Testament guitarist Eric Peterson often gets lost in the bright lights of frontman Chuck Billy’s big voice and bold personality or guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick’s iconic status. Yet, Peterson is the foundation on which Bay Area thrash legend, Testament is built. He is the only remaining original member of the band which began its journey as Legacy in 1983, and only he and Billy have appeared on every one of the band’s records to date. Peterson is the band’s principal riff writer throughout their 33-year journey, and he remains the band’s steading force to this day. Eric reached out to Metalholic on Martin Luther King Day to chat about Testament’s upcoming tour with Slayer and Carcass, as well as where the band is it in the process of creating its next studio record. He also opened up about his other band, Dragonlord, and brings us up-to-date on when we can expect the band’s third album, Dominion.
In keeping with the Martin Luther spirit, we asked Peterson about his own dream for the future, and he admits to being tired of people preaching negative prophecies which seldom come true and yet stress so many people out. He prefers to focus on the positive, but he acknowledges, he also has a creative outlet for venting about the darker side of everyday life:
“It makes for a good metal song, for sure. Villains and plots, and stuff like that definitely fit into the category of what we talk about and stuff. It’s definitely a crazy time and we can definitely channel and use some of that into our music, and turn it around to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, Still carrying the weight of the cloud in the darkness and turning it into something fun (laughs).”
Testament will hit the road in mid-February for a massive tour opening for thrash heavyweights, Slayer. England’s death metal masters, Carcass, are also on the bill.
“The marquee on this tour is awesome,” shared Peterson. “All three bands are definitely viable and can headline, but I really appreciate Slayer picking us and Carcass. They could have been more political about it and picked an opening act that has a record label working for them or just being more political about it. I think they chose more of a street kind of vibe. It just sounds great. And it is great that the bands, the records that we’ve all put out—it’s classic. And it’s gonna be killer.”
Last spring, both Peterson and Billy believed Testament would be back in the studio in the fall to complete the new album in time for an early 2016 release, but as Eric admits, touring opportunities keep getting in the way.
“Before the Slayer tour, we were planning on recording at the end of January. Then the Slayer thing came up, and we were just kind of, like, ‘Ahhh…’ I mean, for me, I was, like, ‘No. Let’s get the record done.’ But Chuck was, like, ‘Dude, we’ve gotta do this. We’ve gotta do this.’ Now that we’re doing [the tour], I’m excited to do it, but it is another… The reason why we haven’t done the record yet is just that there’s all these hurdles and choices to make, and we seem to be picking to play shows still. That’s the only thing stopping us; we keep doing stuff. (laughs) So the plan now is… I was, like, ‘Look, we’ve gotta get something out.’ So I recorded a single this weekend with Gene [Hoglan, Testament drummer]. We picked one of the tracks and we just said, ‘Let’s get this out.’
Peterson hopes the band will be playing the new song on the upcoming tour. He is just waiting for Chuck to complete the lyrics and record the vocals. As to the next album, he hopes they will get in the studio after the Slayer tour so they can get the record out later this year.
Earlier in 2015 Peterson had stated some of the early songs written for the new album had a feel reminiscent of The Gathering (1999) album. We asked Eric if that trend continued with the rest of the material written:
“Yeah, it’s got that vibe to it. And what I mean by ‘vibe’ is it’s got that excitement where each song kind of connects to the next one, as far as heaviness and the style of guitar playing, like the fast picking kind of stuff and a lot of harmonies and stuff like that. So that’s kind of what’s going on on this new one, definitely. Usually I write a couple of thrash songs — you know, ‘The Formation Of Damnation’, that’s kind of thrash; and then on the new one, we had a couple of more. ‘Rise Up’ was kind of half-half: It’s got some fast stuff in there–and then ‘True American Hate’. But this one, out of the 10 I’ve got, six of them are thrash, and that’s pretty cool, to me, when I listen back. And they’re all different, so I’m totally digging that. And we’re using the blast beat, which I’ve been introducing a little bit here and there. The [song] we just recorded, Gene was, like, ‘Are you on crack? I can’t play a blast beat that [fast].’ I think it was… It’s like 270-something [beats per minute], and he was just, like, ‘You can’t do that.’ And I’m, like, ‘Well, this is how it goes.’ And he had to find some cheat ways to do it, but it’s super punishing. He was a little worried at first, but he pulled it off, and it’s just crazy. He says it’s the fastest blast he’s ever done, and that’s Gene Hoglan, so, to me, that’s crazy. But it’s super melodic too. I think it’s got elements of ‘Rapid Fire’ by Priest; I’ve heard that from people. It’s got elements of ‘The Burning Times’ from our Demonic record. Guitar-wise, it’s definitely got some of those elements in it.”
Peterson has also been busy trying to finalize the third Dragonlord album, Dominion which he had hoped to release this winter.
“That’s good to go,” Eric offered. “I think there’s three songs left to sing. They’re pretty much done. It’s just finding the time to get in the studio with the producer I’m working with. But that’s definitely, 100% gonna be turned in this year. My record company’s has had more than enough patience with me.”
Over the course of the interview, Peterson talks about the sound of the new Testament album and about some of the infrequently played Testament songs he wouldn’t mind seeing the band add to the set this year. Check out the full interview below.