Live At The Fillmore (Reissue)
posted on 1/2011 By:
Back in 1993 when legendary Bay Area thrashers Testament went through the first of a plethora of lineup changes, one of the main concerns most fans had was who would step in and fill the void left by Alex Skolnick’s departure. (Yes, the band lost Louie Clemente as well, but finding quality drummers has been the least of this band’s worries.) Well, the majority of those same concerned fans were soon warmed over by the more-than-capable James Murphy (Disincarnate, Death, Obituary) after they’d been chewed up and spit the fuck out by 1994’s beast of an album, Low. Live at the Fillmore captures the band during a hometown gig in support of their newest offering, and reacquainting myself with it after a few years now, I’m reminded just how great of a live album this is. Thanks to the good folks over at Prosthetic, this out-of-print album will soon be available to the masses once again, and for a very reasonable fee, I might add.
Like the majority of the albums that are receiving the reissue treatment these days, this one comes with a new layout, extended liner notes, and of course, it’s been digitally remastered. While there isn’t much of a difference in the sound quality on this compared to the original release, which was more-than-above-average for its time, one thing remains the same and that’s that Testament had probably never sounded heavier in the live setting up to that point. One of the main reasons for this was Chuck’s risky yet brilliant decision to implement some death metal vocals into his repertoire, as evident on the aforementioned Low, and there is no shortage of his deep bellows in and throughout his performance on this evening.
The majority of the material comes from Low and the band's first two albums, with “The Preacher” starting things off, soon to be followed by two of the band’s strongest cuts ever, “Alone in the Dark” and “Burnt Offerings”. After the pummeling the track “Low” bestows upon the crowd, the bass-driven “Urotsukidoji” soon follows, and then fan pleaser “Into the Pit” puts the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Had there been video associated with this album my guess is not a single head in the place was sitting still during this one. And after playing the title tracks for Souls of Black and Practice What You Preach respectively and plowing through the ferocious “Apocalyptic City”, the band finishes off with bruiser “Hail Mary” and death-metal tinged “Dog Faced Gods”. (I could not believe this was Chuck when Low came out.) All in all, the band's performance on this night was very commendable.
But even as solid as the live songs are on this release, the main selling point here has always been the three bonus acoustic songs at the end. “Return to Serenity”, one of the only decent songs from the lazy crap-fest that was The Ritual, is the first of the redone songs, and in my opinion, this version kills the original. The addition of female vocalist Star Nayea coupled with Billy’s softer, gentler voice is an absolute thing of beauty. And you have to love and respect guys like Murphy who realize there is absolutely no need to fuck with solos that don’t need fucking with. (I’m looking directly at you, Janick Gers.) He matches Skolnick’s original solo note for note, starting things off on his nylon-stringed acoustic only to have an electric track fade in to lead the song into glory. Easily one of the best guitar solos ever put to tape, and James nailed it. “The Legacy” off Souls… and “Trail of Tears” (also featuring Nayea) from Low finish the album off, and once again, I can comfortably say these versions just destroy the originals.
When all is said and done, this album isn’t all that essential, and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you to go out and get this, simply because I know your list of “to-buy albums” is probably pages long already. But I assure you that, for a mere $10 over at Prosthetic, the final three acoustic tracks on this are worth it alone. As good as the live show is here, it’s pretty much the bonus material as far as I’m concerned.
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