Towards the end of a conversation about the release of Testament’s 13th full length record, TITANS OF CREATION, guitarist Eric Peterson says, “I got a funny story about that song.” The particular track in discussion was “Curse of Osiris” and Peterson's memory was jogged. He went on to detail a day of tracking with legendary drummer, Gene Hoglan.
“I was sitting there all day drinking beer while Gene tracked drums. He gets done and he looks at me and he says, ‘We need another thrash song.’” There is a bit of irony in a story where Testament says they need another thrash song. Peterson continued. “I told him that I had an idea. So I played it for him. Within fifteen minutes we had already had the song recorded. Not just the song idea, but we had the song recorded.”
More than three decades deep and Testament is still capturing lighting in a bottle. The band’s credibility and innovation anchor a legacy that has allowed generations of fans to find common ground in their catalog. Few bands can boast consistency the way Testament does and with number 13, TITANS OF CREATION provides a resounding example of why the Bay Area legends are just that.
The band however, would make headlines for other reasons in weeks leading up to their album release. Partnering with Exodus and Death Angel, tTestament, however, would make headlines for other reasons in weeks leading up to their album release. Partnering with Exodus and Death Angel, the "Bay Area Strikes Back" Tour was charging through Europe as the outbreak of Covid-19 began to spread. Peterson recalled how the tour dates were unfolding. “We were in Switzerland. The tour was moving along. Then we were in Italy. Then Italy closed down. That’s when people started talking about it more. Then we went to Spain. Then Spain closed down. It was like in the movies where you are running from a collapsing floor. We went to Paris, then France closed down." The tour would wrap up in Hannover in bittersweet fashion. “The show was sold out so everyone was excited about that. Then we got the news that it was canceled.”
The concerns were warranted. In fact, The Coronavirus would ravage the touring party with members of all three bands getting infected. Eric went over the list. “Chuck (Billy) got it. Chuck’s wife. Steve (Di Giorgio) got it. My guitar tech. Another tech for our band. Wil (Carroll / Death Angel) got it. Gary (Holt / Exodus) got it. It blows my mind man because we were together every night. My tech is handing me guitars and were doing shots together. Maybe I got it too but never got sick.” Amid health concerns, canceled shows, and abrupt changes in life as the world knew it, Testament continued with the plans of promoting a new record.
As for where music ranks during such surreal times, releasing a new album during a pandemic is less than ideal, but Peterson sees an upside. “People are always so on the go and now they aren’t. So if anything, maybe fans are listening to the record and doing it more in depth and spending more time with it.” Rightfully so as there is plenty to dig into on TITANS OF CREATION. Though fundamentally thrash, Testament has always had a penchant for tastefully accenting their songs with different influences. “We look at this as our art. Every song should be a little bit different. Every song should be it’s own journey like a movie or a good book. That’s where I find some of my inspiration.”
Remarkably dynamic, TITANS, delivers with melody and madness in the ebb and flow of 11 tracks and an outro. Peterson showcases his black metal-esque vocal chops on tracks like "Night of the Witch." The band delves into the melodic with "City of Angels," while tracks like "Dream Deceiver" translate as textbook for fans of the more classic sound. The architecture of the album is deliberate, detailed, and definitive as another in Testament's teflon-strength catalog.
Yet much the same way that “Curse of Osiris” happened in the moment, Peterson confides that at least part of the songwriting process involves being receptive to the unexpected. “A lot of times I’ll just jam, I’ll record myself for an hour and go back and listen and find something good at like 16:20. That’s the best stuff. The stuff that you weren’t trying to write.”
Arguably, it’s that kind of connection with the craft that has afforded Testament the longevity that would fruit a 13th album. It’s likely, that kind of connection to the music is what keeps veteran fans convinced and new fans intrigued. It’s certain, that the kind of dedication that Peterson and the rest of the band pour into their product is why a record can, in fact, be important in the face of a pandemic.
Testament doesn’t just survive, they thrive. 2020 has proven such.