Testament

Brotherhood of the Snake

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Track Listing

    Track Title

    Time

  1. Brotherhood of the Snake 4:14
  2. The Pale King 4:51
  3. Stronghold 4:01
  4. Seven Seals 5:39
  5. Born in a Rut 4:58
  6. Centuries of Suffering 3:34
  7. Black Jack 4:22
  8. Neptune's Spear 5:26
  9. Canna-Business 3:47
  10. The Number Game 4:38

Review

Testament haven't been exactly prolific since the turn of the century. Brotherhood of the Snake, their eleventh album overall, is only their fourth record since 1999, and their first since 2012's excellent Dark Roots of the Earth. The upshot of these infrequent releases is that it makes every one of them an event. Brotherhood of the Snake is no exception. It's not appreciably different from their post-1999 output, but offers an excellent sonic portrait of Testament doing what they do best -- aggressive, riff-heavy, in-your-face thrash. There is a fun concept at work here, but this is more a track-by-track listening experience that adds up to a massive whole. If there is anything really different about the jams on offer here, it's the preponderance of killer guitar breaks by Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick. There are solos everywhere, but they are woven so tightly into the fabric of the riff and breakdown structure, they are inseparable. The title-track opener is a primer for everything that follows. Gene Hoglan's hard-grooving double-time drum thunder is appended by the octave-bridging guitar interplay anchored by Steve DiGiorgio's bass thrum. Chuck Billy's menacing snarl articulates every clever turn of phrase with a roaring vocal that renders every word hearable. (Thanks in no small part to Juan Urteaga's brilliant engineering). There's actually a hook in the breakdown section of "The Pale King" offset by angular guitar riffs in the bridge. A guitar solo followed by dual leads cascades into a monstrous finish by Hoglan. (His blastbeats on these tracks, "Stronghold," and "Centuries of Suffering" are just startling.) Another killer is "Black Jack," with a jagged arpeggio riff answered line for line by DiGiorgio as Hoglan adds blasts and triple-timed rhythms with bone-cracking force. "Canna-Business" is the only jam that would not have been missed if it had been left off. Musically, it's killer, but the lyrics don't fit the album's concept and are laughably bad to boot. Luckily, the tracks that immediately precede and proceed it -- "Neptune's Spear" and closer "The Number Game" -- shake, quake, and burn to balance it out. That one track aside, Brotherhood of the Snake is not only on par with Testament's best records during the millennium thus far, but ever. In the thrash arena, only Death Angel's excellent The Evil Divide can compete for an album of the year title. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi