Sound — 10
Anyone who is a fan of legendary Bay Area thrash metal band Testament knows that one of their key trademarks is that they do not follow any other trends of other thrash bands. In the early 1990s when Metallica decided to become more "commercially accessible," Testament went in the exact opposite direction, becoming almost a death metal band in their brutality. However, as amazing as these albums were, fans still searched for that missing piece. Today, they have found it again. Ladies and gentlemen, Alex Skolnick is back. Arguably the greatest and most technical thrash guitarist of all time, Skolnick's prowess of shredding makes it's welcome return to the band after a long 16 years. However, what makes the album's sound truly amazing is Testament's combination of their classic Skolnick-era speed and technicality with all the heaviness of the 90s, including Eric Peterson's brutal crushing rhythm guitars. Former Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph rounds out the band with his excellent double-bass talents, along with some surprisingly interesting drum parts.
Lyrics — 7
I personally over the years have generally loved the lyrics of Testament's albums, but unfortunately I must admit that by far the weakest part of the album are the lyrics/song titles. For example, "The Evil Has Landed" is about 9/11... 7 years after it happened. Also, while Testament's social commentary is pretty good and original, on this album some of it feels a little stereotypical and overused, like the "Society is choking me" in "The Persecuted Won't Regret." However, what saves the album's lyrics is Chuck Billy's voice, who is living proof that cancer cannot only be beaten, it can be beaten to a pulp; not only has Chuck's voice withstood vocal cancer, but it almost sounds the better for it. I have heard his voice compared to sounding like he just gargled broken glass, and that is about right. It's that cutting, rough and earth-moving scream that keeps your adrenaline pumping and your head banging.
Overall Impression — 9
In an age where pure thrash is almost gone, Testament has the nerve to say, "this is thrash." Not only have they been able to make a truly brutal album, but they have also returned to their thrash roots and proven that true metal never gets old. If I were to pick three of the best songs on the album, I would say that they would be "Afterlife," heard on tour last year, "The Formation Of Damnation," and "More Than Meets The Eye." However, true metal may not get old, but at the same time the album only really stands out because of Chuck Billy and Alex Skolnick, without whom it would probably not be as incredible. In any case, at this rate I can honestly see Testament releasing more and more thrash albums. Skolnick's guitars make this album an early contender for "Metal Album of the Year", and certainly is a must have for all lovers of thrash, or even all metalheads.