“This is our first time playing anywhere in the B.C. Interior, let alone Cranbrook,” says Chuck Billy, vocalist for the thrash-metal titans Testament. “For a band like ours, where it seems we’re always on the road somewhere on the planet, it’s always great to stop somewhere new. And with the Cranbrook show, we’ll be able to play a long set. And we love to meet-and-greet. This should be awesome!”
Testament aim to blast the roof off of the Cranbrook Curling Club this Friday, May 18, as opening support for fellow thrash legends Anthrax.
“It’s cool how we’re touring this time around,” says Billy. “There’s two separate legs of the Thrashpocalypse Tour. One’s got Slayer and Lamb of God. The other one’s got Anthrax and us. And we’re paralleling the same routes, so when we can combine all four bands into one show, then things just get way out of hand — in the best way possible. The Slayer leg doesn’t play as many days per week as our leg, so we’re getting the lion’s share of the gigs during all their days off.”
Testament (originally formed as Legacy) burst out of San Francisco’s thriving underground-metal scene in 1983 as one of the first American thrash-metal bands, combining heavy-metal rifferama with frenzied hardcore-punk speed and sociopolitical lyrical bite. Formed by rhythm-guitar powerhouse Eric Peterson, Testament’s current lineup is indeed their strongest: alongside Peterson and Billy, the band features the highly respected lead-guitar wizard Alex Skolnick and the mind-blowing rhythm-section maelstrom which is in-demand drummer Gene Hoglan (nicknamed “the Atomic Clock”) and virtuoso bassist Steve DiGiorgio.
“This will be the final lap for us touring in support of our latest album, Brotherhood of the Snake,” says Billy. “We want our focus, during this and after this, to dive back into the songwriting process. We want to release a new album in 2019, so we need to get started soon. Eric and I are still the main songwriting force within Testament, although of course we’re wide open to whatever the other guys want to bring to the band as a whole. Eric will crank out all these amazing riffs and I’ll write the lyrics. We fumble around until the main skeleton of the song comes together and then we’ll flesh it out until it’s complete. Alex and Steve and Gene, adding their talents? It’s crazy! We wait until we’re off the road to hone in on new songs, or tossing ideas around, or demoing song sketches and such. When you’re onstage under hot lights, blasting out high-intensity 100-minute sets, most nights of the week — we’re just wiped. When it’s time off — it’s TIME OFF! There’s usually not a lot of post-performance adrenaline left in the glands, so everyone usually relaxes in their hotel rooms. On this tour, on the times when we do link up with Slayer, we end up playing a much shorter set. We then end up with more time on our hands.”
Although unfairly overshadowed by the so-called “Big Four” bands of the 1980s thrash-metal community (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax), Testament are certainly no slouches, having released 11 studio albums (among numerous other recordings) and selling over 4 million of them worldwide. Usually grouped in with second-echelon bands such as Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Kreator, Sepultura, Forbidden, Vio-Lence, Sodom, Destruction, Sacred Reich, etc., Testament deserve their legends as one of the USA’s fieryist live bands of the past 35 years, and their fiercely loyal worldwide fanbase keeps them alive and kicking, year after year. This isn’t April Wine we’re talking about here.
“There’s a lot of unexplored adventures we’re aiming to accomplish after the new album’s released,” says Billy. “We’d love to go back to China. We’d love to tour India. And New Zealand. Anywhere we haven’t been yet through our career. Testament’s in a good place overall in terms of overall headspace. We get along great within the band. We communicate well. The songwriting is electric. Everything’s going well!”
Well indeed. Chuck Billy (born 1962 in Alameda County) commands the stage at age 55 with stronger confidence than most lead vocalists half his age, and shows no sign of tapering off. He is a notable member of California’s indigenous Pomo nation, and several Testament songs pay tribute and honor to his cultural heritage. For his high-visibility persona in the global metal community, Billy was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian’s critically-acclaimed Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture exhibit in 2010-2011, an honor he bears proudly.
The Thrashpocalypse Tour of which Testament is currently part of marks the startling and sad farewell of metal gods Slayer, and Billy gives much sentimental reflection of the tinnitus-inducing whirlwind his band and their band have joyously undertaken over the past three decades and counting.
“We have a lot of history with Slayer. We’ve done so many shows together. A lot of heavy touring. It’s a great honor for us to be considered as live support for Slayer’s farewell tour. You definitely want to be a part of it. But as for us? We’re not ready to hang up our hats. Testament had our rebirth when we reunited in 2005, and we were so glad for it. And we’ve been chugging forward strongly since then. Things have been great for us. The shows have been amazing. The records keep turning out awesome. There’s no reason for us to consider retiring. This is who we are. This is what we do. If we finally come to a point when we just can’t do it anymore, then we won’t do it anymore. Until then – full speed ahead!”
The mighty Testament (along with Anthrax) split skulls and rupture eardrums live and howling at the Cranbrook Curling Rink on Friday May 18th. Don’t you DARE miss this!