On this day in Metal History: June 24th, 1997, Testament released their 7th and darkest studio record “Demonic”.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 6, 6, is the ominous countdown that serves as the album’s intro and segues perfectly into the first track “Demonic Refusal” which gives us a taste of the absolutely punishing 40 minutes that await us.
In the aftermath of Alex Skolnick’s withdrawal from the band in 1992, Testament found themselves on the cusp of reinvention. The band had already released an album in his absence (1994’s Low), which was a step toward the sound Chuck Billy and guitarist Eric Peterson were looking to take the band.
Prior to his departure, Skolnick had been most apprehensive about incorporating many of the elements that are present on Demonic into the band’s sound (low tuning, few solos).
With a mostly “new” line-up in tow, Billy and Peterson doubled down on their vision and took the band down a vicious new path.
Lyrically, Billy shifted the tone from political and environmental events to an occult theme, I mean look at the title of the record “Demonic” enough said.
On the album, Billy fully deployed some guttural intensity, using a voice that he had tapped in live settings for around a decade. “Dog Faced Gods” (Low) was the first time Billy had growled exclusively on a studio track. As the songs from the record took shape and became increasingly aggressive, Billy and Petersen decided the vocals should match the intensity of the detuned madness, and honestly, I feel it just works.
The cover of Demonic depicts a wooden mask with nails driven through it that is used in African exorcism rituals. The mask represents the possessed person, while the nails represent the cleansing of the afflicted individual, it’s just a great cover and ties everything together nicely.
Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying that Demonic is an absolutely pulverizing record from top to bottom. In all honesty, for me, it’s a record that can’t be digested in one listen. I need to break it down over a couple of days.
Don’t get me wrong there is still plenty of groove and thrash metal elements that are synonymous with the Testament sound to be found on the record with songs like “John Doe”, and “Hatred Arise” being a couple of the strongest tracks.
For me, the pinnacle of the album is “The burning times”, while the song’s subject matter addresses witch trials and execution, I find it most appropriate for the current state of the world.
While Demonic isn’t my favourite release from Testament, it stands the test of time as a statement from a band that didn’t hold back and wasn’t afraid to present something new to the audience, after all, isn’t that what the core of metal music is?
Till next time, play it loud friends.