Testament - Demonic
Music For Nations
Downtuned Groove Metal
11 songs (40:51)
Release year: 1997
Testament, Music For Nations
Reviewed by Bar
Archive review

This album has always gotten unfairly pegged as Testament’s poor attempt at Death Metal, which doesn’t really make much sense to me. It’s true that their sound had gotten significantly heavier, but just because the guitars are tuned way down and the vocals have gotten a little harsher doesn’t automatically make it Death Metal. If anything, this strikes me as Testament’s attempt at something most of their contemporaries were also doing at the time – Groove Metal. I think it’s pretty easy to hear the blueprint of the classic Testament sound buried somewhere inside all of these songs, it’s just a slower version featuring more groove and no solos. I think the extra slow, extra heavy version of Testament actually has a bit going for it. In the grand scheme Testament albums this does rank firmly among the lesser attempts, but there’s still stuff to like.

First and foremost are the considerable percussive talents of Gene Hoglan, whose performance behind the kit is sterling as always. Many Thrash fans complain that the overall slow pace of this album renders it boring, and as a Thrash fan myself I can certainly understand the argument. What you lose in speed though is made up in precision. I personally find that Hoglan’s drumming is intricate and precise enough to maintain my interest through even the album’s slowest tempos. He wrings so much effortless groove from the big, chunky riffs laid down by Eric Petersen that I can’t help but head bang through several of these tracks. It’s nice to get to see another side of his drumming too, because by his own heady standards, he’s relatively restrained on this album. As I mentioned, the pace is slow and there’s barely a blast beat to be heard anywhere, so it’s nice to hear the natural feel he has for the groove.

I won’t deny that a few of the tracks on this album can sound a little samey, as the lack of solos and the relentless groove affect the variety a little bit. When the album works though, it can work pretty well. The Burning Times is a pretty sweet slab of Heavy Metal, and it’s a pretty strong argument for the slower, heavier sound that the band was experimenting with here. It’s built around a very solid riff from Peterson, which is then masterfully manipulated by the band in order to extract every ounce of filthy rhythm. Chuck Billy sounds great, but then again I am a fan of his harsher vocal delivery. I appreciate that a lot of people think his work here just sounds like bad death growling, but I think it works quite well when taken as a harsher Thrash vocal. It’s just an extension and natural development of his previous style.

This is an album which does ultimately pale in comparison to a lot of Testament’s other work, but at the same time it’s probably a little underrated too. If you ask me, Demonic was a brave effort to remain relevant a time when playing Thrash metal had become commercially untenable. As an attempt to capitalise on 90s Groove Metal, this is one of the best (for whatever that’s worth). At least Testament were still making an effort to remain heavy, which is more than I can say for a lot of their contemporaries. There are glimpses of genius here, and best of all you can even hear a couple of clues as to the direction they would take with the awesome follow-up The Gathering.

Killing Songs :
The Burning Times, Jun-Jun, Murky Waters
Bar quoted 68 / 100
Other albums by Testament that we have reviewed:
Testament - Souls of Black reviewed by Bar and quoted 80 / 100
Testament - Dark Roots Of Earth reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
Testament - The Ritual reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
Testament - The New Order reviewed by Tyler and quoted CLASSIC
Testament - The Legacy reviewed by Phil and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 10 reviews click here
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