Testament – The Legacy (1987, Atlantic)
- Over The Wall
- The Haunting
- Burnt Offerings
- Raging Waters
- First Strike Is Deadly
- Do Or Die
- Alone In The Dark
- Apocalyptic City
Chuck Billy – Vocals
Alex Skolnick – Guitars
Eric Peterson – Guitars
Greg Christian – Bass
Louie Clemente – Drums
Total Time – 38:53
San Francisco Thrash Metal masters, Testament, debuted in 1987 with THE LEGACY and have provided good, consistent Speed Metal for the last twenty years. Back in ’87, I wasn’t into the Thrash scene outside of the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, & Slayer) but I remember taking a chance on this band. I remember thinking back then, “This sounds like Megadeth, like Metallica.” and I left it at that. Over the years, I have collected other Testament albums and I have come to appreciate the band’s history and music.
When this album was picked for March Metal Madness, I realized I wasn’t as familiar with it as I was the other albums. Actually, I didn’t even have it on CD, I had my original crusty old cassette. Then I had a major problem acquiring the CD when I bought another Testament album, THE RITUAL, instead and realized I already owned it. After all that, I have listened to this album daily for two weeks and I am able to come to a simple conclusion: “This is not the same as Megadeth or Metallica.” In it’s basic form, THE LEGACY is Thrash akin to the Metallicas and Megadeths roaming the scene back then but there is an undeniable rawness, and thickness, to the album that sets it apart.
Kicking the album off, ‘Over The Wall’ shifts into high gear with a wall of riffs and a machine gun drum blast. Driving guitars and Chuck going straight for the throat. ‘The Haunting’ has a great twin guitar attack, the solos are intense. I like the slow, melodic guitar intro to ‘Burnt Offerings’. It mashes into a giant riff that really leaps out, it sounds very familiar but I can’t place it. The Skolnick solo is blazing and reminds me of a faster Dave Murray or Glenn Tipton. The main riff and craching cymbals is what really hooks me, one of my favorites on the album.
‘Raging Waters’ is another speed attack that makes the listener stand to attention. Which is faster? Chuck Billy’s vocals, the guitars, the bass, or that pounding on the kit? All I know is that it is one fast track that just pushes the high gear. ‘Curse Of The Legions Of Death’ is the fastest, shortest track on the album. It’s a power punch to the gut with Chuck just screaming the lyrics and Clemente killing the drums. It’s an all out assault.
‘First Strike Is Deadly’ is one of the songs I remember from back in the day because of the solo which still reminds me of the Iron Maiden twin axe attack. ‘Do Or Die’ sounds like more of the same until the chorus which has that hook and I think Chuck Billy sounds a little like James Hetfield on this track. My favorite song of the album is ‘Alone In The Dark’. There is a sense of melody in the speed that leads into almost a different type of sound than what has been delivered. It’s a less intense vocal with some actual singing on the chorus. Chuck has a distinct delivery and the chorus breaks it up nicely. This is also my favorite guitar performance by Skolnick and Petereson, it’s not the fastest but it has the most memorable hook. Talk about just jamming, I had forgotten how good this track was and I had to go back and play it a couple more times before I got to the final track, ‘Apocalyptic City’. This is the longest song on the record, clocking in just under six minutes. Layer of guitar over layer of guitar, splintering off at solo time, and joining again. By the end, I am exhausted. That was a power packed forty minutes!
I was a little apprehensive about reviewing this album because I hadn’t heard it in probably ten to fifteen years and it was out of my realm of expertise. What I came to realize after living with this album for a couple of weeks was that I had uncovered a lost gem in my own collection. Not just a lost album, but also a lost band because I never think to reach for a Testament record. I have almost all of them and I never seem to listen to them after the intial release. THE LEGACY is a raw debut that shows the band can play as fast as the Big Four while setting themselves apart. Alex Skolnick impresses on this debut with some lightning guitar work and Chuck Billy projects the aggression that is the root of Thrash Metal. I also think the way Skolnick and Peterson play off each other adds some more bite to each track, a little more meat to the feast. THE LEGACY is worth seeking out for some old school Thrash. Favorite tracks here: ‘Alone In The Dark’, ‘Burnt Offerings’, ‘Over the Wall’, & ‘The Haunting’.
March Metal Madness is continuing through the end of the month. If you read this review, you can get three more unique perspectives on this album by heading over to Hard Rock Hideout, Heavy Metal Time Machine, and Pulses, Verses, and Other Flotsam. We are reviewing one album together each Monday in March and we are concluding our discussion on the classic Metal of 1987 next week. Next Monday (3/26)…..you wanted the best, you got the best, the controversial and commercial CRAZY NIGHTS from…..KISS! Stay tuned…..