The Curious Case of Testament and Alex Skolnick

Testament, famously known for being a bay area band not in the big four rather than through their own exploits. Though their first two records are entirely respectable affairs due to the melodic sensibilities of lead guitarist Alex Skolnick. Problems not related to their music and a lack of business savvy always kept them below their peers in terms of success and it is only in recent years have the band started to find a reasonable amount of success after a long career of constant disappointments and bizarre records.

Never has a band put as much effort into integrating external influences while barely deviating from their base. Testament unlike most of their peers always maintained a naive sense of candour in interviews and often revealing too much of what truly happened behind the scenes. Label pressure forced them to expand the 20 or so minutes of New Order into a full length record which hampered some of the brilliant ideas by surrounding them with long introductions and disposable riffs.

From then on the band never fully recovered and resorted to churning out records at a fast pace that were retreads of what their peers had done combined with the Heavy metal and Hard rock of their youth. When mastermind Alex Skolnick left due to being caught up between Chuck Billy’s vocals and Eric Peterson’s rhythm guitars and having so much more to offer with his remarkable talent, the band followed the groove metal trend while maintaining their chugging Heavy metal base with catastrophic results on Low.

The follow up Demonic is a laughable attempt at selling out by getting heavier and opting for a digital production that would add extra punch to each chugged note but make the lack of quality even more evident. While erroneously known as Testament’s Death metal album, Demonic relied once again on chugging riffs and Billy’s vocals but this time replaced with a harsher growl and some more chromatic riffs that had pretty much lost all form of Heavy metal melody. Their chugging form of Speed metal translated well to the tasteless brand of Nu Death/groove metal that was becoming popular at the time. The riffs went from bland Heavy metal riffs to power chord sequences in the style of Fear Factory.

The Gathering continued this trend but often made the jump backwards to wards more familiar territory that was less alienating for fans that wanted more of the same. The band then abandoned that strategy and released a string of rehashes that took advantage of the “thrash revival” movement and enticing Alex Skolnick with enough money to return. Skolnick would bedazzle listeners and submit to his role exclusively as a soloist rather than a composer. The Formation of Damnation saw the beginning of a pattern of a more modern lexicon consisting of blast beats, jazz like syncopation and good cop/bad cop verse/chorus arrangements. This combined with their aforementioned tactics has been the Modus Operandi up to now.

“Night of the Witch” from their recently announced Titans of Creation attempts to integrate Black metal from Eric Peterson’s hilarious Dragonlord project. A few tremolo riffs connect the groove riffs with the bland Speed metal riffs. Eric Peterson sounding like a higher pitched Chuck Billy with little distorsion in his throat as to not alienate fans and the song’s pivotal passage being the introduction of the groove riff and Chuck holding the “All” syllable in unison. This creates anticipation for a simple Pantera groove to get the crowd moving and nothing else. The song revolves around the following cycle:

Basic Speed metal riff –> Black metal tremolo picked riff –> Higher screams over a Dimmu Borgir riff –> breakdown/chorus, repeat.

The band to their credit manage to unite these somewhat disparate segments into a cohesive Testament song instead of sounding like any other Modern metal band. The issue is that the standard Testament song is a very boring affair that wore out its welcome thirty years ago. Peterson without Skolnick has found it impossible to compose anything somewhat innovative and has to rely on the powerful vocals to carry every song. Skolnick abandoned the sinking ship for a while for much more interesting pursuits that sadly didn’t provide the same amount of financial freedom and thus forcing a return. Had Skolnick been given much more freedom and allowed to expand the seeds sown on The New Order, Testament would have had a chance of competing with their superior peers but their legacy will forever the beer metal band that wasn’t quite able to escape the hole.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

31 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Testament and Alex Skolnick”

  1. Gas, flames, boners says:

    The first album was just okay, fun for rare listens; everything since has no value whatsoever. Severely overestimated by their fans

  2. deathrasher says:

    Is Vomitory a better band?

  3. canadaspaceman says:

    I went mental for them, headbanging and playing air guitar at the one or two times I seen them in concert in the early 1990s, before thrash metal stopped being booked and it was only death metal or grunge rock, and most of the touring death metal acts coming through the city I didn’t care for.
    Yes, i was THAT GUY that would walk out during headlining bands because i was bored and enjoyed what would be on TV instead.
    It is only with the age of the late 90s cheap used CD’s and then later with the explosion of internet reviews and downloading, I doscovered a lot of good death metal.
    back to testament,
    the debut was pretty cool, similar to Exodus’ Pleasures of the Flesh Lp with the Euro metal flavor in riffing and guitar leads.
    but after that LP, it was apparent they became a Metallica-wannabe band, but with catchier riffs,
    and why not?
    especially since Metallica sucked with all that slow Black Sabbath-type shit ever since more slow songs after the Puppets LP.

    A lot of old fans like me gave up on Testament, so it is cool to see articles like this.
    I tried all the albums after The Ritual, didn’t really care for them to listen again.
    Alex Skolnick these days is also a Hillary Clinton fan ? an SJW libtard from what it appears on sites like facebook ?

  4. canadaspaceman says:

    or maybe I mixed it up , and Skolnick is giving support to Bernie Sanders?

    either way, another good guitarist that never read books like Ayn Rand books like Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, and their warnings.
    iI any of you have not read the books, it gives the cold rundown of leftists/”liberals”, like what the Clintons have done, or what the Bernie Sanders-types would do.

    1. Idiotismus says:

      Do you really have to suffer through Rand to realize this?

  5. canadaspaceman says:

    my apologies for the typographical errors above. I am getting tuned on FAXE 10% and wanted to type this now.

  6. Doug says:

    Not all metal heads that lived in vans back in the 90’s were bad people, but most of them were Testament freaks.

    Speaking of Metallica, I just realized today that it seems like Prong’s Beg To Differ album was at the same time heavily influenced by them while surpassing any single Metallica album in overall quality (at least the music anyway, they may be sjw’s for all I know!)

  7. Liberty Freeman says:

    WTF did I just read?? This article is bull shit

    1. The truth hurts, breathe and calm donwn.

  8. Lookpal says:

    Bunch of neck beard metalheads on here. All sorts of metal bands pull from different types of metal and other genres. Metallica sometimes used Irish melodies along with jazz moments thanks to Kirk studying with Joe Satriani. Man, this article read like the “number 15 Burger King foot lettuce” guy. Also, Atlas shrugged sucks. It’s just justification to kiss elites asses, which is hypocritical on conservatives part

    1. Do you actually suffer from mental retardation? Hammet is a one time student of Satriani. He didn’t even write anything of value in Metallica. James wrote his best solos.

      1. lol wut says:

        Where the hell did you read that?

          1. thewaters says:

            Kirk Hammet is THE most overrated guitarist of all time. Mustaine wipes the floor with him………DMX is a better guitarist even.

            1. KillTheLars says:

              He only got the job for being an easy-to-manipulate child, 3 huge egos had no place in the same band. Dave Mustaine achieving success was one of the biggest “fuck you” in heavy metal history, period.

          2. lol wut says:

            McIver’s a retard. James doesn’t write solos

            1. Metallica are probably the most documented metal band in existence, go do some research.

            2. ignominious says:

              Hetfield clearly wrote all the solos on St. Anger.

              1. bloodypulp says:

                st anger whats that

                1. Metallica expert says:

                  Its what happens with your asshole when you get fisted by several bears in a row.

      2. Puli Thevan says:

        Anything of value…
        Enter sandman famous riff was written by him, with a slight arrangement change with the help of Lars over the phone…
        The unforgiven solo as documented on video in the year and a half also shows Hetfiekd was not involved …
        For me his solos on Damaged Inc,Jump in the fire Four Horseman, The God that failed, One are very good…
        Better than anything Mustaine can do…

        1. did you just us Enter Sandman as an example of good writing?

          1. Puli Theven says:

            Yes I did…
            And why not?.. it’s a good catchy riff, simple and effective in the veins of Smoke on the water by Deep Purple.
            I made them tons of money which I guess is pretty good.

            1. it’s a rehash riff from old tropes, smoke on the water was a bit more creative

  9. Richard Roma says:

    Testament are a good band for people just getting into metal; they were one of the first bands I heard after Metallica/Ozzy/etc. The Legacy was their only truly great record, although there were good moments on The New Order and even The Gathering. I haven’t kept up with any of the newer releases.

  10. J Burnside says:

    Hmmmmmm.that was a pretty brutal summation of the band Testament. Ooof. Brutal

  11. Thrash is better than Black or Death says:

    Yeah, as a long time fan of the Thrash genre, Testament have always been “meh”.The Legacy was a promising debut with bad production and it was their best album.Exodus and Overkill have been much more consistent quality in their output over the years. I swear I have must have seen them a dozen times with other bands.Billy is a great vocalist, Skolnick is decent, but as a band, they have never risen above generic.

  12. Virgil Cocksmith says:

    You people on this website are nuts. “Escape the hole”? What hole? Are Testament really in a rut where they can’t make a living playing music? Are they starving artists in the underground ghetto? Don’t think so. There’s bands out there who were/are worse-cases-Metal Church, Razor, Morbid Saint etc. There’s prestigious death metal bands who sell less records than Testament. How do you measure success in the metal music scene if you’re not fucking Poptallica! Newsflash! They always had mainstream appeal! I agree that the New Order could have been better if the record label (Atlantic) hadn’t rushed it. It still turned out better than just good.

    1. their music is bad, they aren’t living from their music. The money is a decent supplement but nothing to write home about. Those bands were better than Testament.

      1. Virgil Cocksmith says:

        They’re not as bad as something shlocky and silly like say GWAR or even Manowar. How do you know they’re not living off their music? Chuck Billy and Alex Skolnick have at least 3 million mainly from touring. They have as much prestige as Kreator. They’re more successful than Metal Church.

  13. Scum Filter says:

    Legacy demo with Mike “Rottweiler” Ronchette and Steve “Zetro” Souza

Comments are closed.

Classic reviews: