Testament / Exodus: 30th April, 2022 - Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ
||It's been a few years since most of us have seen a live concert and the sensation of revisiting the hallowed (filthy) halls of clubs and seedy venues really is that of jubilance and long-missed familiarity.
I drove up after school, a long Friday-evening jaunt to New Jersey and on Saturday afternoon, we hit the venue in the late afternoon. After waiting in the lot with some of Mat's friends, I headed in and missed a pair of Exodus songs. That was OK as I muscled my way through the sold-out Starland Ballroom to land myself front and center as it must be.
The short setlist ran through a few new tracks and one from most albums prior. The middle of the set was just fantastic, with a tremendous rendition of Deathamphetamine, a catchy intro to Blacklist and a song I never thought I'd see: Only Death Decides. While the latter wasn't as popular with everyone, I was so psyched to see an Impact Is Imminent representation. The harmony in the middle was just phenomenal and was one of the high points of the night.
After another new song which didn't go over too well with those in attendance, the finale was just crushing. Bonded By Blood was short and a crowd pleaser. By this point, the pit was at its peak - a continuous circle moving counter clockwise. Fans were flying over the top. It was fucking brilliant. Toxic Waltz was next, with Gary teasing Cold Gin and Raining Blood before diving into their most familiar track. I was a sweaty mess by this point and the circle continued. The band's final offering was Strike Of The Beast and we fans indulged ourselves with a traditional wall of death. Just perfect - the whole set was brilliant.
It must be said that the band was top notch. Zetro has lost weight and was full of energy. Tom was ripped and on fire despite his recent surgeries. Gary and Lee were having fun and the whole band was on its game. This also marks the first band I've seen in four decades: the '90s, '00s, '10s and '20s. I've seen them four times and this may have been the best. However, it's entirely possible the long delay since I've been in a pit may have skewed my opinion. Either way, it was so good. The full setlist follows, with me missing the first two songs entirely.
- The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
- A Lesson In Violence
- Blood In, Blood Out
- The Years Of Death And Dying
- Only Death Decides
- Prescribing Horror
- Bonded By Blood
- The Toxic Waltz
- Strike Of The Beast
Afterwards, I grabbed two beers for $20, chugged the first and grabbed Mat a shirt as I drank #2. I texted both him and my wife as I returned to the floor to await the headliner.
Testament followed and as I don't love their new one, I wasn't altogether too excited to see them. Dave Lombardo's return to the fold, however, changed that perspective and he was easily the best part of their set. His familiar sound, that consistency and just seeing him behind the throne - all felt great. I like Hoglan and his playing, but I love Dave's style. And I've been a fan for decades.
As a whole, Exodus was the superior set, but there were certainly some noteworhy portions of Testament's output. Unfortunately, they started with a new track and it was really just a disappointing introduction to the second "I've seen them in four decades" band. The next few tracks were hit-and-miss. Pale King = awesome. Practice always bored me. New Order was great! WWIII, while heavy and fast, just doesn't do anything for me.
What followed was a trio of songs from The Gathering. The first wasn't a great live song, but then Chuck told us about Eric and Dave jamming for the first time and coming up with DNR. It really is prime Testament. It gets no better. Well, unless you go straight into Legions Of The Dead - hands-down the highlight of their set. I was back in that pit, fired up, sweaty and roaring. It gets no better than this!!!
But what followed was almost tragic, with three songs I hate and all the energy sucked out of my experience. I felt bored as the crowd somehow managed to mosh to Electric Crown. Damn, that song brings me back to '92 and not in a good way. The song and the album are both terrible.
Fortunately, the trio of finale songs were neither unexpected nor disappointing. I finished the night back in the thick of it - at one point part of a wall of people, shoulder-to-shoulder headbanging as some strange brotherly ritual. The crowd was rowdy here and I took a pair of elbows to the face: one to the nose - I saw stars! - and another to the jaw. No blood, no foul - so back in I went.
As good as the good was, the bad was glaring, and I felt Exodus was just better overall. This was hardly terrible though, as the entire night was killer. I stuck around as the band bowed goodbye, Lombardo smling the whole time, and headed back to the car for the hour-long drive home.
It was the same bands I saw seven years prior - just with some different circumstances and a renewed view of the world. (Much has happened in these past seven years!) But the bay area veterans were all fantastic and I had a spectacular night. It's fucking good to be back!!!
- Children Of The Next Level
- The Pale King
- Practice What You Preach
- The New Order
- Eyes Of Wrath
- D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
- Legions Of The Dead
- Electric Crown
- Souls Of Black
- Night Of The Witch
- Over The Wall
- Into The Pit
- Disciples Of The Watch