Q #1,861: Testament recently titled their newest album ‘The Brotherhood Of The Snake.’ What’s their shortest studio album title?
Testament’s sixth studio album ‘Low’ was anything but a low moment in the band’s extensive career. In fact, ‘Low’ would begin what would be an amazingly epic cycle of members, that most bands would fire themselves to have in their own project. ‘Low’ was the first Testament record to not feature founding guitar legend Alex Skolnick, and drummer Louie Clemente. Clemente (seemingly already on his way out) had split drum duties on the band’s previous release, ‘Return to Apocalyptic City,’ with Paul Bostaph (Exodus, Forbidden, Slayer) handling the rest.
Replacing Skolnick and Clemente on ‘Low’ were guitarist James Murphy (Death, Obituary) and drummer John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie). Murphy would appear also appear on ‘Live at the Fillmore,’ and ‘The Gathering,’ while Tempesta would appear years later on ‘First Strike Still Deadly,’ and ‘Live in London.’ For James Murphy, he would not appear on the album between ‘Fillmore’ and ‘Gathering,’ entitled “Demonic.” This album featured Gene Hoglan behind the drum kit, and basically only featured Testament founder Eric Peterson on all guitar duties. I had a conversation about this album with Mr. Hoglan (who is currently playing with Testament), and if my hazy memory serves me right, ‘Demonic’ was initially supposed to be a side project under the moniker ‘Dog Faced Gods’ which was a track off of – you guessed it – ‘Low.’
Former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo would sit behind the kit on ‘The Gathering,’ with bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Sadus) in the fold with James Murphy back on lead guitar duties. Lombardo would not continue on with the band after recording the album. After the brief stint of Dave Lombardo, we see the return of John Tempesta to take on the re-recordings and updated takes on classic Testament songs for ‘First Strike Still Deadly,’ with Alex Skolnick returning to the band. DiGiorgio would leave the band, but has since returned to complete the lineup with Skolnick and Hoglan. Why is it that I can keep all of this info straight in my head, but I can’t remember where I parked the car?
‘Low’ was produced by GGGarth Richardson (extra G’s on account of his stutter), who has engineered bands including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nickelback, Motley Crue, Atreyu, and has produced bands such as Rage Against the Machine, Mudvayne, and The Melvins. Also appearing in the liner notes on ‘Low’ is a man by the name of Del James. James received composer and vocal credits on the record, and would go on to further collaborate with the band on ‘The Gathering,’ and 2012’s ‘Dark Roots of Earth.’ Del James is probably most (un)known for his behind the scenes work with Guns ‘N Roses. Not only was James involved with the creation of the iconic video for ‘November Rain,’ he also has credits on both of GnR’s Grammy nominated ‘Use Your Illusion’ albums.
Despite its mixed reception by critics at the time, and the subsequent revolving doors of membership, ‘Low’ is where Testament began their journey to the huge updated sound that currently keeps the band as one of the top groups of the modern thrash era.