May 2, 2009

CD Review: Testament - Live at Eindhoven '87

In 1987 I was still in my musical infancy, listening to acts like Def Leppard, Poison, and Warrant. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I still like them and others of that era, for what its worth. All I am saying is that I had not made the jump to the heavier stuff yet, although my childhood best friend was into the more extreme acts of the day and I was never far away from listening to a little bit of it. What does that have to do with this release? Well, Testament was one of those heavier bands that I heard bits and pieces of in those early years. I cannot say I thought much of them, my uneducated mind saw them as something of a Metallica clone (how wrong was I?). Anyway, some years later I discovered just how good these guys were and are (have you heard The Formation of Damnation?). This live set takes me back to the years where I paid little attention and shows me just what I was missing.

The Dynamo festival ran for 20 years, beginning in 1986, and was a precursor to some of Europe's largest metal festivals, such as the almighty Wacken Open Air Festival (which debuted in 1990). The Netherlands' Dynamo festival, held in Eindhoven, was just getting started when they invited newcomers Testament to be a part of the show. Testament only had one album, The Legacy, under their belts, but were already making metal waves worldwide, not that I ever noticed.

testament_liveateindhovenAnyway, the young quintet made their European debut on a rainy June 8, 1987 in front of thousands of metalheads, looking for something to get into. The band played a 45-minute set, covering much of their debut album. The show was recorded, but before now only five songs had ever been released (as an EP on cassette and vinyl). Now, Prosthetic Records has given us a fantastic release of the set, it took awhile, but it is finally here and well worth the time it takes to listen to it (over, and over, and over, and....).

The album opens with an incendiary performance of "Disciples of the Watch," a track that would not appear in studio form until the following year on The New Order. What can I say? This is one of the band's best cuts and to hear it played so early in its life at the beginning of a live set with such energy and conviction, it is rather electrifying.

The recording of the album is quite good, considering the analog nature of the equipment at the time; however, I am sure there was much clean up that went into the remastering. The finished album is not perfect by any stretch, but it is a lot better than I had any right to expect.

As soon as the concert begins, you cannot help but get caught up in the energy being generated by these metal upstarts. They clearly knew what they had when they put pen to paper and instrument to tape. Chuck Billy's voice commands your attention while Alex Skolnick's face-melting leads make you want to pull out your air guitars.

There are very few moments when the band stops to take a breath, although the best is early on when they are looking into the crowd for fans with beer, and complaining when they don't see enough. I guess when you see Testament live it is a requirement to have multiple beers on your person at all times.

Aside from the beer comment, you really just need to listen to the music. From the previously mentioned "Disciples of the Watch" to "Apocalyptic City" to "Over the Wall" to the great performance of the show closer, "Reign of Terror," you cannot go wrong with what they brought to the table that day in June.

Highly Recommended.


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