For many, Easter is all about church services celebrating the New Testament era of the bible and the savior Jesus Christ. However, I was party to a whole other kind of religion with a Testament all its own on this most recent Easter Day, April 16, 2017. Yes indeed, the Brotherhood Of The Snake itself, Bay Area oldschool thrash legends Testament were at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina and they brought friends. The revival of classic metal would also be preached by Prong, Sepultura and new converts, The Convalescence. Before the night’s electrified sermon would unfold, we had the opportunity to meet Testament for a signing session and brief interaction with the guys which was cool. And for the record, the guys currently in the long running powerhouse are vocalist Chuck Billy, guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, bassist Steve Digiorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan.
The evening’s events would kick off with a band totally unknown to me, the Toledo, Ohio sextet, The Convalescence. I’m not totally certain what genre you’d classify the act as since they incorporate some Metalcore and Death Metal (Deathcore?) into their sound. But oddly, there are keyboards, varied vocalization styles and yes….corpse paint! Now the band received decent crowd support and interaction, I’ll give them that but to be added to support this bill of oldschool acts was an ill-conceived plan on someone’s part I believe. I am sure it was some label employee’s big idea perhaps but a modern metal act like this would be better served on a more accommodating roster like a Van’s Warped Tour or Knotfest (do those still exist?). Being unfamiliar with The Convalescence, I’m clueless to what songs they performed but allow me to add that the band was not bad or terrible or anything…just a tad out of place in my opinion.
Next up were a band I have had a long, ongoing love for over many, many years…Prong! My seeing the band, albeit with differing line ups, dates back to their touring cycle for their third release, 1990’s Beg To Differ. Tonight would see band founder and frontman/guitarist Tommy Victor joined by drummer Art Cruz and bassist/bkg. vox Jason Christopher. If you are a fan of Prong‘s then you should be well aware that this band are on a roll and they only get better with each new album, and each new day it seems. Clearly, there was a venue full of Prong fans here too as people were singing right along to classic tracks from the trio. Songs like ‘For Dear Life‘, ‘Beg To Differ‘ and ‘Unconditional‘ elicited energetic sing-alongs during their oh-so catchy choruses. Other, more current songs like ‘Cut And Dry‘ and ‘Sense Of Ease‘ from 2016’s critically acclaimed X – No Absolutes were also well received but the most involved tracks were the one-two-three punch of some really well known selections. Just like how they unfurl on 1994’s landmark Cleansing record, the trio of ‘Another Worldly Device‘, ‘Whose Fist Is This Anyway?‘ and ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck‘ nearly brought down the house.
The legendary Brazilian metal band Sepultura would take the stage next and I have a confession to make concerning them. I was an avid fan of the earlier era of the band, seeing them numerous times when Max and Igor Cavalera were still present but I kind of lost touch with the act many years back. No particular reason other than my tastes changed and as most people know, so did the iconic band’s membership. Currently, only longtime guitarist Andreas Kisser and bassist Paulo, Jr. remain from those early days and they’re joined by vocalist Derrick Green and drummer/percussionist Eloy Casagrande. Sepultura has thrived in the years since I saw them last, releasing several albums and furthering the legacy of the beloved band. In fact, 2018 will make twenty years that Derrick has fronted the band so truth is, he’s as much a part of that legacy as anyone else at this point.
Fans in attendance at The Fillmore were more than ready for the Sepultura onslaught too as the band opened with back to back tracks from their recently released fourteenth studio album, Machine Messiah. ‘I Am The Enemy‘ and ‘Phantom Self‘ activated the crowd and they remained involved for a flurry of songs from that same record like ‘Sworn Oath‘, ‘Alethea‘ and ‘Resistant Parasites‘. For me, the most interesting moments came when the band played the earlier era’s material such as ‘Desperate Cry‘, ‘Inner Self‘ and the set closing ‘Roots Bloody Roots‘. Hearing these songs that I knew so well being done by band members I’d never heard them performed by previously was a somewhat surreal experience. Needless to say, for me, Sepultura circa 2017 are just as impressive now as the band was back a few decades ago and clearly able to stand on their own merits.
Then the time had come for one of the Bay Area’s most enduring thrash band’s to bring their aural legacy to the stage. Speaking of which, Testament‘s debut album, 1987’s The Legacy, turned 30 years old this past week on April 21st. The current incarnation of the band is 3/5 of the one that recorded 1999’s The Gathering, a much heavier-oriented album and that same heavy vibe comes through in the live line up as well. The guys immediately unleashed a quartet of tracks from their more recent albums with ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake‘, ‘Rise Up‘, ‘The Pale King‘ and ‘Centuries Of Suffering‘. Chuck’s vocals bellowed throughout The Fillmore as the crowd’s excitement went off the register and during the latter track, Peterson performed a scorching guitar solo. That set things up nicely for the catchy, melodic hooks of ‘Electric Crown‘ from the band’s 1992 album, The Ritual. Alas, the melodic moments were soon obliterated by ‘Into The Pit‘, a song proceeded with Chuck sharing a tale of about a night of too much booze in Texas back in the day. That, and them going to check out an up and coming band that night, Pantera. Another flurry of songs ensued including the death metal-ish ‘Low‘, ‘Throne Of Thorns‘ and ‘Stronghold‘. The latter was prefaced with Chuck’s commentary supporting the Standing Rock protesters and went out with yet another intense guitar solo, this time by Alex.
A return to that aforementioned 1999 album came with The Gathering track ‘Eyes Of Wrath‘ and then came a jaw dropping spectacle to behold: A furious drum solo by Gene ‘The Atomic Clock‘ Hoglan! One of the unquestionably best drummers on earth unleashed upon that kit like a man possessed before the band returned to the stage for a volatile delivery of ‘First Strike Is Deadly‘. From there another astounding event to witness, Steve Digiorgio‘s unhinged bass solo! In case you don’t know it, Steve has nearly four decades under his belt playing bass..and playing bass like only he can..and like he does. It cannot merely be described, it must be observed to comprehend and then come another block of fantastic songs: ‘Urotsukidôjí‘, ‘Souls Of Black‘, ‘Seven Seals‘ and the set-ending ‘The New Order‘.
Of course just as soon as Testament exited the stage the thundering chants of “Test-a-ment! Test-a-ment!‘ erupted in the auditorium. The call went forth, building and building until the guys came back out and hit us with staggering one-two of ‘Practice What You Preach‘ and ‘Over The Wall‘. The crowd was in a frenzied state by the time the band wrapped up these two favorites and there was no escaping the feeling that we had been subjected to some of the best oldschool metal on this planet…which we had of course.
Disclaimer: I am not a photographer. Bear that in mind when viewing the pictures included in this show review but then again, one thing I learned at Metal Nexus is that anyone can call themselves a photographer..even if they really aren’t!
– Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker