"If it ainít broke, donít fix it".
While I hate to open my review with a tired clichť, no maxim applies more truthfully to "First Strike Still Deadly" than the aforementioned one. What was originally intended as a remastering project, turned into a re-recording of select songs from TESTAMENTís first two albums, "Legacy" and "The New Order". Thanks to the folks down at Prosthetic Records, "First Strike Still Deadly" is being re-released along with the two albums that preceded it. Yep, thatís right, a re-release of a re-recording.
For TESTAMENT fans who were bred on the original two albums, "First Strike Still Deadly" can come only as a disappointment. It does host a much higher production value, and while the first two albums did suffer from a less than sensational sound job, there was a certain charm in listening to them. They were sloppy, imperfect and a whole lot of fun. This re-recording is much more technically precise, thus stripping away the exuberant spontaneity of the original recordings.
The fact that TESTAMENT had undergone massive stylistic changes since the original inceptions of these songs plays an important role on the diminishment of their quality. By this point in their career, TESTAMENT were essentially PANTERA version 2.0. The three albums that preceded this one were largely dominated by groove and mid-tempo pieces, and it shows here. Nearly each songís tempo has been decreased, and each sounds much more mechanical because of the tempo changes. Most of these songs havenít been rendered unlistenable; the album just feels redundant. I would still much rather listen to their older counterparts.
In the (approximately) 13-15 years since the original material was written, Chuck Billyís voice has become something of a different breed. No longer does Billy use his now-retired trademark wail, and this hurts the quality of songs like "The Preacher" and "First Strike Is Deadly" a great deal.
Original TESTAMENT (or LEGACY if you will) vocalist, Steve Souza returns to his position for the albumís closing pieces, "Alone In The Dark" and "Reign Of Terror". The former discards every bit of youthful passion possessed by the original. The decreased tempo, crystal clear production and Souzaís raspy bite all contribute to the destruction of a classic. The latter, however, stands as the only track on the album that is an improvement over its original counterpart.
I see no reason why you should buy this now, or why you should have bought it when it was first released in 2001. If it was redundant back then, it is certainly redundant now, in an age where fewer and fewer people buy music each day. "First Strike Still Deadly" isnít an investment you need to make.
(Online May 3, 2008)