The Legacy


Megaforce / Atlantic, 1987

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Quick: name the bands that make up the “Big Four” of thrash metal.

Okay, that was too easy… Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax.

Now, then… name the “Big Eight”. Chances are everyone’s lists will contain at least one different band, but the Bay Area’s Testament is undoubtedly on most people’s. For nearly four decades and countless lineup changes, they have been making heads slam into the concrete and enjoying nearly every minute of it.

Was that greatness evident on their 1987 debut The Legacy (the title a subtle nod to the band’s previous name)? Again, it all depends on who you talk to… but, in this case, you’re talking to me. (And, to the band: sorry it’s taken me 35 years to review this one, but I’m a habitual procrastinator… I just finally paid Columbia House the penny I owed them for those 12 record albums in 1981.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Chuck Billy and crew, in many ways, were fortunate to be in what I view as the second wave of thrash metal in the US. They had the roads paved for them by bands such as Metallica and Slayer, but also had enough of a free rein to create their own version of the genre. Indeed, if you listen to some of the guitar lines traded by Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, especially in songs like “The Haunting,” there are elements of progressive rock hidden deep within the heavily distorted instrumentation.

While The Legacy doesn’t try to simply play the fastest kind of thrash metal just to say they’ve done so (which is a relief), there do sometimes seem to be moments where a lower-key approach to the tempos might have worked to the band’s benefit – especially in terms of Billy’s vocals. Take “Raging Waters,” for example. There are times where it feels like he’s trying to fit the lyrics into a concise 30-second snippet – which tends to create a vocal mush. (For that matter, producer Alex Perialas could have cut back on some of the echo, which also muddies the vocals.)

The thing is, Testament was entirely capable of achieving this. “Alone In The Dark” is a prime example of this, and it is done extremely well. There’s plenty of room for every band member to shine, all backing a well-written, well produced song. If only there were a few more moments like this.

And it’s not that the balls-to-the-wall approach towards the music isn’t the right idea for Testament, either. “C.O.T.L.O.D.” is a prime, if short, example of that. Skolnick has been recognized by many as one of the best guitarists in the metal genre; songs like this cement his legacy.

Now, there are undoubtedly cries of “Sacrilege!” among metalheads (and especially die-hard fans of Testament). I didn’t say that The Legacy is a bad album; indeed, it’s anything but that. I’d be hard-pressed, though, to necessarily call it their best effort in their career, but it was a decent (if slightly flawed) first step. There’s a definite reason that, 35 years later, this band is still around.

Rating: B-

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© 2022 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Megaforce / Atlantic, and is used for informational purposes only.