Testament - Brotherhood of the Snake (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Brotherhood of the Snake (2016)

Nuclear Blast

Just in time for Halloween, two of metal’s heaviest hitters have dropped scary new snake themed LP’s. Testament’s Brotherhood of the Snake and Crowbar’s The Serpent Only Lies take different approaches, but both are essential listening for the witching season. Both albums also have exquisite serpentine artwork by Eliran Kantor. The serpent has long been the symbol of evil, deception and even the Devil himself. It’s doubtful that either of these albums is going to do much to rehabilitate that image.

Since guitarist Alex Skolnick rejoined Testament in 2005, It seems like the band can do no wrong. The Formation of Damnation (2008) and Dark Roots of Earth (2012) are both modern thrash classics. The current lineup consists of mainstays Chuck Billy on vocals and Eric Peterson on guitar along with Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad, Death) on drums and Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Iced Earth, Sadus) on bass. They’re almost a thrash supergroup at this point. Brotherhood of the Snake was certainly among the most anticipated metal releases of 2016. It comes 29 years after the Oakland quintet’s debut LP The Legacy. It was inspired by the legend of an ancient secret society set up by aliens to enlighten man.

The title track opens the album with a syncopated riff that quickly turns to blast beats and a Chuck Billy roar. It’s vintage Testament, dark, fast and heavy. “The Pale King” and “Stronghold” are more of the same and stick with the album’s main concept. “Seven Seals” is where things take a turn for the weird. It’s a relatively straight up telling of The Battle of Armageddon from the biblical book of Revelation. You might expect a surprise ending where the Devil somehow prevails, but no, Christ riding on his white horse ultimately defeats Satan. Testament has touched on similar subjects in the past, but this is definitely a different twist. Overall, the first side of the record is nearly flawless.

Side two opener is a raging thrasher called “Centuries of Suffering”. Unfortunately, the rest of the second half of the album is not as brilliant. “Black Jack” and “Canna-Business” seem like missteps. “Black Jack” even borrows a line from Ted Nugent’s “Free-For-All”. A couple of duds is not an unforgivable sin. Even most of the bulletproof thrash classics had a filler or novelty track or two. While Brotherhood doesn’t quite measure up to Formation or Dark Roots, It’s an excellent album. Its only real crime is not meeting the extremely lofty standard of the last two LP’s. The musicianship is there, and so is the razor sharp production. The songs just don’t feel quite as inspired.

Thrash metal is in the middle of a huge revival. Testament is a major part of it, joining Anthrax, Death Angel, DRI, Megadeth, Metallica and Suicidal Tendencies just to name a few. All have put out crucial new material 30 years into their careers. Add Brotherhood of the Snake to the must have thrash releases of 2016.