Title: “First Strike Still Deadly” (reissue)
Label: Prosthetic Records
Release Date: 3/18/2008
Genre: Thrash Metal
You have to admire a band when they set out to re-release classic tracks from early in their career but instead of delivering something which you are long familiar with on a compilation release decide to go through the painstaking process of re-recording and producing the songs with today’s available technology. I say this with a wry sense of sarcasm because it’s all too often when bands choose to do something of this type and the listener ends up receiving stuff that sounds so far off the mark of what you once knew and loved. One such example was with the dreadful “re-do” of Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” where the guys re-recorded the classic album and delivered it to their fans as “the way it should have sounded” – spare me guys, that was not necessary. Fortunately this would not be the case with the release of Testament’s “First Strike Still Deadly”, a 2001 album that has been picked up and re-issued by Prosthetic Records for us all to enjoy in 2008. “FSSD” offers the diehard Testament loyalist the best of the tracks from their first two albums as far as its band members were concerned. The tunes while re-recorded using the technology of the time come off as not having one ounce of over-cleaning done, nor being too produced to be able to enjoy the rawness and brutality that Testament so often delivered during this time. From beginning to end this is a powerful listening experience that makes a Metal fan wonder how this band took a little longer in reaching some of the heights enjoyed by the first wave Thrash Metal bands.
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Artist: Scum Of The Earth
Title: “Sleaze Freak” w/bonus DVD
Label: Eclipse Records
Release Date: 10/23/2007
Genre: Industrial Metal
Formed when Rob Zombie decided to put his music aside to pursue his other interests in life, guitarist Riggs and drummer John Tempesta would form Scum Of The Earth. A band that would musically continue along the same path and premise as that of Zombie’s and this made them a perfect lock in for the performer’s existing fan base. It would however distance those who had expected something a little different from the guitar player, especially if they were casual observers from outside of this musical realm. “Sleaze Freak” is the bands second album, and while I admit to never hearing their first effort in full, I found from the samples of it that this recording ups the bands ante and moves them forward full throttle into the throes of being both Stripper Metal and Sleaze Metal masterminds. The thing about this stuff that I am not into is the level of repetitive grooves and feels that seem to invade each track and if you are that casual listener you would wonder if this was one contiguous track as opposed to a full album. “Bombshell From Hell” is the first single and is very reminiscent of Rob Zombie, and perhaps even a little better than he has been doing with his own sound of late. The lyrics are definitely on the R rated level and there is a lot of explicit dialogue and imagery presented on the songs that deal with sex, murder and out and out evil doings. It’s not for everyone but if you liked the first album then this will not matter to you.
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Title: “The Spitfire Collection”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 3/13/2007
Genre: Heavy Metal
Testament has long been a band that is listed among the revered when it comes to the brand of Thrash Metal that originated from the Bay Area in California so many years ago. Albums such as “Practice What You Preach”, “The Ritual” and “Souls Of Black” are cited as classics in the genre and the membership of Billy, Clemente, Skolnick, Christian and Peterson are named as legends in Heavy Metal as a whole based on these releases. While popular with Metal heads far and wide, they would not achieve the levels of success that bands like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth did but despite this would continue to thrive for the sake of the genre. “The Spitfire Collection” is an interesting release for while it might touch upon a couple of notable numbers from the bands historic past, its true aim is to give you a taste of the bands last decade or so. The CD covers the albums “Live At The Fillmore”, “The Gathering”, “Demonic”, “First Strike Still Deadly” and “Live In London”, all of which were released on this label when the band signed on to them. As you leaf through the liner notes, you will see that while Testament remained a very active band since their inception, they were plagued with a number of lineup changes over the years. Don’t get me wrong as these changes would often find some incredible players in the bands roster, and how bad could they do with drummers such as Gene Hoglan and Dave Lombardo behind the kit. The material presented from both “The Gathering” and “Demonic” is perhaps the heaviest that the band would ever release and the songs showed the band could change with the times as necessary. Through it all, Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson remained the only members of the original lineup across this span of albums. The changes continued until making almost a complete 360 degree turn as the original members would reunite for the “Live In London” CD and DVD. The album closes with three tracks from this particular release and should make many run to the shops or online to purchase their own copy.
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Title: Live In London
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 11/1/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Metal fans certainly got a good amount of music in 2005 as it seemed to be a great year for Metal Reunion releases. We first saw Judas Priest as a fully reunited with Halford lineup tour the world and not long after that word came down that the 1985 lineup of Anthrax would reunite and tour as well. It was only a matter of time before we would find the original lineup of Testament doing the same thing. That’s right you would now be able to own a new recorded concert of the classic Testament members: Chuck Billy, Alex Skolnick, Greg Christian, Eric Peterson and Louie Clemente (also joined by John Tempesta a veteran of Testament and White Zombie). The CD documents a concert performed to a sold out crowd in London from early in 2005. Believe me this CD kicks some serious ass and offers no lag time or hesitation as the band belts out hit after hit. I was only a fan of the first three records and can attest that all of my favorites are included here to enjoy. The sound is clear and works well with the levels of the audience whose cheering is mixed in well. I enjoyed hearing Alex Skolnick play this kind of stuff on guitar again, as he was always one of the best the business had. Chuck Billy sounds great and his growls have not suffered over time. Louie Clemente’s drumming is solid and he comes in for the last 6 songs of the CD. All of the other songs are played by John Tempesta to a vote of approval. As you listen you can find that the band does not miss a trick and sound like they had not moved apart but instead remained together. This is especially apparent in the twin guitar work of Peterson and Skolnick.
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Title: “Live In London”
Label: Eagle Vision
Release Date: 11/1/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
This DVD was released on the same day as the CD and both of them feature the performance of the reunited Testament “classic” lineup. Once again you can see Chuck Billy, Alex Skolnick, Eric Peterson, Greg Christian and Louie Clemente on one stage. You don’t have to be a Testament fan to enjoy the video but of course it certainly helps you get a lot more out of it. Filmed in London as the title denotes the video captures the guys smashing through a selection of their greatest songs for a Metal hungry audience. While it is strictly a live performance shoot of the band you can actually sense the excitement as it all goes down. Lead singer Chuck Billy seems in top-notch form after dealing with cancer and his voice comes through if anything a little rougher than the old days. That’s good for Testament material to be most certain. I enjoyed being able to see this DVD as I missed the performances when they did them in the area as the shows were few and far between. I have always been a fan of the playing of Alex Skolnick and while I enjoy his jazz adventures of late and his work with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, it was fantastic to see him doing these classic numbers. Everyone in the band performs admirably and I even referenced in the CD review that you would not think they had been on different avenues for so long. It sounds on point on the CD and when you watch it on the DVD the band shows you that they are true to the music and capable of still delivering it with the intensity that it merited. Veteran drummer John Tempesta handles the beginning half of the DVD and then Louie comes out to give the crowd the rest of the set. Everyone in the audience is going berserk and rightly so. These Bay-Area Thrashers gave some anthems back in the day and you can see the audience eager to receive more and more.
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