Testament - Shepherd's Bush Empire 2009

Europe's Summer Hell Tour
London - July 24
Capacity 2,000

This was the second and final European leg of Testament's 2009 touring (the first being the opening slot on the Priest Feast tour), with several festival appearances amongst the headlining show, before starting the recording of a new album in October, with touring supporting that planned throughout 2010.

The tour's best bill occurred in Spain, where Testament headlined two 'Legends of Chaos' shows with Kreator and Cathedral, but the openers for the whole UK tour were the remarkably generic young US thrash band Warbringer, who seemed to make a particular effort to select all of the similar-sounding songs from their two albums to date for their half-hour set.

For the rest of the tour apart from tonight UK thrash veterans Onslaught played the special guest slot, but they were playing in Abertillery, Wales. It's not clear as to whether this was because they were already negotiating this show when Testament asked them to play on their tour, or because Testament particularly wanted Anaal Nathrakh to play in London. Even Nathrakh singer Dave Hunt stated during the show that tonight was a "strange bill for us to be on", and recognised the fact that the majority of the crowd weren't interested in them, but that Testament had specifically asked for them to play. In Onslaught's absence, another UK thrash band would have been a better idea. Or even Cathedral.

The 20% or so of the crowd paying attention to Nathrakh seemed to enjoy their set. But in truth it was perhaps even more one-dimensional than Warbringer's. Blistering musicianship is clearly necessary to play their songs, particularly on drums, but every song that even threatened to start well, with a decent riff, lead break or rhythm, quickly descended into identical high-speed monotony. Some tracks, like Lucifer Effect from new album In The Constellation of The Black Widow, didn't even bother with a different beginning. The band's own initial concerns about playing a thrash show were well-founded. Boring and out-of-place.

Testament managed to take the stage 5-10 minutes late, despite a full 30 minutes for set-up and tuning. The main reason for this was Greg Christian's bass tech, who spent far too long fiddling with a bass guitar which sounded fine to begin with and no different when he was done with it. This probably cost the band and fans at least The Legacy and Alone In The Dark from the end of the set, and maybe something else too.

The resulting set was very predictable, with the same songs they've been playing all year, and none of the few different songs (Demonic Refusal, True Believer, Do Or Die, Reign of Terror) added to various dates on the recent North American tour. With Anaal Nathrakh being allowed to play at least fifteen minutes longer than they should songs were always going to have to be cut from the standard Testament setlist, but why cut the different ones? Their last London show was a special two-hour set of songs from the first two albums. So why not cut a couple of those, like The Preacher, Disciples of The Watch, Over The Wall and Into The Pit and give fans something they haven't already seen? This is without always playing the same songs from The Formation of Damnation.

Bringing back Souls of Black, D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate), 3 Days In Darkness and Practice What You Preach made sense, as they weren't played last time, and Burnt Offerings deserved to remain as it hasn't had a regular place in the set for a while, but everything else was a candidate to make way for something different.

Testament were, as always, superb, but played far too short a set with London promoters under the continued misapprehension that more bands means value for money for fans. This can work in Europe or North America, where curfews are generally midnight or later, but in England, where no one can play beyond 23:00, more bands just means a shorter set for the band who's name is on the ticket, and fans are always going to be disappointed with that.

“ set was very predictable ”

Warbringer Setlist: Total War / Severed Reality / Living In A Whirlwind / At The Crack of Doom / Jackal / Prey For Death / Combat Shock

Anaal Nathrakh Setlist: Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes / In The Constellation of The Black Widow / The Final Absolution / Submission Is For The Weak / More of Fire And Blood / Der Hölle Rache Kocht in Meinem Herzen / Lucifer Effect / The Destroying Angel / Do Not Speak / Pandemonic Hyperblast

Testament Setlist: The Preacher / The New Order / Over The Wall / Practice What Your Preach / More Than Meets The Eye / The Persecuted Won't Forget / Burnt Offerings / Into The Pit / Souls of Black / Disciples of The Watch // D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate) / 3 Days In Darkness / The Formation of Damnation

Photo(s): Johan Eriksson | www.rockersdigest.com

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2009, Gigs, Thrash Metal,

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