Music is a fickle beast. Music fans can be even more fickle. Fads come and (thankfully) go, all in a short amount of time. Bands and artists that find success with one fad will often find they either evolve or die. And every band knows, they have just as much of a chance with every album to loose fans as they do gain new ones.
Yet amongst the fads, there are the stalwarts. Those solid, stable, reliable factors that you can count on. Likewise, certain musical styles become reliable enough to stand the test of time, supersede fad status and become bona fide genres. Such it has been with thrash metal. I won't go into too much depth regarding the genre, it is sufficient to point out that it arose as an angrier, heavier cousin of speed metal, in reaction to the gloss, pop and pomp of glam metal.
Emerging from the "Bay Area" thrash scene, Testament proved themselves to be one of the stalwarts of this new and evolving genre. Even when when grunge and subsequently nu-metal were overtaking the radio waves and record sales, Testament pressed on, sticking true to their trash roots while evolving in new directions. The pinnacle of that evolution is witnessed on The Gathering. Easily their heaviest album ever, and possibly one of the heaviest thrash albums ever recorded, it represents a big middle finger, straight up into the air, aimed directly at Korn and their ilk.
The Gathering is a magnificent example of American thrash. It is fast, technical, heavy as all get-out, and more furious than the hounds of hell. Chuck Billy brings back a bit of his singing growl that was mostly absent on Demonic, but he retains much of the fierce style he used on that record. Eric Peterson proves he is one of the best metal guitarists and songwriters around, completely owning the entire record. And Dave Lombardo, well, it's Dave freaking Lombardo. He owns the kit. From the beginning track, "D.N.R", through the album highlight "Ride the Snake" to the final track "Fall of Sipledome", The Gathering never lets up. It is a pummeling ride to the very last moment.
Final Verdict: Adore it (just keep the Advil handy)
Blech. Finally, Peter has picked something that I can unequivocally say I don't like.
Thrash has never really been my thing - I love Persistence of Time because it's a classic, and ...And Justice For All doubly so. I can stand Megadeth, and that's really about the extent of my relationship with thrash.
As far as this CD goes I can concede to almost everything my compatriot said regarding its musicality (and especially the talent of Mr. Lombardo in the kit), but it just doesn't appeal to me. It's ugly and abrasive, and not in the ways I like. My metal-listening time is metered; I don't feel like wasting any more of it on this album.
Final Verdict: Ignore it (and listen to better metal instead)