them, and sound much cleaner than the original releases. A big relief was the fact that these songs were not destroyed. Another great thing about this disc was the selection of songs that were rerecorded. All 11 tracks are the best songs off their respective albums (Strangely, "Apocalyptic City" and " Eerie Inhabitants", have been left out). Also some of the songs seem to have been slowed down or changed a little. Alex Skolnick returned to the band to do the guitar tracks for this disc, which is very cool. Skolnick is easily the best guitarist Testament has ever had, and he still can play the hell out of the songs. He also seems to have added a few mildly noticeable changes to the solos and leads. Nothing too major, but enough to make any Testament fan worth their salt hear the slight differences. The mid section of " Burnt Offerings" is the best example of this, as it is now more of a groove than the speed attack it once was. It is refreshing to hear the Skolnick/Peterson guitar assault once again, as this has been sorely missed. As far as the drums go, John Tempesta easily out-plays Louie Clemente, and makes every one of these songs his own. Chuck Billy's vocals are killer as always, and his use of death metal style vocals work well with these songs ("The Preacher", in particular). The downside to this disc, due to the production, is that some of the raw sound has been lost, and some will argue that with this, much of the appeal has been lost as well. Ultimately, it just all depends on what version of Testament you like best or how much you like the original versions.
The real attraction that most fans will have toward this album is that the last two tracks, "Alone in the Dark" and "Reign of Terror", feature Steve Souza on vocals. This gives a brief speculation as to what Testament might have sounded like had Chuck Billy not joined. While it is interesting, overall it proves it was best Souza left the band, as Billy's vocals suit the songs much better.
My only real complaint with this offering is that with the originals, you could hear in the music that the band was out to conquer the world. This has been somewhat lost, as Testament seem to have released this to appeal to longtime fans, as opposed to breaking new ground; the main point of this disc was to release an album to hold over fans until the next original studio album, while possibly gaining a few fans in the process.
All in all, this disc is worth a listen. I applaud Testament for making such a brave move, as other bands that do this are usually met with fan backlash. Although not a bad disc by any means, fans will probably be better off buying "Live at the Fillmore", as this offers better current renditions of these songs. As for me, I will take the originals any day, and I give this disc a solid 70. - Metal Archives
First Strike Still Deadly
Place Of Origin: Oakland, CA, USA
Release Year: 2001
Ripping Source: CD
Label: Spitfire Records
Catalog Number: SPT-15083-2
Ripped With: EAC (Secure And Test) with LOG and CUE
1 First Strike Is Deadly
2 Into The Pit
3 Trial By Fire
4 Disciples Of The Watch
5 The Preacher
6 Burnt Offerings
7 Over The Wall
8 The New Order
9 The Haunting
10 Alone In The Dark
11 Reign Of Terror