TESTAMENT — Low

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TESTAMENT - Low cover
3.81 | 31 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1994

Filed under Thrash Metal
By TESTAMENT

Tracklist

1. Low (3:33)
2. Legions (in Hiding) (4:17)
3. Hail Mary (3:32)
4. Trail of Tears (6:06)
5. Shades of War (4:44)
6. P.C. (2:50)
7. Dog Faced Gods (4:02)
8. All I Could Bleed (3:37)
9. Urotsukidôji (3:40)
10. Chasing Fear (4:56)
11. Ride (3:16)
12. Last Call (Instrumental Outro) (2:41)

Total Time: 47:19

Line-up/Musicians

- Chuck Billy / Vocals
- Eric Peterson / Rhythm/Lead Guitar
- James Murphy / Lead/Rhythm Guitar
- Greg Christian / Bass
- John Tempesta / Drums

About this release

Release date: September 30th, 1994
Label: Atlantic Records

Thanks to Stooge, Unitron, diamondblack for the updates

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TESTAMENT LOW reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

UMUR
"Low" is the 6th full-length studio album by US, California based thrash/heavy metal act Testament. The album was released through Atlantic Records in September 1994. It´s the successor to "The Ritual" from 1992 and features a couple of lineup changes compared to the lineup who recorded the predecessor. Drummer Louise Clemente was replaced by John Tempesta and guitarist Alex Skolnick was replaced by James Murphy. Tempesta was known for his work with Exodus while Murphy had played on albums by Death, Obituary, Cancer, and Disincarnate. Both are skilled and worthy replacements (although I personally prefer Skolnick over Murphy).

"The Ritual (1992)" introduced a new and more accessible heavy metal sound with only occasional thrash metal leanings, but with "Low", Testament are back in thrash metal mode. This time around with more focus on groove, which is audible already from the opening title track. It´s not as such groove metal, but there certainly is a strong emphasis on groove throughout the album. The music features hard edged and sharp thrash metal riffs, powerful rhythms, well played leads, and Chuck Billy´s powerful vocals in front. His singing on the album is relatively varied, and he sings both semi-clean, raw, and even occasionally brutal growling vocals.

The material on the 12 track, 47:19 minutes long album are generally well written, although not all tracks are equally remarkable. Some of the highlights include the title track and "Hail Mary", while a track like the fusion influenced instrumental "Urotsukidôji" may be a standout track, but not in a positive sense. It´s the kind of track which disrupts the album flow, and overall sounds more like the band had fun in the studio playing something different, than a track which was written specifically for the album.

"Low" features a powerful and detailed sound production and strong musical performances, but it´s not the strongest Testament album in their discography. So while it signals a (for many) welcome return to a more thrash metal oriented sound after the "softer" "The Ritual (1992)", I dare say it´s a slightly less interesting release compared to the predecessor. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.
Diogenes
The fact that Testament got a late start in the Bay Area thrash scene is pretty unfortunate for a bunch of reasons. For one, they never really got included in the “Big Four” stuff (that holds way more significance than it should, but that’s another rant), constantly getting lumped into the second tier of thrash veterans, even while Metallica was going through its mullet stages and Slayer was basically irrelevant. Consequently, their magnum opus got released during a bad time period, and virtually no one knew about it, which kinda sucks considering Low is both Testament’s best and most diverse record to this point. Now, that’s not saying much, since they never released anything that will totally knock your socks off, but I digress…

Anywho, Low is the album where Testament finally found their own sound, i.e. mid-paced thrash metal that actually sounds nothing like their previous 80’s worship. In a sense, it takes the groove of The Ritual and mixes it with the future death metal aspects of Demonic in a way that isn’t totally out of their element, while having a certain energy about it that neither of those albums had. That’s probably because drummer John Tempesta’s work behind the kit is much tighter than anything Testament had previously thrown out there, and James Murphy fits the band as a lead guitarist better than Alex Skolnick ever did (all due respect). While not as technically sound as Skolnick, Murphy’s previous experience in Death and Obituary proves him to be the more effective axeman for this type of sound.

As for the rest of the guys in the band, it’s business as usual: Chuck Billy gives a stellar performance on vocals, absolutely owning the heavier songs like Dog Faced Gods with his newfound death growling (appropriately placed, mind you), while still using the pipes that makes him one of the most distinguishable singers in all of thrash. Eric Peterson and Greg Christian round out the Testament core trio, being a solid rhythm section while showing great maturity in their songwriting abilities. They ensure that not every song sounds the same, throwing in structure changes or strangely cool instrumental stuff like Urotsukidoji (named after a manga that’s, erm…well, just look it up). Basically, this is one thrash metal album that doesn’t get stale halfway through.

I must stress once again that a lot of the music here, while clearly influenced by the usual suspects, isn’t thrash that’s a gazillion miles per hour every single bar; Testament were not safe from the mass groove infection of the 90s (although they pull it off quite nicely here), and as such, there’s a lot of it in Low. The difference is that they make this groove, um, groovy instead of just a nuisance. The downside to this is that there aren’t many riffs, which is a definite downer, although the riffs that are there work pretty well.

With this album, Testament FINALLY got a good production job, which is what gives Low the final edge over their previous efforts. Pretty much every Testament album before this one had that thin guitar tone that just bugs the hell out of me, but here that isn’t an issue at all. Both Peterson and Murphy are clearly audible and sound as brutal as they’re meant to, while Tempesta (what a great name for a drummer!) comes through loud and clear on every piece of his setup. If you don’t believe that good production value can make a difference, compare Low to say, Souls of Black and tell me that this doesn’t sound 300% better. Seriously!

Despite all of this, Low should not be Testament’s best album. It’s really, really solid, but it lacks that final “wow” factor and memorability that makes an album a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Testament threw this style away shortly after Low was recorded (opting to masquerade as a death metal band instead), so we never got to see just how far this lineup could have gone. None of this means that Low should be as overlooked as it is, though; it stands alone as the only Testament album that I can listen to all the way through without hearing anything glaringly wrong with it. That’s about as much as I can say for a good album by a good band, neither of which reached the status that they should have.

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