Let me tell you, this review has been a LONG TIME coming. I have been wanting to get it written since earlier this year, but it has been a hard time trying to get my thoughts organized about it. It also doesn’t help that another legendary thrash band put out a new album around the same time. All this to say that I have been distracted and confused. I think that I have enough sorted out that I can put something to the digital paper and actually fulfill my obligations to this album and do it justice.
I had first heard of Testimony of Apocalypse in 2021 when they announced their formation and I was incredibly stoked. As the legend goes, the original members of the band Sacrament (if you don’t know who that is, you should) got together to discuss a reunion of some sort. Two members wanted to go with the old-school thrash sound that Sacrament was known for, and the other three members wanted a more modernized metal sound, and thus both parties decided to go their own ways and start the projects that were more aligned with the sound they wanted to create. Testimony of Apocalypse consists of Michael Torone (Vocalist) and Paul Graham (drummer) from Sacrament’s album from which this new band lifted their current moniker, along with newcomer Nick Pacitti (all other instruments).
Upon my initial listen, some of the songwriting choices caught me off guard as this was the project that wanted to go the more “traditional thrash” direction. What I was expecting was more something akin to Sepultura’s “Arise” album, but what I got was a lot closer to Believer’s “Sanity Obscure” album. This isn’t a bad thing, but I had to take myself out of the ‘big dumb thrash’ mindset and re-calibrate my ears for something a bit more mathematical and progressive in structure. The album, in its composition, is one that challenges the listener to engage their brain while listening; it is not something that will work well as background music. Believe me; I’ve tried it. From the rhythmic elements to the the lead work, to the lyrics themselves, this album is intended to engage the listener at every point and make you ask questions.
So with the overview out of the way, let’s break this album down to what’s good and what’s not so great.
Let me first say that all three members are functioning at the top of their games on this record. I had High expectations for Michael and Paul on this album, as their work in Sacrament had set the bar high, to begin with. Still, the real showcase on this album is the FANTASTIC instrumentation that Nick Pacitti brought to the table. The track “We All Shall Rise” really highlights Nick at his highest levels of technicality, or at least it does, in my opinion. He blends melody and aggression so well, and a tap solo makes me want to throw my guitar across the room and say, “I Quit…”
I found Mike’s vocals on this album to be my biggest surprise. Based on anything that I could find, he has been out of the metal scene since his last album with Sacrament in 1989. It would be easy to assume that someone could lose their intensity in 32 years, but he sounds just as good as he did back then and seems to have picked up some new styles since then as well. Another treat he brought to the table on this album is his singing voice. This is most noticeable on the track “Take My Spirit,” as there is quite a lot of singing on that track. He also experiments a little with deathy growls and some black metal-inspired shrieks, both of which, I feel, he does successfully and would love to see used more in future endeavors. He also has a more emphasized use of low smokey talking vocals (think Phil Anselmo on Pantera’s “Great Southern Trendkill” album) which add to the album’s atmosphere tremendously.
Paul’s Drumming also surpassed my expectations as well. I was fully aware of his capacity, as I have all of Sacrament’s full-length albums and am quite familiar with his work. His drumming has aged like fine wine, and he seems to move around within time, signature changes and tempo shifts like a sailboat cutting its way through choppy seas. If anything, I would say that he sounds incredibly comfortable playing complex rhythms in a way that rivals the late great Ted Kirkpatrick.
The lyrics themselves are not attributed to being written by any specific member in the band within the liner notes, so I do need to mention them separately. Whoever wrote the lyrics for this album put A LOT of work into them. They are all incredibly evangelical, which is very refreshing in the current era of Christian music trying to be “relevant” by talking about life struggles rather than life solutions. In the physical copy’s liner notes, they also provide scriptural references for each line written, which I haven’t seen since Bride’s “Snakes in the Playground” album. So, to whoever put in that amount of work, I could kiss you… I won’t, but the sentiment is there.
Okay, to have complete transparency in this review, this section has really held me back from writing for so long. I know that the things that I will talk about here will be things that most people won’t notice, but I don’t feel that I would be doing my job correctly if I didn’t mention them.
If I had to summarize my hangups about this album in two words, it would be production decisions. There were a few choices made in production that just hit my ears so wrong because they mar what could have been a perfect album. There are moments where the quantization seems to fall out of sync, and the timing of the instruments falls off a little; this is most noticeable in the first track, “Unleashed.” The vocal tracks are also a bit too saturated in the room reverb that was used, and there are moments where it almost sounds like he is screaming in a bathroom stall. The drums also sound incredibly triggered. Now I am not opposed to triggering drums, but when every single hit is so perfectly leveled, it can sound unnatural and mechanical, which is what happens a bit on this album. My hope is that the band will have someone else behind the boards for the next album to create a bit more of a natural sound for the next album. I also am hoping that they pull Cameron Neally in as a permanent member as well (he provides lead guitar work on five tracks on this album that is just Chef Kiss levels of perfection).
Even with all of the issues I have with the production choices made on this album, the performances of the individual band members more than compensate for the nits that I am picking. Ultimately, this is an amazing album that was marred on the back end by technical gadgetry. In some cases, it may be my own personal production preferences rather than actual errors. So, with all that being said, I will give this album four out of five former headbangers that have since cut their hair.
Standout tracks: Take My Spirit, We All Shall Rise, Majestad