February 4, 2011

Music Review: Testament - Live at the Fillmore

The 1990's were strange times for metal. Supplanted by alternative and grunge, the metal legends of the 1980's found themselves either trying to adapt or soldiering on in the underground from which they born from long ago. Metallica cut their hair and introduced a bit of rock to their sound, Megadeth softened a touch and flirted with the mainstream, Anthrax, well, I'm not sure what they were up to, and Slayer was doing punk covers. Then there was Testament, despite lineup shake ups, they soldiered on and even got a bit heavier, flirting with a death style. This reissue of their 1995 concert in their hometown of San Francisco shows the band doing what they do best, delivering their brand of trailblazing material.

Testament was a band that took me a long time to warm up to. My late entry to the metal world and subsequent embracing of the alt/grunge scene did me no favors. I think it was Low that really got me to pay attention. There are some great, groove-laden metal songs on there. This concert was recorded during their support for that release and the set list reflects that. The fourteen-song set sees the band taking a tour through some of their better late-80's catalog titles with a few choice Low cuts mixed in. The resulting set works very well.

I cannot claim to be a big fan of live albums. Some of them are great (Warren Zevon's Stand in the Fire and Iron Maiden's Live After Death come to mind), while others are great time capsules for tours that I attended (Megadeth's Rude Awakening was recorded a couple weeks after I first saw them), but for the most part they only serve to give half the story. I prefer the live DVD where I get the music as well as the ability to see their show. This is the way to witness a live recording if you can't be there.

Unfortunately, this album does not prove to be quite as memorable as those others. Do not fret, this is still a more than worthy album. While I am not the biggest live CD connoisseur, there is some great music here. Everyone gets their moments to shine and the performance shows Testament was not softening or changing their approach in those wild and crazy 1990's metal days!

From the opening of "The Preacher" to "The New Order" to "Low" and the instrumental "Urotsukidoji" to personal favorites "Souls of Black," "Practice What You Preach," and show closer "Dog Faced Gods," there is a veritable wall of metal. Testament has always displayed first rate musicianship and that is evident on their albums and in the live setting, nothing to be disappointed with here.

To close the album we get a trio of acoustic versions of Testament tunes. The songs are: "Return to Serenity" (from The Ritual), "The Legacy" (from The Legacy), and "Trail of Tears" (from Low). It shows off a different side of the band and it shows that their music can translate really well to the acoustic side. Very good stuff and a nice way to close out the album.

If you like live metal albums, get this. If you are a big Testament fan, get this. If you are lukewarm on the whole situation, pass. It is a very good but not what I would call a must have. Still, it is nice to have it available again.

Recommended for fans.

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