Last Night: Testament and Overkill at House of Blues
Atop a towering drum riser sat another advantage: noted metal ringer Gene Hoglan, who has played with everyone from Death to Deathklok over the years. Hoglan's infuriatingly fluid playing style makes everything he does look effortless, and it was hard to keep my eyes off of him for the bulk of the band's set.
Testament's third and final advantage was the talent of guitarist Alex Skolnick, surely one of the most underrated metal axe-slingers of all time. Skolnick's playing contains a good bit more soul than the terrorizing leads of many of his thrash contemporaries, and they lent a humanizing touch to the band's inhuman battery.
Testament proved to be no nostalgia act during its set, with the new ragers "Native Blood" and "Dark Roots of the Earth" touching off wave after wave of crowd-surfers and circle-pitters. Still, singer Chuck Billy couldn't help but do a little reminiscing about good times long gone in Houston, where the band shot many of its music videos back in the day.
After Billy recalled a brutal hangover that kept him sweating through the shoot for "Practice What You Preach," the audience worked up a sweat of its own, sending hair flying in time to Hoglan's merciless pounding.
Though never quite as successful commercially as their bigger brethren in Metallica and Slayer, Testament looked and sounded more driven and energized than either of those bands on Wednesday, and their new material compared quite favorably to the old stuff like "Into the Pit."
It was nice to see the group taking advantage of thrash metal's strange second life not only to get back out on tour, but to produce some timely, resonant and pulverizing new tunage, as well. If you missed out, don't fret -- these metal survivors don't appear to have any intention of going away anytime soon.
Personal Bias: Heavy fucking metal, dude.
The Crowd: Scruffy longhairs and the brave women who love them.
Overheard In the Crowd: "They better play some fuckin' old shit."
Random Notebook Dump: Seriously, how does Bobby Ellsworth do it? The guy has a damn V-line at age 53!