TESTAMENT – Serpentine Affinity In City Of Brotherly Love

April 25, 2017, 2 months ago

Mark Gromen

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Nightly meeting of the Brotherhood Of The Snake, Philly Chapter, called to session at the Electric Factory, on a Sunday night (April 23rd). Half of the aforementioned new album was aired, in a set punctuated by numerous solos, the price to pay when virtually every member is a renowned master of his craft (see Alex Skolnick on guitar, Steve DiGiorgio on bass and the Human Metronome, Gene Hoglan on drums).

After an opening four round bout, consisting of the latest material (only "Rise Up" not part of Brotherhood, yet going back to its Dark Roots Of The Earth predecessor), it was time for some oldies and the second half of 17 song set was almost exclusively vintage Testament material. Strange that nothing off the well-received (and heavy!) Formation Of Damnation was offered. Has it really been nine years since it was released? Where does the time go! In the last 13 months, have seen the band at two outdoor European festivals, a pair of gigs aboard 70,000 Tons Of Metal, an opening slot and now headlining their own tour.

With shadow box/risers either side of the stage, for guitarists to stand upon, as well as a pair of 45 degrees, inclined stairways, leading up to a second tier, housing Hoglan's drums, the title cut from the new album kicks things off. "The Pale King" sees the guitar tandem, for a rare moment, side-by-side, center stage, Skolnick eventually taking the lead. A red lit "Centuries Of Suffering" also features compressed carbon dioxide bombs, Alex going into a guitar solo (rest of the band offstage) with pink highlights.

"Electric Crown" sees Chuck Billy in the shadows as the axemen battle it out, Skolnick playing vertically. When he reappears, the singer air guitars on his fluorescent lighted half mic. "Into The Pit" sees the hulking frontman on the riser, typically reserved for shorter members (like he needs it?), directing the crowd to create a circle pit. Under more red lights, Skolnick is on the stage right riser and Billy, stage left, pantomiming his fretboard skills. Three towers, each side of Hoglan, blast intense white headlights towards the crowd, for "Low". Eric Peterson and Skolnick shred.

The guitars are on opposite risers to start a yellow lit "Throne Of Thorns", while Billy announces "Stronghold", stage bathed in purple, as a half dozen "smoke" plumes rise up. It concludes with Peterson doing a histrionic solo.

Under white lights, Hoglan's solo really deserves better accolades. The man has been a major force, behind the kit, for many bands over the course of thirty years. Appropriately, "First Strike Is Deadly" followed. Speaking of which, not sure people truly understand Steve DiGiorgio's ability. He too is given a brief spotlight. The band returns for "Urotsukidôji", Peterson and the bassist back-to-back, strobes augmenting the jam session. Green lights, with flashing whites, is the rule for "Souls Of Black", the old school material hitting stride, as the band shift into a higher gear. "The New Order" brings the proper set to a close, but there's still unfinished business, namely a couple of old chestnuts, to be unearthed.

The encore begins with "Practice What You Preach", Billy bellows the title, summoning a voice seemingly direct from Hell. Might be near the end of the set, but the crowd is still in fine form, singing not just the chorus, but virtually word-for-word from the first note. Odd that green tinted "Over The Wall" closes things out. Security in the pit must have been thankful, as the clarion call for crowd surfers is usually trotted out earlier in the show. Regardless of when aired, still a fabulous link to the old days. 

In a word, vicious!

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