TESTAMENT Frontman Talks 'Big Four,' Forthcoming Album In New Interview

On October 28, Zach Shaw of Metal Insider conducted an interview with vocalist Chuck Billy of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT. An excerpt from the chat follows below.

Metal Insider: Many agree that if [the "Big Four"] was to be expanded to the "Big Eight," TESTAMENT would be in it along EXODUS, DEATH ANGEL, and OVERKILL. However, TESTAMENT and EXODUS are often the two bands many feel deserve the same recognition as METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH, and ANTHRAX. Do you feel that TESTAMENT often gets overlooked?

Chuck: No, I wouldn't say "overlooked." I think that when it comes down to the Big Four, as far as I can see it, back when metal was at its height in the late '80s/ early 90s, all of those Big Four bands had a ton of great success and were selling millions of records. I think around that same time, we were growing apart as a band and the music market had changed. So I think we were kind of I guess as they say "on deck in the batting circle" waiting for our success selling millions of records at that time. So when people say the Big Four, Five or Six, I don't see it that way. The Big Four, those four bands had great success selling millions of records. But the rest of us EXODUS, DEATH ANGEL, TESTAMENT we didn't sell out those festivals or that amount of records. So I don't see us being compared to that. I'd say if metal was still going as strong as it was, yeah, we all stood a chance to sell a lot of records. That's just my take on it. When people talk about that, to me those four bands are justifiable, and that's it. I don't see any other bands that were the "Big whatever."

Metal Insider: There's been strong interest from both fans and bands to celebrate one's legacy. Not only have we seen this recently with the Big Four shows, but also with bands performing classic albums in their entirety. TESTAMENT have done this by performing "The Legacy" and "The New Order" in their entirety live before. Do you find this form of celebration limiting or enhancing to the creative process of a new album?

Chuck: I think it's helping in our case because Alex Skolnick [guitarist], Greg Christian [bass] and even Louie Clemente [original drummer who did not rejoin the group, but did perform their first reunion show in London] came back in 2005; we had the original band together. So by us celebrating what we started together really did take us back to like "This is what we started. This is what we're about. This is what got our name on the map when we first started." And I think TESTAMENT has always been a band that's always stuck to their guns and stayed true to our style of metal. We've never tried to change or jump on a bandwagon to stay current or hot. So as far as we go, it really did, especially for the guys in the group again, let us write music again the way we did when we started this band, which [included] writing music for a lead guitar player and harmony stuff. When Alex left the band [back in 1993], we were writing songs that weren't geared up for a lead guitar player, more just riff-oriented songs. So for us, playing those old songs and records again really made us go like "Wow!" Plus, we hadn't played a bunch of those songs in so long. And it really did help with "The Formation Of Damnation", when we wrote that and our new record. It's kind of taking it back to the formula that we had with the original guys.

Metal Insider: So then you'd definitely agree that it's definitely had an effect on the [next] album, "The Dark Roots Of Earth".

Chuck: Oh totally! I listen to the record and it's a really mature record for a group of guys who have been playing music together for 20-something years. And for us, with the original guys getting back together for the last six years, it really has played an influence on our writing. Especially for us, because we know how far to push each other or what our limitations are, or what works and what doesn't, and we're not just pounding our head on the ground trying to figure it out. We have our ideas going into it.

Read the entire interview at Metal Insider.


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