With today’s release for streaming of The Complete Albums 1987-1994 — a collection of Testament’s first six LPs, from 1987’s The Legacy to 1994’s Low — it’s a good time to take a look back on the Bay Area metal legends’ earliest releases and reevaluate them according to how well they’ve held up over the following decades. From Chuck Billy and Co.’s first three releases, which stay strong in the traditional thrash vein, to their more groove-oriented, death-metal–inflected sound of the Nineties — here’s how we rank Testament’s studio full-lengths from ’87 to ’94.
1. THE LEGACY
Raw, furious and seething with hunger, The Legacy emerged just after the Big 4 had all dropped their seminal albums, but still managed to stake Testament’s claim among the thrash ranks next to their forebears. The reasons why the band is mentioned so closely along with the first wave of thrashers lie here.
2. THE NEW ORDER
A bit grittier and harder edged than their debut, The New Order shows a maturation in Testament’s songwriting process that let them relax a bit despite the quick turnaround from The Legacy. “Into the Pit” and “Disciples of the Watch” are legit classics. Also, there’s pretty good Aerosmith cover on here!
Despite it’s very of-the-time stylish Dave McKean cover, 1994’s Low manages to carry the thrash torch through a bleak time for the genre while incorporating groove-heavy, almost death-metal parts. It’s a refreshing departure from a consistently good band.
4. SOULS OF BLACK
This one fucking moves, and it moves well. If whip-fast thrash is what you came for, you might disagree with this album’s placement at No. 4 here, but it’s hard to dispute the mid-tempo headbanging filth of the title track alone.
5. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
Very indicative of its time and coming on the tail end of Testament’s thrashing-est first three releases, Practice is a good record marred slightly by grating production and the exhausted premise well-tread on the first two records. They did the right thing in changing up the sound a bit after this.
6. THE RITUAL
Fun and weird, and very heavily leaning on “Black Album” influences, The Ritual is a strange entry in Testament’s discography but one that’s nice to throw on with some headphones, sit back and lose yourself in the slow-washing tones that dive from epic, soaring riffs to deep, murky passages that sound almost psychedelic at times. Still, the least essential of the group’s six first records.