Testament - The Legacy - April 21, 1987
Clearly a product of the Bay Area scene, Testament were probably the first of the "second wave" thrash bands (if there truly was such a thing) to release a full-length album. Obviously influenced by the likes of Metallica and Exodus, Testament were melodic, technically sound and uncompromisingly vicious. Most songs are played at surprisingly fast tempos, given the difficulty of the material, especially when taking into consideration the speed at which they would be played some 25 years later by the same musicians, save one (drummer Louie Clemente).
Testament's main strength is the proficiency of their members at their given roles. They lucked out big time when Steve Souza left to join Exodus and hulking frontman Chuck Billy stepped in. In his prime, which evidentally was some time around 1987, the man could sing, shout and shriek like no other, sounding like the unholy descendent of James Hetfield, Tom Araya and a pack of wolves. Lead guitarist Alex Skolnick is probably the first true virtuoso we've seen in thrash metal. His leads range from damn good to awe-inspiring, leaving pentatonic-rager Kirk Hammett and whammy-bar afficionados King and Hanneman in the dust while giving Dave Mustaine a run for his money. Eric Peterson has always been underrated in the riff-crafting department, but it's clear he was excellent right from the start, blazing through firey riff after firey riff. The rhythm section of Greg Christian and Louie Clemente is nothing if not solid, and while neither player shines, they lay the foundation for the others to do so.
The main gripe with early Testament was always the production, and this is a valid complaint. The guitar sound is muddy, and while it is nowhere near the worst among mid-80's thrash records, it is certainly surprising given that it was released by a major label. There's a whole lot of good stuff here though, as most of the songs are thrashers of the highest order, with only the odd clunker -- one being "Do or Die", a song all but forgotten in the Testament catalogue, and a few songs undeserving of the 'classic' label bestowed on them, namely "The Haunting" and "Alone in the Dark". Of course, there's also the fact that Testament doesn't really present anything original on The Legacy, largely echoing their predecessors. The execution though, leaves little to be desired.
Standouts: Apocalyptic City, Over the Wall, Burnt Offerings