Most of the bands that were around in the 80s have either broken up (all those Cock Rock bands, a good deal of the Thrash scene), gone totally commercial (*cough* METALLICA *cough*), or eventually start to release the same type record that they've always have (IRON MAIDEN, AC/DC, etc). Then there is TESTAMENT, who, with time, became heavier and embraced the new genres within Extreme Metal, all the while keeping their identity.
With just Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy remaining as the original members (I'm not counting LEGACY, who I believe had Steve Souza on vocals instead of Chuck), they got some of the best musicians in Metal (Steve DiGiorgio on bass, James Murphy on lead guitar and Dave Lombardo on drums) and have created a solid Thrash release.
The album is a Thrash Metal album, but a good deal of the tracks have elements from other subgenres of Metal. This is apparent in the opening track of the album. Death Metal-styled riffing, some blast beats during the breakdown of the song, Chuck Billy being able to go from his distinct singing style to a growl. The band's acceptance of the multiple facets of the more underground Metal is apparent throughout most of the album, as the riffing most of the borderlines Death Metal, and in certain cases, Black Metal, and Chuck Billy has found the middle ground between a Thrashy growl and a Death grunt.
The music of the album is pretty complex, containing some pretty technical riffs (although not to the extremity of CRYPTOPSY, THEORY IN PRACTICE and their ilk, but compared to the band's peers, the riffs on this album are a lot more complex), and not one second is a waste on the album. Each song is distinct. Each song has an element that will make it stand out from the rest of the album. Each song is as powerful as a jack-hammer and has enough energy to power Los Angeles.
Eric Peterson should be hailed as a Thrash god for this release. He wrote all the music on this album, and he made an album that is not one-dimensional at all, with every song having its time in the sun. The songs are all great and solid. To be honest, I doubt this album can have a stand-out moment when every single song is great. He should be up there amongst Steve Harris (IRON MAIDEN), James Hetfield (METALLICA) and Mikael Akerfeldt (OPETH) as one of the best songwriters in Metal.
Oh yea, and Dave Lombardo? His performance on this album easily rivals anything he has ever done with SLAYER, and probably surpasses it. In some parts of the album, I was staring at my speakers in disbelief as to how fast the double-bass is being played ("The Fall Of Sipledome" and "Eyes Sewn Shut"), and how intense the drumming truly makes the album. Without him, or a drummer of his calibre, the album would not be as powerful nor as good as it is.
It's great to see a bunch of old schoolers being able to release something with the intensity of 20 year olds. (Online May 15, 2003)