Metal Wani editor in chief Owais "Vitek" Nabi recently conducted an interview with TESTAMENT singer Chuck Billy. You can now listen to the chat in the YouTube clip below. A couple of excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the long gap between 2012's "Dark Roots Of Earth" and 2016's "Brotherhood Of The Snake" albums:
Chuck: "It was a long four years. We started working on it a few years ago, and it just took some time to get done. And a lot of frustration and anger were put into this record, trying to get it completed. At the end of the day, we're very proud now, sitting back and now that it's finally finished. We're feeling that it's one of the strongest records we've done, I think, to date."
On whether there was any pressure to follow up "Dark Roots Of Earth":
Chuck: "It definitely was on our mind, 'cause you always wanna top your last record; you always want the production to be better than your last record. We were a little nervous, really, to be honest, because we had been working so long on the record. We went into the studio, I would say, almost unprepared. It was the first time that we did it like that. And when I said 'frustration and anger'… You know, communication between Eric [Peterson, guitar] and the rest of the guys… 'cause all the writing fell on Eric's shoulders on this record. There was so much time going by trying to get songs completed that just weren't complete, it just angered and frustrated everybody. And then when we went into the studio, Gene [Hoglan, drums], Alex [Skolnick, guitar] and Steve [DiGiorgio, bass], they hadn't even heard any of the songs when they entered the studio. So that was kind of a scary feeling, like, 'Oh, shoot. Are we getting in before we really should be?' And, 'Is it gonna be a waste of time and we record what we have and it doesn't work out and it flops and we just released a record that's not good?' I mean, all those thoughts go through your mind. But we had a small window with Gene to record, and we knew we wanted a record this year. And Gene had a couple-of-week window in May, so at that point we just said, 'You know what? We don't have a choice. We want a record this year. We need to just go in the studio now.' So we booked the time, and I think everybody [going] in, like I said, the frustration and anger and just the feeling of uncertainty, everybody stepped up from the pressure of not knowing the songs, the pressures of topping your last record. I think it really… I don't know… Maybe everybody reached down deep in the creativity and playing and just did a monster of a job — each musician in what they did and contributed to the record."
On Alex Skolnick's contribution to "Brotherhood Of The Snake":
Chuck: "Alex didn't contribute anything on this record. I think he was busy doing the METAL ALLEGIANCE record, just writing songs for that record, and doing his jazz shows, and kind of just left it to Eric, I think. And Eric wanted that. Eric, of course, wants to be the writer. He's been here from Day One and never left and felt that he's an important key to our sound, which he is. So, you know, I think at the end, it would have been great if everyone had helped contribute, and maybe if we had time and maybe if we went into the studio and rehearsal room together, everybody might have been a little more involved and had a little more say-so, but we didn't do that this time. So it was kind of, 'Okay, studio time is in two weeks. We'll see you there.' And they're, like, 'What? We haven't even heard the songs yet.' So, yeah, it was… I told Eric I never wanna write a record like this again. I didn't have fun doing it; I really didn't. At the end of the day, it came out awesome, and now we're kind of like, okay, it's fine now that it's done and it came out good, but we still don't wanna do that again."
On coming up with lyrics and vocal lines for "Brotherhood Of The Snake":
Chuck: "We didn't have a chance to second-guess ourselves when we wrote it. And when I was in the studio, a lot of the vocals, some of the choruses and stuff, the hooks, I'd [come up with] right on the spot. I wrote some of the songs four times, as lyrics and melodies, that are different almost for every song, and when I got in there, the way I heard it in my head didn't come across on the recording, so I was, like, 'I'm not happy with that. Let's try to find something better.' And having the pressure on us, I think, made us reach deep down and get a little more creative."
On the lyrical themes that are covered on "Brotherhood Of The Snake":
Chuck: "Well, it's kind of like a concept record. I know, going into it, the past records, I was writing songs that were more personal and there were topics that were kind of real — losing a family member or anything that's real; that's what we were kind of writing. And Eric really wanted to kind of get back to, 'Let's write some cool stories and cool words and cool lyrics.' And so I was, like, 'Okay, that's cool.' And then, I kind of, at the time, was watching a TV series; it was a show called 'Ancient Aliens' that was on once a week. And it showed a lot of the connection between aliens and religion. And it kind of got my attention, because there was different religions all around the world, different spots in the world, where there was always the same alien being with big heads and strange bodies and flying objects in the sky. And it kind of made me realize, wow, how, that many thousands of years ago, did they communicate and see these same things unless it was real, unless there's something about it. So it really made me think, maybe there is something to these aliens and our existence and religion and everything. And then I stumbled on to the 'brotherhood of the snake' and the story of that. And that was about a secret society over six thousand years ago that were out on a crusade just to dig down religions. And there was an alien king, Anu, who basically created mankind as a slave for them to mine the minerals and gold from our planet earth. So it was kind of, like, 'Wow!' From an 'Ancient Aliens' show to this… There's something there that we can kind of run on and get the lyrics going and tell the storyline about. So that kind of got the ball rolling."
"Brotherhood Of The Snake" will be released on October 28 via Nuclear Blast.
The track listing for the effort is as follows:
01. Brotherhood Of The Snake
02. The Pale King
04. Seven Seals
05. Born In A Rut
06. Centuries Of Suffering
07. Neptune's Spear
08. Black Jack
10. The Number Game
The cover was once again created by renowned artist Eliran Kantor, who also handled the art for the TESTAMENT's last album, 2012's "Dark Roots Of Earth", and also worked with bands like HATEBREED, SOULFLY and KATAKLYSM in the past.
"Brotherhood Of The Snake" was recorded under the watchful eyes of producer Juan Urteaga (EXODUS, HEATHEN, MACHINE HEAD), guitarist Eric Peterson and singer Chuck Billy and was mixed and mastered by British metal producer Andy Sneap (ACCEPT, ARCH ENEMY, CRADLE OF FILTH, KREATOR, MACHINE HEAD, MEGADETH).
Band photo by Gene Ambo