Testament - Low review
02. Legions (In Hiding)
03. Hail Mary
04. Trail Of Tears
05. Shades Of War
07. Dog Faced Gods
08. All I Could Bleed
10. Chasing Fear
12. Last Call
Sometimes, you just don't know
How low... how low you can go...
That above, ladies and gentlemen, is the first line of chorus that Chuck Billy sings on the album. Fitting lyrics that are perhaps unconsciously put, it defines to me the anger that Testament had had with themselves after releasing their weakest works to date: Souls Of Black and the infamous The Ritual. They were over and through with it all; commercially-wise it was not as satisfying and did not fulfill expectations, it kind-of alienated the fans and even the members themselves did not like all that buzz. So, with guitar wonder Alex Skolnick being the only one with the thumbs-up for their last few works, he was gone soon after and shocking replacement James Murphy (known from giants Obituary and Death) came to star.
And what a shift this is! Enhanced with the overlooked, yet great lead works of Murphy throughout, Low is perhaps the band's best achievement without Skolnick. Here, for the first time in their careers, Testament are diverse. Opener "Low", which is perhaps the best track on this album, carries the fury of thrash and rebellion with the gritty, groovy '90s metal feel, "Trail Of Tears" could be considered one of the best ballads out there, "Dog Faced Gods" is a great rush of death-thrash and songs like "Urotsukidoji" and "Last Call" best demonstrate bassist Greg Christian's amazing talent by combining jazzy stuff with weird, harsh atmospheres and metal. Even if you harken back to their heavy-hard-rock feel, there's "Hail Mary" to satisfy.
As far as I have already praised this album, there's still more. Peterson delivers new, fresh riffs throughout; the way he plays with palm mutes and creates memorable, strong riffs is beyond me. To fill in Eric's feeling of slightly monotonous chugging is Murphy doing great solos and licks and Billy playing with his vocals the best he could. He growls there, groove-harshens here, sings old-style there, does his best clean work here and still does the Hetfield imitation at correct moments (say, "Ride"). I cannot, of course, forget Greg Christian's amazing bass work or John Tempesta's fitting mayhem. All in all, this is beyond decent; this is a hidden gem that many overlook.
Unlike too-characteristic and monotonous works such as Demonic and Souls Of Black and shallow-based albums like The Gathering, Low outshines itself in the band's '90s criteria by combining the technicality and catchiness they were known for with the refreshment of their sound, something rarely found in their works, sugar-coated with the gritty and high-production feel of 1994. Some fillers are there ("P.C." and "All I Could Bleed") but overall this is easily the best of their '90s material and a landmark in their discography.
Highlights: "Low", "Hail Mary", "Trail Of Tears", "Urotsukidoji", "Dog Faced Gods" and "Ride". Most of it is of the same quality, though.
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