Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.
Why Is First Strike Still Deadly a Unique Album?
Testament is one of those bands in the history of the thrash metal scene that have established themselves as what I would like to call “the Big 5” of the California thrash metal scene the other four being Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Exodus. Testament released in 2001 an album called First Strike Still Deadly which is not an official studio album but it is actually re-recorded versions of songs from their first two albums. I decided to review this album by Testament as well because of my enormous respect and admiration for the band's vocalist Chuck Billy.
First Strike Still Deadly Is a Compilation Album
This album which is like basically a compilation was released on October 24, 2001, just a little less than 2 months before the death of Chuck Schuldiner. This is significant because the world would lose one of the best US born death metal guitarists who was a major icon in the scene. The riffing especially in the re-done version of the song "Burnt Offerings" sounds like a much heavier pattern of 1980s style thrash metal riffing. It resembles what we would have heard from bands such as Metallica with their album Kill ‘Em All so many years earlier.
There Is a Guest Vocal Performance by Steve Souza
Stylistically, the vocals are obviously way different than the original songs when they were written and recorded for the first time. Chuck's vocals are at a lower octave and consist of those rough vocals, the kind that may scare some people because they are so deep. The guitars are also tuned down for this release and the bass guitar may be better because of the contributions of Steve Digiorgio, the same person that did the bass guitar for the album Human released by Florida death metal band Death. Steve Souza provides guest vocals for the songs "Alone In the Dark" and "Reign of Terror."
"Burnt Offerings" Newer Version
There is An Excellent Selection Of Songs On This Album
But as for Testament, they continued to release quality album after quality album and the selection of the songs here is superb! Albums like these which feature a compilation of songs or a re-recording of songs do not always end up in the elite category but this album certainly does in spite of the lower tuned guitars and rougher vocals. “The Preacher” in this selection of songs still has that little exotic part that is noticeable. Instead of saying the words “the preacher” Chuck just lets out a laugh. For those that have that nostalgia for wanting to experience the early days of Testament, First Strike Still Deadly is an album that allows listeners and fans of the band to experience the 1980s albums with a more modern sound.
"Alone In the Dark" Steve Souza Vocal Version
Steve Souza Makes His Brief Return to Testament
Some of you may wonder how this album compares with other modern albums and that is a wonderful question! This album may be on par with Death Magnetic, an album which I really like a lot. There is really nothing wrong musically with this re-done edition of Testament's first two albums and it is pretty much a flawless album. This should be ranked as one of the Top 10 best thrash metal albums released by US bands.
We would be doing a disservice if we did not discuss the contributions of Steve Souza. On the song "Alone In the Dark" as it builds up slowly, Steve's vocals range from regular, standard style to the raspy screams that he is known for.
Final Thoughts About First Strike Still Deadly
First Strike Still Deadly has received mostly negative reviews and for me that is hard to understand why. Of course, these songs do not sound exactly the same that they did back in 1987 and 1988. This is a re-recording of the band’s earlier material so it would naturally sound different. Besides, there is still the thrash metal feel that many would love so what is going on here? It could be that perhaps songs such as “Trial By Fire” are slower than they should be and this could be what bothers some people. Nonetheless, First Strike Still Deadly is a good album for those that wish to return to the good old days of Testament but want to hear a modern version of these songs. There is another song on here called “Reign of Terror” which is on the LIVE mini album called Return to the Apocalyptic City which was released in 1993.
© 2020 Ara Vahanian