Testament Tour Kickoff!!!

with Sadus, Laaz Rockit, and Vicious Rumors
The Independent, San Francisco, California 3/29/08

by Thrash-head

It is the merry month of March and I have come to a turning point in my life. I am looking to join a new band, move to yet another new city, and hopefully find a direction in my life. So with that I am visiting San Francisco...and as long as I'm here...

The Tipton brothers of Jasun and Troy (who some might know as the mighty guitar and bass duo from Zero Hour) picked me up at this chick's apartment I was staying at, and off we went not too far down the road to a rather small theater known as the Independent. A hugely fun night was to be had as we shared metal gossip, ripped on shitty bands we knew of, made fun of some of the slutty thrash metal babes ("You have a nice haircut," one said to me, to which I replied with, "well if you think that's nice, maybe you should check out my @$#!"), and just kinda enjoyed each other's company, seeing as we've been friends for six years now and have never met.


Vicious Rumors – Now hear me out...Geoff Thorpe and co. have recorded some downright classic albums in the past, among them the amazing “Digital Dictator,” whose title track was performed tonight to probably the biggest impact of their set. But what I am about to say is something that I heard a lot of on this night from a lot of different people in the audience. Vicious Rumors needs to hang it up. Larry Howe has seen better years behind the kit, the new singer – though he may have been the former vocalist of Shadow Keep – is so “classic metal” that he makes his predecessor James Rivera look like Fred Durst, and the newest bassist to be in the band frankly looked like there was something he'd rather be doing. New guitarist Kiyoshi Morgan had a blast and stage presence to boot, but his counterpart, mainstay Mr. Thorpe made absolutely sure that his solos were the most important thing here tonight. A very tired set by a band that just doesn't have it in 'em anymore.

Laaz Rockit – Definitely the band that had the most fun being here, Laaz Rockit lunged out of the gate and went straight for the throats. It's funny, I've heard people make fun of Laaz Rockit in years gone by – for what reason I have no idea – and if those same people would have been here tonight they would have been utterly SILENT! They just fuckin' killed! First off, the lineup is the original one with the lone exception being that I guess this was the first night of having a new drummer known as “Sky” in the fold, and he definitely had the intensity to thrash with the best of us. Michael Coons was cracking us up all night right from the get-go (first words out of his mouth: “I think I've grown a little bit since '88” along with a bit later, “Our bassist has to be the rockstar and we're playing 40 minutes...some things never change!”), and his vocals rose to the challenge of these tunes. And how about Aaron and Phil, huh? One of the greatest unsung guitar duos of thrashdom, if you ask me...they were so on the whole night. A few surprises of their set included former Exodus frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza taking the stage to jam “Prelude to Death,” and the inclusion of a few news songs that for lack of any other better terminology, were utterly bitchin'. This set rose the bar for the other bands to come later, that's for sure.

Sadus – What can be said about Sadus that hasn't been said before? 'One of the most underrated bands in metal history' is something that keeps popping up. Same goes for 'total package band.' And of course, 'legendary' comes to mind in a big hurry. This was a set to behold. Darren, Jon, and the greatest bassist since Steve Harris, Mr. DiGiorgio are a true power trio in the sense that they need absolutely nothing else and they can hold their own and then some even up to today's standards. Their set was amazing and powerful, and it was a magnificent display of technical thrash/death crossover that just is NOT seen these days. Darren sounds as ruthless and raspy as ever, and his guitar playing is still up there too. Steve just jams, there's no two ways about it; you talk about Sadus and he always comes up just because of how amazing he is. As for Jon, he APPEARED like he was struggling to keep up, but if you closed your eyes and just listened, you knew that he is one of those rare benchmark standard thrash metal drummers from that era for a reason...because he really is always on, always intense, and always doing whatever the song may require. The new cuts sounded amazing like they do on the CRIMINALLY underrated new album they've put out (43% out of 100% after 8 reviews on Metal Archives?!? I give, the record-buying public, simply have to be stupid), and the older tunes like “And Then You Die” carry over even better thanks to today's advances in live sound amplification. Simply put, Testament didn't really stand a chance.

Testament – But does Testament need to prove themselves after all these years? Can there be any doubt that they'll kick ass regardless of the circumstances and always thrill the thrash-buying public for years to come? If you could have seen what I saw tonight, you would have been SHOCKED!!! I have waited far too long to see Testament, one of my all-time faves, and to see them drop the ball like this was goddamn awful. They started off just fine...opening with a killer rendition of “Over the Wall,” and following it up right away with my fave, “Into the Pit.” Other classics like “Practice What You Preach,” “The Preacher,” and “New Order” went off mostly without a hitch, with my one gripe being that it seems like Chuck is doing his death metal growl thing these days to make up for his singing voice becoming strained during certain parts of the songs. Now here's the real problem with the set. You have 4/5 of the original lineup in the band why is it that the “new guy,” Mr. Paul Bostaph (ex-Slayer, ex-Forbidden, ex-Exodus) is the tightest member of the group? I mean, there were serious issues, and a lot of them actually revolved around my hero, Alex. What's up, bro? When the band went into songs that he didn't record, such as “Low,” “Trail of Tears,” and “DNR,” it was like a child lost in a department store. The dude just didn't know where he was and there were even a few instances in “Demonic Refusal” where I even caught a glimpse of him looking over at Eric to see what he was supposed to be playing. LAME!!! What I also thought was kinda goofy, was that Eric – though he is progressing as a lead guitar player – played most of James Murphy's solos from that era tonight! Why wasn't Alex doing them? C'mon least step up and give it your all...even if you didn't play on the tunes in the studio, I can guarentee you 100% that the entire crowd will shit a brick if you can pull off James' solos. James is a shred god, and you are one too, so there's no reason why if you give it a whirl it can't work. As for Greg, “Greggie” played his ass off and was mostly tight the whole evening. To end this review on a good note, the band played 2 brand new cuts off the forthcoming album, and both floored the crowd completely. “More Than Meets The Eye,” and the 9/11-inspired “The Evil Has Landed” are updated classic Testament material chock full of riffage that could have come off of “Practice What You Preach,” but boast the heavier sound and down-tuning of modern-era Testa-tunes!!!

All in all, it was a good night, and I almost bought a $20 Testament belt buckle. All the bands that played, whether I loved them or was disappointed, were bands that boast a classic heritage and also were bands that I had never previously gotten a chance to see. Even if they were off, not many people can say they've survived a hometown Testament gig!