Only a few bands in metal have left an undeniably visible and long-lasting footprint on the landscape of modern metal, but Testament undoubtedly lands on this short list of bands that continue to inspire bands and trends today. They have never been satisfied to simply create albums that are timeless and write songs that continue to get revisited by metalheads, young and old alike. Coming out of the Bay Area as Legacy in 1983 and later molding into the classic line-up that would be remembered for years, Testament was born in 1986 at a time when thrash metal was just beginning to change the American musical landscape. With a handful of timeless classics released throughout the 80s and 90s, Testament was one of the few bands that seemed to get angrier, thrashier and more intense with each release. Case in point: The scathing guitar work, frantic rhythm section and ever-increasingly intense vocal deliveries of frontman Chuck Billy on the two of Testament’s most brutal albums, 1997’s „Demonic“ and 1999’s „The Gathering.“ Now, in 2015, they are working on their new album. Beginning in April, thrash legends Testament and Exodus will hit the road together, on the „Dark Roots of Thrash II“ tour. They were giving a concert on Thursday 11th of June at Den Atelier and for this occasion frontman Chuck Billy was ready to answer some of our questions.
Hello and thank you for taking your time for this interview! How are you?
I’m fine thank you, just relaxing a bit and mentally preparing for our next tour and the new album.
What’s the current status of your next album?
Well we are at the very early stage. We have no title yet, but we recorded six demo songs. It’s kind of going slow at the moment. We do this with intention, because we want that everything sounds right and we are not in a hurry.
How does the upcoming album compare stylistically to the last one?
Our last record „Dark Roots Of Earth“ (2012) had a very polished sound. It was a big commercial success and it had a very melodic sound. This time we try to take our sound back to our trash metal roots, but nevertheless also including melodic parts. At this point it’s still difficult to say, maybe in a few weeks things will look different again. Who knows.
How does the songwriting work in Testament?
Well, it’s me and Eric Peterson (rythm guitar) who are writing the majority of the material. It has been like this since I joined Testament in 1986. But on the last record and also on this one Alex Skolnick (lead guitar) has contributed some parts.
Looking back at the early days of thrash metal, at what point did you realize that there was a new movement going on?
It’s kind of funny when I look back and realize that the trash metal mouvement and their bands were and are based at the San Francisco Bay Area. I went to a lot of concerts at the time and you could feel that bands like Metallica or Slayer where going further with their sound, in a much harder direction. Before, there was British Heavy Metal and Punk, but you could sense that something was in the air. The same then happened to us when Grunge came along (laughs). All the metal bands practically disappearead from the medias over night. After it was a long and hard way back for us.
Are there any new acts nowadays out there that you particularly enjoy?
There are so many bands nowadays it’s really hard to follow them all, but I do enjoy The Haunted and In Flames (both Swedish metal bands) quite a lot. Although the last In Flames album „Siren Charms“ had a softer sound, but they just developed their sound, which I find important. As a musician you should be in a constant state of developement and progress.
You’re heading out on a tour with Exodus. It’s nice to see classic bands together instead of having some unknown young bands as opening acts. How does it feel for you?
It’s really great. We went on tour with Overkill last year and now with Exodus. I mean we know each other since the 80s and we really are friends. Also our fans can enjoy their favourite bands in one evening.
Are there any places you haven’t toured or played live at yet and you would still like to go?
There are of course places we haven’t been, like New Zealand for example. I was never there, but the country has already something special, just by looking at some landscape photos. So yes, that would be definitely interesting. Thank you very much for answering our questions and good luck for the future!
Thank you and see you at the show!
( Interview by Mike Dostert )