Year released: 1989
Genre: Thrash Metal
Reviewed by: on Encyclopeadia Metallum
Practice What You Preach is the third full-length Testament album and probably the best of their first era, which starts with “The Legacy” and ends with “The Ritual”. While it lacks the delightful eerie acoustic sessions that are spotted in some of the songs of the New Order (i.e. Eerie Inhabitants and Disciples of the Watch) it is full of superb riffs and impressive, fast and melodic solos. Greg’s bass is enhanced so that the listener can get a full image of the band’s sound and Louie’s drumming is creditable and fast-paced. This one is a great thrash album, but you shouldn’t expect to hear anything like “The Legacy”. This one combines melody with speed and, as a result, elegant and elaborant thrash riffs are dominant in it. If you have a good taste in great underground music, then you should definately get your hands on this album.
1) Practice What You Preach: This song starts with a great riff and it continues with another one and all of a sudden, right from the start of the album, great music keeps on coming! You can hear the bass chanting and grooving among with the guitars, filling the sound as a bass should and going further than this, offering an original experience to us, the auditors. Chuck’s voice is great – do not even think about mentioning Metallica here, I’ll talk more about this later – as it strikes right at your brain, making you want to scream the fucking lyrics. The song is very fluent and the solo starts before you even realize that two minutes have passed. The musicianship, the skill, the inspiration, the speed and the melody are all flowing endlessly from Alex’s soloing, giving a miraculous element to this song which is already something more than extremely kick-ass. The fact that the solo is lengthy too renders it one of the album’s heart-pleasers. Listen to it over and over again if you’re unable to discover the magic that’s in it; you’ll profit much from it, believe me. All in all, the group’s conception of this song and their performance on it is astonishing. But music is about lyrics too, right? That’s why we listen to Testament! Practice what you preach is such a common expression, but no one seems to pay attention to it. We all are philosophers in our own way, but are we practitioners? We want to have an opinion about every fucking thing, don’t we? Just think about it… Once you find your answers don’t forget to thank Testament for stressing this out for you.
2) Perilous Nation: Another great song which is full of superb, melodic, thrash-y riffs. Like the first song, this one is not only about thrash and harsh riffing, it’s more elegant and it combines melody with speed. The blending of the guitars with the vocals is wonderful. Chuck is incredible at discovering voice-riffs that are so different from what the guitars play and so melodic and mind-intriguing that they make you want to hear this song repeatedly. And while you are lost in the magic land of Testament’s music, listening to wild vocals, melodic vocals, great voice-riffs – as I call them – and lunar guitar riffs, the pre-solo part begins. Alex is surely messing with our heart in this part of the song. Every time I listen to this short lead I feel the band’s energy overwhelming me; huge emotions of unspeakable pleasure arise every fucking time I’m listening to this part! After that, the real solo starts. Signed by Alex’s quality and genius, it’s superb. Generally, it’s a great song full of intense music which keeps the listener amazed. Let us now consider the lyrics. Testament is known to put politics into music but not in a raw or disturbing way and that’s what they do here. The philosophic and realistic approach to politics in this one is certainly giving you food for thought. I mean, think about this piece of lyrics: Bold is the one who dares to say what he feels – renegation man, to no one he yields. Right there, right from the start of the song, there’s a moral value to be made into an example on how to live your life. The rest of the lyrics is just as good and adorable while it’s full of hidden messages that are waiting for you to unveil them. Speaking of all these I nearly forgot; it takes some courage to try and end a song with a fading solo and it takes talent to make it work. Apparently, Testament got both of these virtues, as this song’s ending indicates. I am very happy to note that there are such great musicians out there like Skolnick and Peterson, competing in talent with the great late Randy Rhoads.
3) Envy Life: This one is as very captivating song. In the very beginning of it you get to enjoy Chuck’s growl – a technique that he will be using more in the later Testament albums “Demonic” and “The Gathering” – and envy him for he’s a multitalented musician. The drumming in this song is fascinating too because it doesn’t only provide tempo and pace but it also completes the riffs with great fill-ups. This song is a little bit of groovy too, giving you an aspect of Testament’s heavy and imposing musical side. That side combined with Alex’s squeals and Chuck’s voice creates a unique gloomy atmosphere and that’s why the lyrics of the song fit in the music perfectly. Obscure rituals and dark magic are the main themes of this piece, but that’s not what the lyrics are all about. Consider this lyrical part: The lost / dark souls of time envy life. If you look beyond the rituals and the darkness, you’ll find out an obvious yet veiled meaning in this song; it’s the dark souls of all time who envy life, not the peaceful ones who are happily resting in peace. It’s the malevolent and vicious persons who spent their life in hate that envy the living. The whole point is that, if you are moral and principled during your life, you won’t feel sad when death approaches you and you won’t become a “lost soul” envying the living. You’ll probably have earned a lot and gave everything you’ve had to your loved ones and, by the time death comes to take you, you’ll feel complete and ready to leave this world. You’ll know you did what you ought to and lived a great life; you won’t envy life!
4) Time Is Coming: I do not think that it’s necessary to point out that this song starts with a superb riff accompanied by an even greater lead that is just mind blowing. Instead, I ought to admit that the next two riffs are pure melody and thrash-y speed simultaneously. Chuck sounds angry and excited in the verses giving emphasis in the dark chorus which follows. The combination of the vocals and the riffs is magical and original. The whole structure of the song is building up nicely, peaking with a repetition of the first fluent riff, which is now used as a pre-solo riff. Next thing you know the solo comes in. The rhythm in the background is brilliant with the drums keeping a subtle pace with pleasant break-ups and the bass flirting robustly with our ears. The solo, of course, is in the limelight giving pleasure to our ears with its greatness and musicianship, both of which are granted lavishly by Alex Skolnick. The complexity of the fuse of the solo with the rhythm produces an amazing piece of music, but that seems to be nothing but a standard in this grand album! As for the lyrics, Testament is onto politics again but, this time, in a more direct approach, talking about corrupted cops and malevolent greedy presidents. Unfortunately, these are the people who are in charge of our world nowadays. I do like to believe, anyhow, that they represent a small minority and that things do change. I do believe that, fortunately, “Life it spins just like a wheel “, as Testament underline in this masterpiece.
5) Blessed In Contempt: By the start of the fifth song you should be already taken aback by Testament’s art. This one is beginning with a sturdy opening accompanied by a solo which seems to be blessed in eloquence and swift melody. Chuck Billy enters the musical arena with an appetite for annihilation. His rough vocals are stretched at the end of almost each line creating an eerie but grand atmosphere of darkness. The lyrics are in perfect harmony with that kind of atmosphere, as they seem to talk about an unbearable pain evoked to the singer by many venomous incidents including his father’s death. The terror and the misery are burying his will to live and so he ends up a contemptible human wreck. That’s what we should all avoid to become, no matter what shit happens to our life. And while you get the chance to start exploring the deeper meaning of the lyrics, a joyful music break takes place, in which Testament present once again their musical skills as a group. The arabic scales that are so commonly used by this huge band are showing up here as well, taking your mind even deeper to the darkness of this composition. The track keeps flowing while our hero is going mad, pleading for someone to take him to his sanity “before it gets too late”. All the intension which is constructed hitherto is exploding with Alex’s solo which starts out with quick tapings to get to a more psychedelic squealing session, which is again followed by Alex’s speedy melodies. These continual inversions might even symbolize our hero’s psychic instability. The solo is smoothly giving ground to the last great riff of the song while passing off. That last riff is excellently combined with the distant obscure cry, chanting “Blessed In Contempt”, which is giving the auditor the fucking creeps. Broadly, it’s a very imposing and morbid piece.
6) Greenhouse Effect: Right from the outset of this song an elegant trash riff is appearing just before the whole thing gets heavier with Chuck being in charge of this heavy-ness. Many inspired riffs come along filling the song with great music and constant changes. It’s amazing how many cool riffs are in this song being accompanied by different sturdy leads. Regarding the solo, I must admit that it’s a real diamond. Alex is fusing speed with melody again, achieving an exciting result. This song is, in general, another proof of Testament’s musicianship; it’s filled with A-class music. Those dudes should be honored for giving their souls into music; there’s no way they could have made an album like this one without doing so, you see! I won’t analyze the lyrics this time as it’s obvious that they’re talking about adopting an active stance against environmental issues. All I would like to mention is that Testament did again a great job creating a song which contains excellent music and thoughtful lyrics too. Keep in mind though that not all bands are capable of doing so; some thrash bands are completely wasting the lyrical part of their songs talking about endless massacres! That concept could be nice for a song or two but certainly not for more. Anyway, the political aspect towards the ecological issues which is included in this song is also nice, taking these problems to a dimension more original than what is on your television.
7) Sins of Omission: I’m getting weary of composing this hymn to this super band’s album, because it truly has so much spirit and skill inside it that I just can’t help but mention every single detail. Once again, it takes Testament not one but two great riffs to compose the introduction of their song. The vocals in this one are overflowing with rough excellence while they’re neat and catchy. The whole composition is memorable without losing the gloom that Testament always attach to their compositions. A short solo intervenes the song’s progression, bringing a gleefully impressive change towards the light on this otherwise obscure composition. As soon as it vanishes though and its gentle melody fades out, the heavy thrash elements are emerging once again. The verse and the refrain are followed by a grimly growl and a new innovative riff blended with a lead part. That is when the solo comes in. Did I say that the last one was a diamond? Well this one’s a diamond too, as nearly as every single solo in this album. Fortunately for us, it is lengthy and the auditor can satiate with pure magic. Squeals, sweet bendings, fast sweep pickings and fluent legatos constitute this solo, so enjoy it! The last refrain is enriched with accurate leads so you can be absorbed by this song, in case you weren’t overwhelmed with magic yet – which is absolutely impossible. Finally, the lyrics on this one are a real headache. Like many Testament compositions, including songs from this album, depending on the idiosyncrasy of each person the lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways. Personally, I think that this one is talking about how pointless life can seem to be when we are possessed by depression and desperately seek answers to our problems. That’s when we’ve got to use our mind and “hope to find the meaning of existence “. It may be that many different purposes hold us to life but again, we should try and find them in times of crisis in order to be saved. We should not omit to search for them – that would be a sin (of omission)! It’s easier said than done, I know, but what’s the whole point of life if not fighting for decency and prosperity?
8) The Ballad: This one is a golden song full of emotions; it’s another proof that Testament’s music talent knows no boundaries. Constituted by pure and sweet melody, it’s an amazing metal-ballad, just like the other ballads of this unique band. The only differentiation is that, in this one, many heavenly solos are included. The intro solo is not just harmonically fitted into the music; it’s also extremely hard to play on acoustic guitar too. Moreover, when Chuck starts singing you get that knot of sorrowfulness right in your heart… Sweet sadness is taking over your soul and you ought to enjoy this depressive feeling as long as you can because, after all, music is all about emotions. The two next solos are very mind-tripping – especially the last one – while each note seems to be carefully chosen in both of them. The metal part of the song begins after the second solo and it is combined with Chuck’s talented vocal exhibition (yeah!). Nice riffs and leads are showing up, leading to the main solo which is a jewel too. This song ends before it even began if you ask me, that’s just how fluent and great it is. I really can’t understand why so many people underrate it! It’s all about music, harmony, melody, and emotions without missing the thrash metal element one could expect to hear from a band such as Testament. The lyrics are depressing all the way, making you sigh silently for all that you’ve missed during your lifetime. That’s until it gets to the end, where hope is reborn from the ashes of despair. Your life can begin right from the start, no matter how old you are or how old you feel; life’s never done with you, so keep fighting.
9) Nightmare (Coming Back to You): This one is the most thrash-y song of the album and it lacks the elegance for which I’ve been praising Testament throughout my whole review. This one is for the rattleheads! It seems that Testament is giving a break to our minds which must be truly absorbed by the quality of the album at this point. This song is based on speed and roughness. It is really robust and has an insane solo which is aiming to drive the auditor crazy. Chuck is strengthening the speed of his performance, rendering this song intense. The lyrics are rebel-like and signify the confusion that many people who are desperately searching for a way to “find the place their life was before” feel. Chuck advices each one of us to wake up from his nightmare and stop taking what they give, implying the media and the political and economic leaders by using the word “they”.
10) Confusion Fusion: This is a nice instrumental song written by skillful musicians. The fact that there’s no solo in this one, although it’s an instrumental, renders it an exception to its kind. In that way though, a lot of attention is paid by the listener to each of the riffs of this piece. Needless to say, the lead parts are carefully designed and the whole composition is complex and pleasant to listen to. The bass is amplified so that we can enjoy it equally with the guitars, and the drums are decently keeping the tempo. A groovy song operating as the unexpected but nevertheless grand finale of this unique album.
There are some remaining points that I would like to point out before finishing my review. The most significant of these is regarding Chuck Billy’s voice. Many are the ones who can’t really spot the difference between Chuck Billy’s and James Hetfield’s voice quality but, if you ask me, these guys obviously don’t know shit about Testament nor Metallica. There’s a case, however, that they are so attached to Metallica’s sound that they hear Hetfield’s voice every fucking where. Get over it people! Yes, James has a nice voice, but Chuck does to in a whole different way. And since this album is a Testament album I insist on stretching out that Billy’s voice quality is unique and that it indicates in an odd but pleasant way his native american roots. His talent is obvious; all you have to do is listen to him for what he truly is, not what you want to hear. Once you manage to expel Metallica from your mind, you’ll find out why Billy is so unique. As for the music, I can’t understand why everyone is comparing Metallica with every single metal band. You ought to know that almost all the old thrash bands emerged at the same chronic period in the same territory. However, if I must issue a judgement, that would be in favor of Testament for obvious reasons: you really can’t compare the skill and the musicianship Testament have with the one Metallica have and you just can’t compare Alex’s soloing and Eric’s genius at composing great complex riffs with Hetfield’s and Hammet’s abilities. Thank god there was Cliff out there, delivering music to the people!
All in all, this album is an excellent, perfect piece of music. I do not consider Testament to be the gods of music or anything like that, so do not get me wrong. Anyway, this is not my one and only favorite album, but it certainly is one of my favorites and I sincerely couldn’t bear staring at all those shitty reviews throwing mud on in. In conclusion, you ought to love an album full of emotions, thought (in the lyrics), complexity, melody, speed, heavy-ness and, of course, thrash-ness; you ought to love “Practice What You Preach”, Testament’s third full-length album. I’m obliged to utter a huge thanks for Eric’s incredible riffing, Alex’s godly soloing and Chuck’s awesome voice!
PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION