I think we can all agree things suck right now. Like, a lot. Enter the eternal soundtrack for things sucking: thrash metal. Testament’s latest is the album for the moment precisely because it’s not the album for the moment. Honestly, songs about Heaven’s Gate, nuclear Armageddon, and ’80s serial killer Richard Ramirez (a.k.a. The Night Stalker) feel refreshing in the midst of the serious shit we’re going through right now.
Titans of Creation marks the Bay Area legends’ thirteenth album, and it will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who’s heard any of their previous work. No Super Collider-type late-period bed-shitting here. You get chunky, crunchy thrash metal from some of the absolute best musicians in the business. Lots of bands call themselves “supergroups;” if a lineup that includes Alex Skolnick, Eric Peterson, Steve DiGiorgio, and Gene Hoglan isn’t that, then what is? As usual, Chuck Billy brings a top-quality performance that touches on all his previous vocal styles.
After 2012’s exceptional Dark Roots of the Earth, 2016’s Brotherhood of the Snake seemed like a lateral move. This feels like Repentless. It’s satisfying but kinda dumb, like Leonardo da Vinci painting with a caveman’s club. Lots of mid-tempo thumping. The mid-section contains the most flab — thrash albums probably shouldn’t clock in at an hour, and this doesn’t prove the exception to the rule. The first three songs — “Children of the Next Level,” “WWIII,” and “Dream Deceiver” — make up the strongest stretch on the record. After that, it can be hit and miss. “Ishtar’s Gate,” for example, tries for a “Sweating Bullets” bass-and-spoken-word thing, but only MegaDave can really pull that off.
Testament fans expect a certain level of quality with each new release, and this doesn’t disappoint, per se. God knows we need some kick-ass thrash right now, and anything Megadeth puts out in the near future is gonna have all kinds of questionable politics attached. Testament deliver on the ass-kicking. This just doesn’t really move the needle forward for the band. They’re still titans, but they’re not creating much new here.
Testament’s Titans of Creation comes out Friday. You can listen to “Children of the Next Level” below and pre-order the album here. Don’t expect to see them live anytime soon, though.