Testament - Souls of Black
Thrash Metal
10 songs (39:17)
Release year: 1990
Testament, Atlantic Records
Reviewed by Bar
Archive review

The 90s were, at best, divisive years for fans of seminal Thrash exponents Testament. It was a decade in which the band found itself experimenting and evolving to varying degrees of success, with each of the resulting albums having it's share of detractors. This contentious period of their history was instigated by Souls of Black, which at the time of release was widely criticised as an underdone effort. These days however, it is often regarded as the last example of the classic Testament sound before the really problematic material began to arrive. I must agree with the latter sentiment, as the dark atmosphere and solid riffage still makes this album a solid listen after all these years.

It’s pretty hard to argue with the first few tracks. The intro track is effective enough and with that out of the way, the boys offer up the one-two punch of Face in the Sky and Falling Fast, and yeah, it’s all good. Both are prime examples of the familiar and welcome Testament sound, complete with memorable riffs that twist and turn, complex lead guitar work and Chuck Billy’s characteristic vocals infused with just the right amount of melody. Like the best Testament songs, the individual elements seem to click seamlessly together just as you begin to think they never will, showcasing the band’s ever present mastery of rhythm. On the entirety of the album there seems to be a conscious shift away from the lighter mood that was present on Practice What You Preach, and the result is an excellent sullen atmosphere. Ballad The Legacy is the most notable exception, but otherwise this is a dark, twisty, groovy album that still manages to Thrash from the get-go. Some songs towards the end to begin to sound a little samey, but Skolnick lays down some of his best solo work throughout and that alone could be worth the price of entry.

A little too much has been made about the rush-job production this album received as a result of the band’s touring schedule. While it isn’t perfect, I think the final result is actually fairly well suited to the material. It’s noticeably grimier than their third album was, but still has a much clearer sound than their first couple of efforts. This, combined with a hell of a lot of distortion, is quite well suited to the heavier nature of the songs, but as a result the drums and rhythm guitar do sound a little distant. The bass is almost entirely missing in action, but hey, if you listen to classic Thrash you already know the score there.

One criticism I might level at Souls of Black would be a lack of originality. Then again, while one person might say Testament were just repeating themselves on this album, another might say they were playing effectively to their strengths. Either point of view is valid enough, I suppose. For those with anything more than a passing interesting in Testament, this will eventually be required material, but it's certainly not the best place to start for newbies.

Killing Songs :
Face in the Sky, Falling Fast, Souls of Black, Absence of Light, Malpractice
Bar quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Testament that we have reviewed:
Testament - Demonic reviewed by Bar and quoted 68 / 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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