Salt Lake City doesn't seem to host as many opportunities for the city's metal fans to gather as our fair city once did, but the valley's metalheads still show up when given a good reason, like Testament's stop at The Depot Wednesday as part of the Bay Area thrash band's 25th anniversary tour.
I can't claim to be a Testament expert, but the band's early albums, like 1987 debut The Legacy and 1989's Practice What You Preach, were definitely in regular rotation during my high school years in Ogden, helping provide a soundtrack to "cruising the 'vard" for a bunch of bored kids looking for something -- anything! -- to do.
The band's undergone a lot of lineup changes through the years, but the current lineup is the closest it's been to the original in a long time, featuring the booming lead singer Chuck Billy, two ace guitarists in Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, longtime bass player Greg Christian and on-again, off-again, on-again drummer Gene Hoglan.
Wednesday at The Depot, Testament packed the main level of the club with a small army of (mostly) dudes who were ready to jump into the pit with the start of every new song, and throw up their "devil horns" between every tune, when Billy would bellow something like, "You feeling it out there, motherfuckers!?!"
The set spanned the band's career, and it was a pleasure to hear some old-school thrash delivered by such able performers. Billy had some issues with the sound on stage, and repeatedly made his way off to yell at a soundman, but it sounded just fine from the audience's perspective, with Skolnick and Peterson trading intense guitar solos throughout the night while Billy played air-guitar on his microphone stand while he banged his dome in time to songs like "Over the Wall" from the band's first album, or "Into the Pit" from 1988's The New Order.
Among the other highlights of a show that seemed to whip by in a blur of hair and monster riffs: the title track of Practice What You Preach, "The Electric Crown" from 1992 album The Ritual, "Disciples of the Watch," and a more recent track, "More Than Meets the Eye" from the 2008 album The Foundation of Damnation.
Testament has a new album slated for release this spring, but this show was about celebrating the old rather than introducing new songs to the band's rabid fans. And while hitting an old-school thrash-metal show certainly came with a bit of a retro vibe, there's no reason to think that style of music is going away anytime soon -- not as long as true believers like Testament are around to showcase the serious musicianship involved. Twenty-five years after the release of their first album, the band still delivers.