Testament

Live at the State Theater
Detroit, Michigan, USA, April 27, 2000
Reviewed By Nathan Robinson

It has been ten years since I last saw a Testament show.  In fact this was my second time ever seeing them.  The first time was on Judas Priest’s Painkiller tour with Megadeth at the Palace of Auburn Hills, here in Michigan.  Testament was touring for Souls of Black, while Megadeth was supporting Rust in Peace.  The stadium was packed, and with a tour package that solid you can only imagine how awesome that show was!

It really wasn’t until the mid-‘90s that I became a concert go-er.  And at that point Testament had already lost popularity, which forced them to play smaller places, including the shitty Harpo’s in Detroit.  I was very surprised to see them play at the State Theater, which is one of the biggest venues in the Detroit area.  Sure The Gathering was a killer album, but how many people are still into them compared to their earlier days?  It turns out only about 300 tickets were sold, so it ended up being a pretty small show anyways.  But thankfully they made it to the State Theater!

Two opening bands were slated for the evening.  The first, local Detroiters Without Warning went on an hour late.  Oh great…and this was a weeknight!  A month ago, I had told my boss I would attend a work-related fundraiser this same night.  But when this show popped up, I switched plans ha!  Anyhow, the only good thing about sitting and waiting an hour before the damned first opening band was the fact that Sadus’ Elements of Anger was blaring throughout the concert hall.  It was the perfect choice, considering Testament’s lineup for the tour.  The stagehands looked confused, and the soundboard guy obviously didn’t have his shit together, as he was running back and forth between soundboard and stage, messing with wiring, and cursing up a storm.  Finally the Without Warning bastards hit the stage.  I almost don’t even need to explain what this band is all about.  Aren’t all opening bands the same nowadays?  I’ll say it anyway…Without Warning sounded like Biohazard, Machine Head, and Six Feet Under combined.  Their stage presence was taken right from Chapter One of How to Act on Stage if You’re a Hardcore Dumbass Band.  Who’s decision was it to have these guys open?  I thought Testament was no-bullshit metal?  The only thing good about Without Warning’s set was the instrumental, just because I didn’t have to look at and listen to the vocalist yell/rap his head off.

Fifteen minutes after Without Warning ceased, Factory 81 commenced with their set.  First of all, nice band name.  I think it should become law that certain words become forbidden in band names.  “Factory” would be one of them.  And any number combination would also be a part of the law.  Oh, and guess what these guys sounded like?  You guessed it:  hardcore-rap-metal, like Machine Head mixed with Rage Against the Machine and…well, other shitty bands like Korn that I don’t listen to.  Factory 81’s musical composition seemed decent, but the general “I Want to See All of You in the Pit” attitude is just plain stupid.  (Sure Testament played their song “Into the Pit”, but do you know what?  They can tell the crowd to do whatever they want, because Testament are the kings!)  After 25 minutes of anguish, Factory 81 left the stage.

Practically everyone present at the show was there to see Testament, and the band stormed on stage with a vengeance, appropriately opening with “D.N.R.” off the latest album.  Testament’s lineup, which is supposed to be permanent, was Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson, plus Steve Digiorgio (ex?-Sadus) on bass, Jon Allen (ex?-Sadus) on drums, and Steve Smyth (ex-Vicious Rumors) on lead guitar.  Yet another new lineup!  But let me tell you, these guys were on fire!  Chuck’s voice was great, singing both his clean and death vocals with ease.  He even had some killer screams ala “The Preacher” now and then.  If only they were on the albums!  And when not singing Chuck kept himself busy by thrashing with his short microphone stand.  Chuck is pretty damn intimidating.  I’ll bet his scares neighborhood children for fun on his days off.  Eric pretty much thrashed the whole time, head-banging away like most of the other thrashers in the audience.  And it was a pleasure to see Steve DiGiorgio live!  Being a fan of many of his recordings, I was looking forward to seeing him play most of all.  Steve was very energetic, thrashing away on his fretless bass like it was child’s play.  And seeing fellow Sadude Jon Allen for the first time was also killer.  Anyone familiar with Sadus knows that Jon is more than capable of filling in the shoes of past Testament drummers.  And although Jon didn’t play the exact beats, he still kicked ass, with a mean look the whole time!  And I’m sure there’s a lot of disappointment that James Murphy was not touring with the band.  Yeah it would have been awesome to see him jam, but Steve Smyth did an exceptional job on the guitar and was instantly welcomed by everyone.  The guy is totally metal!  He was wearing a Nevermore shirt for Christ’s sake!  Mr. Smyth was very energetic, and looked like he was having lots of fun up on stage.  You could tell he was totally enveloped in the music.  And his leads were done very well.  I hope he does stick around for a while!

Testament concentrated on their last two albums The Gathering and Demonic with “D.N.R.”, “Down for Life”, “Demonic”, “Eyes of Wrath”, “Burning Times”, “3 Days of Darkness”, “Allegiance”, “Riding the Snake”, “Legions of the Dead”, and “True Believer”.  Two Low tracks made it (“Low” and “Dog Faced Gods”), plus the classics “Practice What You Preach”, “Into the Pit”, “Over the Wall”, “Burnt Offerings”, and most surprisingly “Disciples of the Watch”, which was the night’s closer and one of my all-time favorites!!  Testament belted out seventeen songs total!  As you can see, nothing was played from Souls of Black and The Ritual, which was disappointing.  But a band that has so many albums out has the draw the line somewhere.

Overall the show was killer!  Testament was in top form, and played with enthusiasm and energy.  The set was long, and very enjoyable.  And Chuck liked the State Theater, and put down Harpo’s to which I raised my fist high in total agreement!  Every metal band that comes to Detroit should play at the I-Rock, the State Theater, or St. Andrews.  Forget Harpo’s damn it!  It makes for a better show, with a better crowd too!  And if you are planning on seeing Testament this tour, check out the t-shirt stand for Dark Hall CDs!!!  Dark Hall is Steve DiGiorgio’s jazz project.  The CD is a four song demo, more or less.  Cool stuff, with excellent production and musicianship!  And they may even have some Dark Hall shirts for sale too (they only had two available at this show).  If you still love Testament, then there’s no question.  Just go and see them!  Thrash metal lives!!!

[Special thanks to EvilG and Mark Morton for making this happen for me!]


All photos ©2000 Metal Rules!!
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