Testament – Titans of Creation (Album Review)

Long considered an unofficial fifth member of the “Big Four” of Thrash—a position they share with California neighbors Exodus and New Jersey stalwarts Overkill— Testament has seen its share of intriguing changes since its beginnings as Legacy in 1983. Now over three decades later, the Bay Area Thrash legends are set to release their new album Titans of Creation on Friday, April 3rd via Nuclear Blast Records.

Their thirteenth overall studio album, Testament’s most steady lineup consisting of the massive, unmistakable vocals of Chuck Billy, drumming of Gene Hoglan, bass of Steve DiGiorgio, along with guitar play of co-founding members Eric Peterson and Alex Skonlick team up for another exciting album. Engineer Juan Urteaga throws in with Billy and Peterson on production duties, while longtime friends Andy Sneap working to mix and master the final product and Eliran Kantor adding visual intrigue.

Consisting of twelve tracks, from the opener “Children of the Next Level” through “Curse of Osiris,” the distinct Testament sound is splattered all over the record, and the closer “Catacombs” reaches back into the archives with some familiar riffs. In fact, they are all well-crafted, self-contained symphonies; even bridges and transitional riffs are pieced together with the veteran attention a listener would come to expect from Testament. Each band member is given several chances to shine throughout the album, the songs offer multiple chances to shift focus and concentrate on the masterful precision the band has put into each song.

Take “False Prophet,” a song which starts with the patient banter of Di Giorgio and Hoglan alternating between a frenetic pace and a brooding progression, over both of which Skolnick and Peterson take turns with signature riffs and solos. This is while “Dream Deceiver” leaves another Testament fingerprint: short, choppy riffs backed by a pounding drum progression, portions of which make it easy to imagine the band calling for a live crowd to join in the cacophony.

Moving on, “Children of the Next Level” offers the terse cadence has become a Testament staple since the Hoglan regime began; coupled with crisp guitar riffs from Skolnick and Peterson, flanked by the low-end bass magic of Di Giorgio. The chaser on everything is the raspy growl of Billy, perhaps deeper and more carefully metered than he was in the early years, but stronger than he has been on the past few records.

Owing to his work with Black Metal project Dragonlord, Peterson pairs his vocals with Billy for “Night of the Witch,” with “Curse of Osiris” close by in vocal style as well. Then “Code of Hammurabi” opens with a winding Di Giorgio bass intro, followed by Skolnick and Hoglan keeping up with each twisting turn and detour. Additionally, Di Giorgio also owns the opening to the earlier “Symptoms,” before the track expands into a call-and-response from Billy. That said, the burly vocalist takes control of the otherwise trashy “The Healers,” continuing his trend of giving a platform to his indigenous heritage.

Lastly, “Catacombs” closes the album with a few short minutes of riffs pulled from the dusty halls of the band’s recording history, namely the opening themes of 1994’s Low and 1999’s The Gathering, before descending into a choral hell.

As a whole, Titans of Creation offers a fresh collection of tracks that threaten to become instant Testament vintage, with standout such as “False Prophet,” “Children of the Next Level,” and “Symptoms” approaching hall-of-fame status. Rather than release more of the same, with Titans of Creation, Testament continue to evolve, with their recently cemented lineup taking turns showcasing their individual talents without distracting from the whole. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Titans of Creation 4 out of 5 stars.

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