Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Testament - First Strike Still Deadly

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Testament have persevered as kings of the second layer of thrash madness, building over the years a thick, well-regarded dossier of post-Metallica possibilities. First Strike Still Deadly features the band grabbing their very earliest material and re-shake 'n' baking it through re-recording, a process that brings new specific-specifying life, given the band's acute skills at studio work. As well, Alex Skolnick chimes in a bit o' guitar and original vocalist Steve Sousa (Exodus) returns from the wilderness for two vocals, Alone In The Dark and Reign Of Terror closing the album with a distinct Metal Church-y feel, give Sousa's Wayne-twanged vocals. Not sure if this album needed to be, given that the band's songwriting is unparalleled within thrash on the latest few albums, but like I say, there's a production punch here, which coupled with the purity of purpose of the band's early riff monsters, works a kaleidoscopic bit of nasty nostalgia.
Rating 7.5

Witchery - Symphony For The Devil
(Music For Nations)

Once again, Jensen and his sly, ironic heavy metal meat feasters have figured out how to get the heart racing with cheese with no aftertaste, old school with a new kitchen, rock 'n' roll with a fatal dose of underworld rot. Differences this time 'round would be a tighter, more serious, more majestic sound, while also scurrying faster and thrashier. As a result, some of that seductive recklessness is gone, making for a more careerist Witchery. On the other hand, you get an upscale band, something less side projectile, an ambitious fully realized sound, swanky graphics, lyrics that are maybe too well-reasoned. Toxine's vocals are quite deathy and his vampiric presence, along with the smothering guitars, also make for a plainly heavier album. But the camp is still rampant, and the metal munching still frosted with sugar. Yikes, I'm writing this on Halloween, gotta go.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3