Interview by Luxi Lahtinen & Niko Karppinen
Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Transcription by Tony Gabriel
Thanks to Silke from Tough Enough Promotion & Management for booking us the interview with Chuck
The legendary thrashers Testament from Oakland, California, have got their big wheel rollin´ nicely again. The band´s 9th studio album, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, marked the Testament camp´s return (at least partly) back to the times of their THE GATHERING album, spiced with some hints from their old days (THE NEW ORDER, PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH and such). Both Greg Kristian and Alex Skolnick had also made their return to the Testament ranks, without whose effort TFOD may probably not have turned the way it eventually did (even if most of the music for the album was written by longtime members Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson).
The band had started their “Damnation Vacation” European tour from Rock Hard festival on May 9th already – and after their well gone appearance at Sweden Rock Festival the other night, they finally arrived to Tampere, Finland to do the annual Sauna Open Air Festival where they were one of the two headlining acts of the first day of S.O.A. 2008 (Children of Bodom being the other one of them).
We caught up with Chuck some hours before their showtime, and asked him briefly about the ongoing tour, the new album THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, the old days, some special tailor-made Testament videos made by some Testament fans - and even sort of accidentally, managed to find out about Steve ´Zetro´ Souza´s coaching activities for his two sons. Read all about that – and many other things as well from the interview we had with Chuck…
DAMNATION VACATION TOUR 2008
So, how was the Sweden Rock festival last night?
It was really good. It just sucked because we got there, played, and had to leave straight away, to get to the airport to catch a flight by five in the morning. We had to drive all the way to Stockholm, so we didn’t get to see any other bands, and there were a lot of great bands. That was the only thing that was bad, and then we got here. We got very little sleep, so I’m a little tired.
This is only the beginning of your extensive tour that you almost just started from Legacy Festival from Serbia on May 31st. What kind of pre-expectations do you overall have about this tour?
It’s going to be a lot of travel, a lot of hard work because we’re all kinda jumping all over the place, but it should be good. We’ve got a good, classic set of songs. We’re playing some songs we haven’t played in a long time, so it’s just nice to be able to play something different.
In this June you´re also going to be a part of this “Masters of Metal” tour together with Judas Priest, Motörhead and Heaven and Hell in the North America. You have got some pretty ´big´ company on those dates, haven´t you? Obviously you see this chance as a great opportunity to expand Testament´s music to an entire new audience, too, don´t you?
It’s going to be great, I mean we haven’t done a proper American tour in a long time, so it’ll be nice to get out there. Since there’s no Ozzfest going on next year it’s going to be one of the bigger events of the summer, so it’s going to be nice to be on that.
I also noticed that in September and October you´ll also do some dates in some Asian countries like in Japan, Indonesia, Korea and China. Now it´s that China date that made me a bit curious. You´ll play in Beijing on October 1st 2008. This assumably your very first time to play in China, so what do you personally expect from that trip over there?
No, we played China last year. We were in Beijing last year, so it’ll be the second time. It was nice, it was good. It’s different fans, because they don’t really look like metalheads, sometimes business people, people that don’t wear metal shirts or anything like that, but they were all excited and they went crazy, so that was cool.
You´ll play at Star Live Club, and a Chinese band called Honey Gun (playing ´Nu-Rock´, uh?) and Japanese thrashers Grim Force are supposed to be the 2 support bands for that event. What do you know about those 2 other bands?
I don’t know those bands at all.
THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION
Talking about your latest album a little bit, it´s overall been well received by the Testament fans – some of them saying that it´s kind of like a cross between your THE NEW ORDER and THE GATHERING albums musically; something old and something new from Testament nicely melted together, so I bet you are definitely happy how this album turned out eventually, am I right?
It’s got the theme from THE NEW ORDER. THE NEW ORDER was kind of about old Nostradamus predictions, political corruption, and the environment. As far as THE GATHERING, there’s a couple songs that some of THE GATHERING stuff, but I try to sing a little more on this one instead of on THE GATHERING, where I sing a lot faster. It’s definitely a good combination of everything we’ve done. I think it’s the right vocal style for the riffs. I don’t think if I sang death metal over these riffs it would sound the same.
Did you feel any pressure while you were making the songs for TFOD like making it clear in your mind that people are expecting to hear a vibe from the Testament´s old days, combined with a more modern approach that you had on THE GATHERING?
There’s definitely a pressure because for us, THE GATHERING was the best record we’ve done up to that point. We knew that we had to do a record that was going to be as good as THE GATHERING if not better than THE GATHERING, and if it wasn’t, then all of the expectations and hype would have probably damaged the band, I think. We didn’t really know, because we were working, writing song after song until we were in the studio mixing the record, and we sat down and listened to the whole thing as a record. That’s when we went, man, I think it’s better than THE GATHERING. At that point we felt pretty relieved. We knew it couldn’t be anything but as good as if not better. It’s nice that the fans and the press have been enjoying it as well so we’ve been very happy.
So, you would honestly say that TFOD is the best album you guys have done so far, aside from THE GATHERING, of course?
I think so, because for me, it’s kind of a collection of all the vocal styles and voices and ranges I’ve used. I enjoy listening to it better where a lot of the other records for me vocally were one direction and one style, and going back and listening many years later I’m like, man, I could’ve done this a little differently, so on THE GATHERING I got to make it different and knew what direction I wanted to go in for the new record. I learn more and more off of each record, hearing the songs that I really enjoy off of each record.
As for the lyrics on TFOD, “The Evil Has Landed” deals with the terror strikes against WTC. However, the fact is it´s almost been 7 years when that strike happened (9/11), so do you feel like you should have written a song about it a bit earlier – and probably get it out on an EP, or even on some certain, special compilation album that could have dealt with 9/11? Did you kind of want to make your own tribute about the happenings on that particular sad day?
We didn’t really have a band when that happened. When it happened I was sick with cancer, so we had all of our equipment in storage, we packed up all of our recording equipment and put it into a storage room. At that point I didn’t know if I’d ever play music again. I didn’t really care if ever I played music or not, I just wanted live and spend as much time as I could with my family. I didn’t know if I was going to die or not, or what was going to happen. Once we got back together there was a brief period with George O and ´Metal´ Mike and the guys from THE GATHERING recording. We played some shows and then got the original lineup back, and that’s when we decided to start thinking about doing a new record. We didn’t want to do a new record for all those years because Spitfire Records was a terrible record label, they never supported the band and we worked very hard on THE GATHERING and they did nothing with it. We were really disappointed with that so we did a live record, and then FIRST STRIKE IS STILL DEADLY. We were trying to buy time to figure out what we were going to do, hopefully someone would come by and take us away from the label, and as it turned out, they ended up selling the record label. At that point, they ended up selling it to a company that was only going to be doing gospel music, so we were like, well where does Testament fit? They were like you don’t really fit, so what do you want? And we were like, well we want to be let go of our contract and not have to deliver a record to you guys. So, they let us go and that’s when we contacted Nuclear Blast and we were like, hey man, we’re free, because Nuclear Blast wanted to sign us for about ten years, but they didn’t want to spend the money to buy us off the contract. So, as it worked out and we strung it out with the records and not delivering the record, it all worked out in our favor, and then to write that record, TFOD, and have Nuclear Blast work it. It worked out really well, because we’ve got the original guys, we’ve got the new record, we’ve got new management, new booking agents, a whole new team starting again, and it’s been going really good. Everybody’s been working hard, trying to get things picking up again, and I think that the climate and the timing are very good for heavy metal right now. Especially for a band like us, because we’ve been around for awhile. It all kind of worked out after it was all said and done.
“Killing Season” is kind of a tribute song to all American troops around the whole world; especially for the ones that play the Testament stuff to get an adrenaline rush to go through their veins, before they go into battle and probably take some lifes. I take it you didn´t mean to write those lyrics to glorify the killing of enemies or overall people, did you?
No, it’s just that we’ve got a lot of email and letters from troops saying that they were Testament fans, and people who listen to Slayer and other heavy metal get psyched up and prepared, in case they’ve got to take somebody’s life. I’m not enlisted in the army, but if I could somehow maybe help a little bit and do my part by getting somebody fired up and, well not excited but prepared to possibly do something like that, then cool, I’ll write that song for them because they’re just listening to the music themselves but if they could actually write a song for that reason, then killer, you know.
Steve ´Zetro´ Souza was also one of the co-workers on your album; he was helping out with the lyrics for 2 songs on TFOD. How did he end up helping you out with the lyrics for the album?
Yes, he wrote two, Dell James helped me write the rest. He’s been writing lyrics with me for fifteen years. He manages Guns N’ Roses, actually, but he’s been a friend of mine for fifteen years and writes lyrics. Steve Souza, when we were doing our Dublin Death Patrol project we were writing lyrics together, and we did a pretty good job, I thought. Down at the last minute I had a few more songs to write, so I called Zet up and said, ´do you want to write a couple songs´? So we did, and it worked out.
´Zetro´ also does some vocal contributions on TFOD – along with his son Nick and Steev Esquivel from Skinlab. Was that somehow pre-planned to get those guys to do some guest vocals on the album, or was that more or less a very spontaneous thing to have those guys on the album?
It wasn’t planned, there just came a day when we were like, we need to get the background vocals done. I called Zet, of course, and I think we’ve seen Steev like a week before and I asked him, do you want to do the background vocals? He said yeah, so I called him up on a Saturday and I asked if he was available for a couple hours, and we just knocked out the vocals in a couple hours.
How old is Zetro´s son Nick, by the way?
He’s 13 or 14, he plays drums in a speed metal band. He also has another son, Cody, who’s 16, and his band’s called Oskorei (Blake Peterson (age 18) on vocals and guitar, Corey Lee (age 19) on drums, Nikita Shchepin (age 17) on guitar and Cody Souza (age 16) on bass) Steve Zetro’s like their coach, and he gets them in the garage and puts them to work and puts their bands together, and drives them to their concerts and everything.
Souza’s also a member of Dublin Death Patrol as we already know. You seem to get along with him in a great way. It even could be said that The Bay Area brotherhood truly does exist… ;o)
(Laughs) Yeah, we come along great – and the The Bay Area brotherhood still exists - oh yeah!
VIDEOS + OTHER STUFF
Talking about videos, there are quite a few Testament videos available, so do you have any plans to shoot something from TFOD as well?
Yeah, we actually shot one three weeks ago. We shot one for “More Than Meets the Eye,” and then July 5th, when we get home we’re going to shoot “The Henchmen Ride”. There’ll be two videos that we haven’t done in a long time.
There’s a very cool, may I say, tailor-made video clip available in YouTube, done for your song “D.N.R.”. That clip has some footage taken from the “Underworld – The Evolution” movie (starred by Kate Beckinsdale) – as well as there is a footage of “Disciples of the Watch”, and the song itself has been built around some of the scenes taken from the “The Children of the Corn” movie. Looks like Testament have a lot of these die-hard fans around the world who obviously can find some connections between movies and your music. Have you yourself seen those two footages I´m talking about in here, by the way?
I’ve heard about them, but I haven’t seen them yet. Eric was telling me about them, and I’d like to see them.
It’s been said that Testament’s career is one of the most valued overall in the metal scene when looking the whole discography of the band. Do you think it is better to have enough time to work with your songs than just release a new album each year and maybe even fail with the material for it, and to satisfy your fans and yourself as a musician and songwriter?
We haven’t had pressure from the label in a long time, because now we have our own label, burnt offerings, and we license the music to other labels. We’re not pressured because if we’re signed to a label, then yeah, they’ll want the record out by, you know, this time next year. I think we work better without the pressure because we’ve worked on some records like SOULS OF BLACK, for example, where we had to hurry up and write that record for the “Clash of the Titans” tour, and I think it suffered a little because of that. We couldn’t get the tour unless we had a new record out, so we went home and wrote the record in five weeks, and then recorded it in six, and within eleven weeks we had a new record for the tour which probably could have been a better record if we just didn’t have someone rushing us to do it. We just take our time and we’ve got our own recording studio where before when we didn’t have our own studio, the clock’s ticking when you’re in the studio, and you’ve got to hurry up, you know, you’ve only got two weeks left, and then you might miss something, or something didn’t turn out as well as you’d hoped.
Do you think that some record labels nowadays, are pushing young, talented bands to get into a songwriting mood too soon so that they could release a new album from them each year? I can’t avoid the feeling that some of the records might be even better if bands had had more time to focus on the actual material on their albums, and not having a rush to accomplish this and that thing way too early…
It’s sad because the band has to live with that written music the rest of their life, and the record company can just drop them next year. They’ll have ended up making a bad decision, and having records that follow them the rest of their lives. I’m glad I’m not in that situation and I’m in a situation where, you know when I was sick me and Eric were like, if we never played together and I never get better or whatever, we’ll be happy just writing songs and whatever. The pleasure and payoff of when you create a song and you kick back and go wow, that feels really good… that’s a good feeling. It’s not always about if the fans are gonna love it, the record label’s gonna love it. It’s a matter of what you want and what makes you feel good. That’s where we’re at in our career now, making sure that we feel good with what we write.
I just realized that your first visit in Finland happened in 2000, at the Nosturi club in Helsinki almost right after THE GATHERING was released. Now you’ve been playing in Finland almost every 2nd year. What made you finally add Finland as a country to one those countries where you are relatively regularly visiting these days? Or do you think the main problem was that there was no contact to Finland before so that someone could have brought you guys over here for gigs?
It’s just our booking agent, I guess. We’ll play wherever we can get a show at, as long as someone offers us a show. I guess promoters in Finland never wanted to bring us, I guess, I don’t know. We want to play anywhere we can.
Last time you were in Finland (at Jalometalli Festival in Oulu on last August), you had Nicholas Barker playing in the line-up, and he got replaced by Paul Bostaph. What actually happened?
After coming home, before we started writing the record, he had some visa problems, and ended up getting deported back to England, and we couldn’t wait, we were ready to write the record. We knew Paul wasn’t in Exodus anymore so we decided, let’s call Paul, and see if he can help us work on and write the record. As it turned out, he did such a great job and worked hard so we felt that it would be a shame that he wouldn’t be able to record the record after he worked so hard. That’s when we asked him if he wanted to record the record, and he said yeah. We just thought, maybe he should be in the band because he lives close, he’s here, and he comes from the same scene that we did back when he was in Forbidden, and Slayer. It just kind of made sense.
How much did Paul Bostaph get time to learn the songs for TFOD? If I remember right, most of the tracks were ready for quite some time before he joined Testament?
He wrote the whole thing with us, too. We had a couple of demos and we handed them to Paul and he learned them and came down and just started doing his thing. When Nick got deported, we had a couple shows, and Nick got home on Monday. He was deported, and we had a show on Friday. We called Paul up, he came to the rehearsal on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday we played with Paul. He came in and knew 18 songs right away. From that point on we were like, man, he did a great job on it, let’s see if Paul wants to write the record with us, too. We asked him, if Nick doesn’t get his thing worked out would you help write the record? And just by playing with him, he could do it.
Many bands that have been in the scene for a long time, naturally want to include some of their most classic songs into their sets, just like Testament do. Anyway, are there some songs you don’t want to play anymore for some reason or the other? Do you think that it’s still sort of ´necessary evil´ to play songs like “Over the Wall”, “Raging Waters”, “Into the Pit”, “Practice What You Preach” and the likes to your fans – just to please them, or do you basically do those songs live whatever may please you guys at that time?
No, but we changed the set this year, picked some songs that we haven’t got to play in a long time. When we first got the reunion group together, Alex only wanted to play songs that he worked on and wrote on, and we wanted to play some stuff off of THE GATHERING, and DEMONIC stuff, too - and so over the last year we got him to play the DEMONIC stuff, so now it feels like a good set because it’s not just the old songs with Alex, it’s everything, so I think we have a better set now, and the fans, they really wanted to hear THE GATHERING and DEMONIC stuff. Like “Practice,” “Over the Wall,” “Cycles,” those songs always seem like they’ve got to be in the set.
As Testament nowadays have many albums to choose songs from, is it sometimes pretty hard to build up a Testament set list for tours or gigs you do? Is it hard or easy to work as a democratic unit when it comes to choosing the right songs for your set list?
No, it’s pretty easy, everybody’s pretty easy with it. Like I said, Alex only wanted to play certain songs. Now it’s different, so it’s good, we’ve got a different set now.
Do you have any personal songs in your set list on this tour that are always fun to do?
They’re in there, I’m always the first one to push my songs. (Laughs) I like singing, because I have to sing them. Some of the ones Eric pushes where I have to sing more death metal I kind of push away from, especially because on a long tour like this, it hurts my throat and voice a little more, so I choose to not want to do them as much. We kind of pick together to see which songs would make my voice last a little bit longer.
Talking about Nuclear Blast – your current label, I find this situation somewhat interesting because you’re not the only American so-called old school thrash band on that label. As we all know, Nuclear Blast is not only the biggest European metal label, but it also is the biggest metal label in the whole world these days. Other old school thrash bands like Exodus, Anthrax, and Death Angel have all been signed to Nuclear Blast as well. Does this tell to you that old school thrash is bigger and more popular form of music in Europe than in the States?
It’s always been like that. It’s really the only way we got recognized in ’86 was because of Europe, when they had a demo, and it was one of the biggest selling demos in Europe. An American company recognized us and signed us because of it. Even when grunge really kind of took over in America it didn’t really affect Europe as much, they still wanted heavy metal. We were still able to come to Europe and play shows. In America it kind of changed, and major labels didn’t want heavy metal, the radio stations didn’t want heavy metal, MTV didn’t want heavy metal, but Europe still did. It kept us alive, really, probably kept a lot of bands alive.
We used to have this tour here in Europe in the beginning of this millennium when such old school thrash bands from Germany, as Destruction, Kreator and Sodom toured across Europe, kind of in the spirit of the old times. Would you see that it would be cool for Testament to tour together with some old school thrash bands from the States, like with Exodus, Anthrax and Death Angel, f.ex. – like having this package of 3 or 4 US old school thrash bands touring together from ´back-from-the-day?
Yeah, we talk about it all the time and tried to put that together this year, but Exodus already had plans. Death Angel was ready to do it, we were ready to do it, but we were missing Exodus. We were like, okay, let’s not do it until we can figure out when we can all play together, so we decided to do our own thing and decide at the end of the year what would happen.
What would you have to say about your experiences with Nuclear Blast – of all promotion and stuff they have done to promote TFOD, now when you have only been a short time under their caring wings?
We’re very happy. For all the years we were with Spitfire Records, they never came to one of our shows. That was pretty bad for a record label. Nuclear Blast, they’re all metal fans, they come to the shows, they’re always on answering emails and doing everything they can and that feels good. I guess it’s good that we gave them a good record to work with, too.
Our time is up, I think. Thanks Chuck again for talking with us and all the best for your show tonight.
Thanks. It was a pleasure to talk with you guys, too.
Testament – Sauna Open Air 2008, Tampere, Finland on Friday 6th of June 2008
Review by Niko Karppinen & Luxi Lahtinen
Niko: “There I was standing and eagerly waiting for my childhood’s greatest heroes to emerge on stage. In my heart Testament stands for the purest essence of thrash metal and there’s no other band on this wasted earth to compete with them in my opinion. Testament´s latest album THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION had even proved that this legendary thrash metal act from the eighties, has become better and better throughout the years discography-wise that some bands could only secretly dream of. It’s been said that Testament possess one of the most valued careers of thrash metal, and I have to say it’s pretty hard to deny it.
Testament started their set on the main stage with “Over the Wall”. This song, which is one of those heart-pounding, ground-shaking evergreen classics I could listen to over and again, got me really pumped up with excitement. Watching Chuck Billy’s cheerful appearance while rest of the band concentrated on playing the song, told us in clear language that Testament was really in a good fit. Add one of the most delicious solo parts in the history of metal made by Skolnick and Peterson into this experience, I for one could even hardly dream of any better way start a gig than with this particular song. My only complaint was that Chuck´s vocals were mixed little low in the beginning of the song, but nonetheless the band sounded well balanced, tight and overall very good.
There were more so-called ´Testament pearls´ coming up, like the next song that was ”Into the Pit”, which came off as a real stormer of a song. The crowd went wild and people were shouting the chorus of the song with such enthusiasm that is rarely seen in the Finnish metal crowd (well, Iron Maiden gigs, are an exception – of course!). At this point of the gig I happened to notice that the crowd had started a nice and well moving mosh pit at the front of the stage. Later on somebody said the mosh pit was already started during the “Over the Wall”, so talk about some true yet crazy Testament fans amongst the crowd. I thought that this just couldn’t get any better than this. Oh boy, I was so wrong… Like Chuck Billy said shortly before the next song title was spat out from between his lips: “We’re getting back in time up next…”. The next song was “Apocalyptic City”. I’ve witnessed four Testament gigs out of five that they’ve played in Finland this far – and have never heard them playing this song before. This was one of those moments that you will never forget in your life because this particular song in question contained so many memorable moments of my life for me. About going back in time, such old farts like me may even easily remember when LIVE AT EINDHOVEN live album was released in 1987. The album was released in that year when Testament were one of biggest upcoming names in the whole thrash metal genre (Ha, a nostalgic lesson part 1.: Should I take another foot of mine from the grave now and start taking my pills regularly every morning because they tend to keep me saaaa-ne – duh!).
Before the next song was about to start, Chuck Billy wanted to know: “Let’s see… Do you – all of you crazy maniacs out there, really practice what you preach?”. And there we go again… Another Testament classic number “Practice What You Preach” was hit against our ears. I honestly could watch Alex Skolnick´s playing for hours without getting bored at all. That guy’s a really amazing guitar player! I can live with the fact that somebody can sound pretty close to the records with his solo stuff, but that’s not actually the case with Alex Skolnick. He sounds almost exactly the same both live and on the records, and it´s a thrilling experience to watch and listen to his guitar mastering whenever he ´educates´ his 6-stringer. Eric Peterson’s jamming around the stage and if you take a close look at what he’s doing with his guitar, you could well imagine this guy has a chainsaw in his hands instead of a guitar. What an amazing guitar shredder he is. Paul Bostaph looks to fit well in Testament although it’s also interesting to think that this guy’s been playing in such remarkable thrash metal bands such as Forbidden, Slayer, Exodus – and now in Testament. Greg Christian still does his work nicely with his 4-stringer, without actually stepping into the spotlight but like all the other more experienced players, he seems to fill his spot perfectly nevertheless.
After “Practise What You Preach” Testament moved backwards in time and did “The New Order”. The song itself was the last old song before the band started catapulting the songs off of their latest album, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION. “More than Meets the Eye” came first, and it definitely looked like Chuck Billy and co. were really looking forward to playing these new songs off of T.F.O.D. live. The song itself worked as sort of a gateway between Chuck Billy and the crowd. “Whoo-hoo-hoo-ooo…” got shouted by the crowd and Chuck´s stage performance looked like he was working in the front of a massive orchestra. Though it was clear that most of the people weren´t familiar with the band´s new material yet, I have to say the crowd still took the song amazingly well.
Then it was the time to move on to one of my personal favorites off the new album, “Henchmen Ride” . This song contains some really cool and catchy riffs, and it leaves you with a feeling that these five maestros in Testament must have felt sheer satisfaction when they have finalized this song. The chorus in it could be said to be one of those ´must-shout-out-loud´ things. Definitely a great song! And that was it this time as far as T.F.O.D. was concerned. Testament didn’t play any other songs from their great comeback album probably because they wanted to kick out a bunch of classic Testament songs for their audience, trying to offer a well-balanced set of some of the true highlights for every Testament fan from the old albums as well. Having said that, it´s even more than just a probability that we might hear more new songs off of the T.F.O.D. record when Testament come back to Finland next time again. It usually takes some time from bands to get their new songs adjusted for a live situation, so I´m certain these new songs have got shaped up well enough for their live set when we Finns will see get a chance to see them in our country some day again.
“Souls of Black” started immediately after the previous song had ended – and we got spoiled by Chuck Billy himself. The band started jamming somewhere in the middle of the song – and Chuck wanted the audience to take a part of it. This time the enthusiastic crowd really needed to sweat and beg to hear more Testament songs. A couple of minutes later after loud shouting and screaming, Chuck looked satisfied and it was time to move on. There was certainly a feeling of impatience rising from amongst the crowd and we luckily got rewarded after a little wait: “The Preacher” kicked off, and the insane mosh pit got activated again! This is one of those songs that tells you exactly what thrash metal is all about: Intense, aggressive and to-the-point. Just love this song!
At that point of the Testament gig I was wondering whether they might even play something from the mighty THE GATHERING album. I was worrying in vain; the next song kicked off – and it was “D.N.R.”. The mosh pit went wild again, and fists, lotsa hair and devil´s signs were flying everywhere in the air. While I was watching Skolnick play “D.N.R.”, I couldn’t avoid this feeling that he seemed to be in a strange hurry to finish that song quickly. Peterson, on the other hand, looked like he was sitting in a chair comfortably and reading a newspaper or something. He looked so relaxed compared to Skolnick. I guess this sort of proves how different backgrounds those two guitarists have. I’m sure if we got a chance to enjoy more of Testament in the coming years, this band might only get better and tighter despite the fact we are all getting older (but keep in mind what they say about wine…). After “D.N.R.”, followed quickly “3 Days of Darkness”, which in my opinion isn’t those ´must-hear-songs´ from the aforementioned album. Sure, it´s a somewhat nice piece of thrash but something in it just didn´t click in me.
The ending of the gig was somewhat foreseeable but as always – ah, so entertaining. When the first riffs of “Alone in the Dark” were churned out, I was shouting my lungs out together with the rest of the crowd. Just like many other times during Testament´s gigs, we had a chance to sing along the chorus part of the song together with Chuck – and oh yeah, all of us surely gave our best shots for the song especially regarding the chorus part of that song. When the last, final chords of this little thrasher hit us, it was the time for the last song of the set. “Disciples of the Watch” was a perfect ending for this (almost) perfect gig of these mighty thrashers from Oakland, California. Testament truly made my day – fuck hell, they really did!
There was not much left to say about Testament´s show at Sauna Open 2008. Their gig was near perfect; the setlist couldn’t be much better than it was. If I got a chance to put together my own sort of a ´dream-Testament´ live set, maybe I would have taken out a couple of ´not-that-necessary-Testament-songs´ for me off their setlist in order to get all of my personal Testament fave songs included into it, such as “Electric Crown”, “True Believer”, “The Haunting”, and let´s say, “Raging Waters”. But like I already said, there´s not much to complain about either their performance or setlist at S.O.A. festival this time around. We – the Testament fans, got to hear almost everything that we wanted to hear from them playing in the first place, and we even got to hear some special Testament songs that we have not heard them playing for quite a while. Testament are in a really good strike these days as far as their live gigs go – and if you just have a chance to see Testament near by your location, I do urge you to check them out! Testament are fucking amazing, as all of you Testament fans should know that by now”.
Luxi: “Talking about one of the most entertaining and ear-captivating veteran thrash metal acts on the globe nowadays, Testament surely know how to entertain their fans. Every Testament gig that I have seen in my life thus far – the first one being their performance in Stockholm, Sweden in 1991 as a part of the mighty “Clash of the Titans” tour, has been worth every penny (or cent, or whatever – depending on your own country´s currency). Like Chuck said earlier when interviewing him, a Testament gig always features so-called ´necessary evils´ they simply have to play (“Practice What You Preach”, “Over the Wall”, “Into the Pit” and such) because of the fans. And that´s what they exactly did at Sauna Open Air festival in Tampere on June 6th in 2008. It was cool to see them also doing songs like “Apocalyptic City” and “D.N.R.” that I cannot recall them playing for a relatively long time. Oh well, maybe they have played at least “D.N.R.”, but not “Apocalyptic City” during their visits in Finland for last 8 years or so.
The band´s set at S.O.A. 2008 was a nicely chosen set, including both older – and newer Testament stuff. Naturally such instant Testaments cuts as “Over the Wall”, “Into the Pit” and “Practice What You Preach” were there as so-called ´mandatory numbers´ as a part of their set, but those songs are also what Testament fans want always to hear from them playing. So did I. Then again, Testament have so many albums nowadays to choose songs from, so it probably makes it harder and harder for the guys every time to pick up ´the right songs´ for their set. I wouldn´t have minded a bit if they had featured songs like “Burnt Offerings”, or “Raging Waters”, or “C.O.T.L.O.D.” into their live set, being such a sucker of that classic Testament debut release that I am. Sure thing, bands have a certain time-frame for festival concerts, so that itself sets some limits for them to keep live sets in certain lengths. And since Testament had a new album out, it was pretty natural some songs from it got played, too. Both “More than Meets the Eye” and “Henchmen Ride” sounded really good, and otherwise Testament seemed to be really ´home´ with their new stuff already.
All in all, another fine live show from the Testament camp – and if I was God, I would give them another 22 years so that Testament would still be amongst us in 2030, making some great thrash and playing all of these highly enjoyable live shows for us. Thank you Testament”.