People often talk of the Big 4 when talking about thrash, but for myself, and many thrash purists, it’s really the Big 6, with Exodus and Testament, the bookends to the set. My personal legacy with Testament goes back to San Francisco and the Bay Area music scene in the mid-80s, when the band still called themselves The Legacy, and before Chuck Billy became the long-standing face of the band. Back to 1983, when the guys in the Bay Area thrash scene were all kickin’ around the same clubs, moving from one band to another, refining their own sound and identity. For Testament it all started with guitarist Eric Peterson, who to this date is still the only original member from The Legacy era who has been here from start to finish. Steve Souza manned the vocals in the beginning, and shortly before the band would change its name and become Testament, Souza moved on to Exodus, and suggested Chuck Billy as the man to take over the reins. Thrash history was made, as Chuck, the formidable presence that he is, has been the band’s imposing mainstay ever since. Bassist Greg Christian from the 1983 line-up is still with the band as well as guitar-God, Alex Skolnick, but both have been in and out of the band over the years. But in 2010, the old family is all together again. Only drummer Louie Clemente is gone. But in his stead is another legendary Bay Area thrash figure, Paul Bostaph (who is a whopping 2 days younger than me. Happy Birthday, bro). Bostaph has played with Forbidden, which also featured Machine Head’s Rob Flynn, Exodus, and Slayer. If you played thrash in San Francisco in the 80s, you are all a part of a special fraternity, and one large extended family. Click here to read Chuck’s 1990 interview. We were all there when the magazine I was editing at the time, The Informant, held the First and Second Annual Thrash Awards. Who knew at the time just how big that scene would become? My then publisher, Andy Hernandez knew. He was among the first to embrace and promote the thrash scene, showcasing major thrash events for the bands.
A quarter century later these thrash legends are still among metal’s reigning icons. This year is proving to be perhaps the biggest thrash has seen since those early days. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus and Testament are all still touring and releasing powerful and meaningful albums.
Testament are currently on the road with Megadeth and Exodus as part of Megadeth’s 20th Anniversary Rust In Peace Tour. And in that celebratory vein of seminal albums, the guys are playing The Legacy album in its entirety. Unless of course you happen to be at the show and some drunk punk pulls the fire alarm causing the band to cut the set three songs short.
Such was the case last night, March 2nd, at the Knitting Factory in Boise, Idaho. The second night of a month long tour, and usual hiccups of any new tour were on full display. Local sound ordinances limited any real sound check for the band, miscommunications had Chuck double booked for interviews, but he still found time for a quick five minutes to bring me Metalholic up to date on the tour, the new album, Glen Drover filling in for Alex Skolnick, and the upcoming American Carnage Tour with Megadeth and Slayer.