|Review: Testament - The Ritual|
Label: Atlantic Records
Year released: 1992
Genre: Thrash Metal
Review online: April 20, 2004
Reviewed by: 4th Horseman
Rated 3.72/5 (74.44%) (36 Votes)
Ah yes. "The Ritual"; the black sheep of Testament's career. WRONG! This is an underrated gem and it sure is refreshing to see 12 years down the road that this album has aged extremely well. In 1992, not many appreciated it because it seemed to have leaned towards that very enticing and tempting commercial route. However, upon hearing this album once now, you would know how much "The Ritual" has contributed to the world of metal.
Sure Testament mellowed out a bit and focused more on melody and emotion rather than aggression and break-neck pace. But you know what? This is still far, far superior to anything coming out of the thrash scene at the time. Even out of the 1992 context, "The Ritual" is one of those discs that define Testament as a full packaged band. It was here where Chuck Billy proved that he could actually sing. It was here where Skolnick showed that metal could be just as harsh and painful without the unforgiving speed and merciless aggression.
The bottom line is that this was an experimental album that was flooded with bad press without considering what it really was. This was a band trying something new when the thrash scene had been squeezed of all its juice and had gotten extremely saturated. It may sound bad that the highlight of the album is a ballad – "Return To Serenity" which is arguably the greatest metal ballad ever written, in addition to having one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. It's just one of those solos that would rip the audience into shreds and keeps going higher and higher. Just when you think the song has hit its climax, it climbs a little bit more. To me, a band really does not put itself on the map unless it shows it can write a fucking slamming ballad! Although Testament had already proven that with "The Legacy", "Return To Serenity" took it to a whole new level which many bands until today try to emulate but can't quite get it right. Pick any great metal album today. Chances are, it will surely have a slower, more thought-provoking song on it, but I have yet to listen to one that can match up to this track.
Good emotional songs are only part of what "The Ritual" has to offer. Just listen to the ripping tracks such as "Electric Crown" and tell me this is commercial crap! Or even "Let Go Of My World." If Testament were seeking a wider audience on "The Ritual" then it may only have been the pure heavy metal crowd and nothing else. The jackboot of melody coupled with distortion is just majestic and "The Ritual" is living proof that. This is just a disc that was far too ahead of its time and misunderstood. Listening to it today, we all know where it fits in and how it contributed to metal. Little wonder why all the reviews being written regarding this disc today have been so positive.
I wouldn't advise the extreme crowd to pick this up, but thrashers and heavy metal fans will most likely get a kick out of this.
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