Back in 1990, Sacrament released one of the seminal Christian thrash metal albums, “Testimony of Apocalypse.” Vocalist Mike Torone and drummer Paul Graham were two of the members behind this release. Touted as the heaviest band in Christian metal at the time, it was a real hammer to the heretics with its proto-death approach to thrash. Mike Torone would later leave Sacrament before the band’s sophomore release, “Haunts of Violence.” Sacrament would eventually split-up after that release and not be heard from again. That is until 2021 when the new band Testimony of Apocalypse formed by Mike and Paul released the first single, “Redemption,” for their debut album “None Escape the Judgment.”
To round out the band, Mike and Paul recruited multi-instrumentalist Nick Pacitti to handle guitar, bass, and keyboards. This trio is the official lineup for the band, but they also enlisted the services of Cameron Nealey (Ancient Burials) to provide lead and solo guitar work. It looks like even in the upcoming 2023 album, Cameron is still providing shredding for ToA as an unofficial member. Now that we have that straight, let’s get to the album!
ToA picks up close to where Sacrament left off. They are self-described groove thrash metal, which I think is pretty good description. There is a clear tendency towards death metal though, similar to the feel of some of Mortification’s thrashier albums. We have some furious riffs and harsh vocals with brief stints of avant-garde in odd-time signatures, tempo switches, and jarring stop-start riffs. The only hint of melodic relief comes in Cameron’s lead and solo guitar work.
The highlight for me are the lyrics which are pulled exclusively from scripture and are great material to meditate on. There is a clear apocalyptic focus, which goes with the music, but also points to the hope that we have in Jesus. Not only that Jesus is our protection from God’s wrath, but also the source of cleansing here on earth and our hope in death.
The songwriting comes across like a patch-work quilt where changes in tempo, time signature, and abrupt starts and stops keep the listener on edge. Having listened through it a couple of times, it sounds like they are working on finding their sound, trying out diverse elements throughout the album. The unfortunate effect is that it also can wear on the listener. My favorite experiments are switching meters such as on “Lamb of God” where the verse is in triple switching to the headbanging chorus in four. One could say this is progressive, but at times it lacks musical cohesion. Don’t get me wrong, it adds intrigue but it feels like change for the sake of change at times.
The musical performances are pretty good for this style. One of the high points are Cameron’s solo work sprinkled throughout. His solos match the mood and the style of the songs whether it is the use of middle-eastern scales or atonal noodling. Mike’s vocals fit well and vary between harsh thrash or death metal delivery except for just a hint of melody in the refrain for “Take My Spirit.” Nick’s rhythm guitar work is on point for thrash and keep the solid riffs rolling. They are rather standard riffs for this genre with an emphasis on rhythm. I found myself really wishing there was more of Paul’s drum work on this record to help put some color around the riffs.
The disappointment to the album is the production. It sounds like the guitars were a little too high in the mix taking away presence from the drums and the vocals. The vocals have a reverb effect that make Mike sound like he is in a cave, which probably added to the death metal flavor. Unfortunately it made the lyrics harder to decipher, which is a pity because they are quite good. There was also quite a bit of the low rumbly frequencies in the mix that really took away from some of the more technical riffs on “Take My Spirit.” This is better than the production of the original Sacrament releases, but behind modern production.
I want to call out “Lamb of God” as my favorite song on this album. I already mentioned that it has a technical juxtaposed rhythm section, but beyond that there is a really cool thrash spirit about the song. There is also one instrumental in “Majestad” which caught me pleasantly by surprise. It starts off sounding like a nameless Megadeth tune with clean guitars and soaring lead guitar. Then it takes a journey through a brief post-rock type section before making it to the bouncy thrash riffs that ToA do well with. We have a great solo in here as well. It is a great instrumental break before getting back to thrashing with “Walls.”
Production issues aside, I think that this is a decent death-tinged thrash metal offering. I get a sense that ToA threw in a variety of musical elements to see what works and what doesn’t. As a musician, I applaud them on their work in searching for their sound. Cameron’s solos, albeit not a full member on paper, provide just enough ear candy to balance out the harsher metal riffs and vocals. All of this is good stuff, but unfortunately the production muddies it, like looking through a glass darkly. I’d recommend this album for those that enjoy death/thrash metal regardless of production quality.
The silver lining is that we have another release coming up soon from ToA and the singles sound really good. I am really looking forward to how the band has progressed.
Written by Sean Bailey
1 – Unleashed
2 – Redemption
3 – Lamb of God
4 – Truth vs. Lies
5 – A Day of Wrath
6 – Take My Spirit
7 – Majestad
8 – Walls
9 – We All Shall Rise
10 – Blessed Are the Dead
Testimony of Apocalypse is:
Paul Graham – drums
Nick Pacitti – guitars, bass, and keyboards
Mike Torone – vocals
Guest: Cameron Nealey – lead guitar on tracks 3, 5, 6, 7, and 10
Release Date: September 2, 2022
Record Label: The Charon Collective
Video for ‘Take My Spirit’
Video for ‘Truth vs. Lies’
Lyric Video for ‘We All Shall Rise’
Lyric Video for ‘Lamb of God’
Lyric Video for ‘Redemption’