Date: April 4, 2018
Review and photography by Thomas James Henry Saunders
Thrash juggernauts Testament has been busy this year, touring much of Europe on the back of their “Brotherhood Of The Snake” album and are in fact on the last leg of the said tour here tonight in London. With the additions of Canadian thrash legends Annihilator and the Polish ‘deathened’ thrash masters that are Vader, this line-up for tonight is very much steeped in anticipation & excitement.
The queue outside in the evening dusk is one of a sea of leather jackets, thickets of hair and many a colourful thrash band tee’s as it snakes out and away from the venue. Inside, I find the venue already seemingly full, a large queue at the merchandise stands and at the bar.
As the lights dim and the hiss of the fog machines whir into life, the crowd pack in tightly for deathened thrash metal pioneers Vader. Coming on among a dense blanket of fog, which hangs about for most of their set, front-man Piotr Wiwczarek and company burst out in full studded & leather bound splendour. They are certainly no strangers to an excitable crowd as they throw an immense amount of energy & charisma toward the crowd who are already transfixed by the galloping cacophony before them, opening with “Chaos” from their first album “The Ultimate Incantation”.
Piotr is a figure of vocal force and visual intensity, menacing the stage with a stride and a confidence that only decades of being on stage can teach. Guitarist Pajak, hammering out each riff with violent precision, makes time to pose for every camera he spots and makes sure to engage fully with the crowd, smiling/snarling with evident glee throughout.
The set is comprised mostly of their early, more deathened thrash metal sound, focusing heavily on their first albums. Vader makes great work tonight of harnessing the crowd and willing many to bang heads and get the moshpit going, their raw energy is more apt for a headlining act rather than as openers, but it is evident they have truly enjoyed the tour nonetheless.
After finishing on “Cold Demons”, to great applause, they thank the audience for coming out for them and begin to leave to the tune of the iconic “Imperial March” by John Williams for Star Wars. A very strong start to the evening and one I overhear a few calling out as the highlight of the night.
2. Vicious Cycle
3. Triumph of Death
6. Dark Age
7. The Crucified Ones
8. Send Me Back To Hell
9. Cold Demons
After a short, beer refuelling break, Annihilator comes out in full force to opening track “King Of The Kill”, Jeff Waters and bandmates pounce on to the stage in full, stripped back fury. In parallel opposites with Vader, Annihilator opt for a stark, harsh light and teaming totally smoke machine free, much to the delight of the assorted photographers below them.
As a whole unit, these speed metal maniacs are a frenzy of adrenaline and hyperactivity, jumping, kicking and running about the stage from the first note onwards. With Guitarist Aaron Homma & Bassist Rich Hinks duelling together and chasing each other about throughout their set.
Jeff Waters, the only remaining member of the original line-up, leads the carnage, engaging with and willing the frenzied audience to sing along to every track. Despite the age gap between Waters and his on-stage companions, their sound together is as tight and as strong as their source material did during original creation nearly 30 years ago.
The crowd goes wild for Annihilator, creating a pit near instantly and soon after come the first of many crowd surfers of the night, much to the dismay of the stewards. Their most recent album “For The Demented” gets two spots on the setlist with “One To Kill’ & “Twisted Lobotomy”, which, especially in the live setting, are great accompanies to their thrash anthems, and they are very well received by the excited and whipped up audience.
Jeff Waters, taking a brief moment to rest between songs, addresses the audience, admitting that his band are all half his age and that being 52 means he needs to have a rest between songs, which grants him a roar of laughter from the eager crowd. He also takes this moment to thank their crew and even Testaments crew, specifically, throughout their weeks on the road together.After announcing his need go back-stage for a moment, Jeff Waters return with a bemused young boy of about 10, clad in a kitted out battle-jacket and is introduced to us as ‘Charlie’ before allowing him to play (quite impressively) the opening riffs to “Alison Hell” which earns Charlie a great roar of applause and chanting from the crowd.
After Waters take Charlie back out behind the stage he runs back to head straight into the iconic “Alison Hell” during which the crowd goes totally wild for. After finishing on “Phantasmagoria” from the “Never, Neverland” album, the crowd are by this point are in need of a break from the excitable fury of the night.
1. King of the Kill
2. One to Kill
3. No Way Out
4. Set the World on Fire
5. Twisted Lobotomy
7. Alison Hell
As the lights dim for the final time tonight, the crowd is packed tightly for Testament as they take to the stage with the opening track “Brotherhood Of The Snake” the title track of their most recent album and the moniker of this tour.
With Chuck Billy on fine form tonight, a spectacle to behold as he commands the stage, pouring his enthusiasm and charm into his vocals. All while keeping hold of his wireless microphone/air guitar, strumming it with evident glee wherever possible. With the next track, “Rise Up” form the “Dark Roots Of The Earth” album, the already crazed crowd go wild, shouting the chorus back at Chuck as he chugs it out at them.
Alex Skolnick, on lead guitars, is equally oh so enjoyable to watch, effortlessly shredding through riff after riff whilst maintaining an air of confidence and wit during the whole set. Bassist Steve Di Giorgio gives his all tonight as well, pouncing about the stage and grimacing angrily whilst belting out thunderous tones, keeping the tracks sounding deep and aggressive.
Chuck takes out moments to address the adoring crowd throughout the set, explaining that this tour we wanted to touch upon title tracks that haven’t been played live in a long while. At one point even claiming that “Low” is his personal favourite title track.
My only slight gripe of the set is that they lean a little too heavily on their solos. One solo is a refreshing and exciting thing to witness especially as the first was of Skolnick’s impressive shredding skills. Two of them is a chance to see in further detail the musicianship on stage, but four? By now it begins to feel a little redundant, a little tacky even. By the last two solos, the crowd, out of the need to move, jump-start their own moshpit as a way of passing the time.
After a furious playing of “The New Order”, the band vacate the stage for their encore as the ravenous audience calls out their name in unison. Chuck Billy, as he comes back to the centre of his stage, recalls a time in 88’ and that, while in Texas for a drunken MTV video shoot, their manager points them in the direction of a nearby venue where they discover, for the first time, Pantera! He recalls this as an inspiration for the writing of the next track “Practice What You Preach” which the crowd wildly enjoys, with the crowd surfing possibly hitting its peak.
Chuck mentions that during this tour, they throw in an extra track to the setlist each night to shift things up, and tonight that track is the epic sounding “Alone In The Dark” from the debut album “The Legacy”.
Finishing on the anthemic “Over The Wall” during which the whole crowd becomes a mess of moshing and headbanging spectacle all of their own. As the final notes are played, Chuck brings out Annihilator and Vader out on stage for a joint bow and a final farewell for the night, and for the tour itself. The applause from the crowd here is long and soaring, as Testament have cemented themselves as thrash titans here tonight.
1. Brotherhood of the Snake
2. Rise Up
3. The Pale King
4. More Than Meets the Eye
5. Guitar Solo (Alex Skolnick)
6. Electric Crown
7. Into the Pit
10. Throne of Thorns
11. Guitar Solo (Eric Peterson)
12. Eyes of Wrath
13. Drum Solo (Gene Hoglan)
14. First Strike Is Deadly
15. Bass Solo (Steve Di Giorgio)
17. Souls of Black
18. The New Order
19. Practice What You Preach
20. Alone in the Dark
21. Over the Wall