My first Testament album was 1997’s Demonic, and I fucking loved it (and still do). I knew nothing about the band, and thought Chuck Billy‘s death metal roar on songs like “The Burning Times” and “Hatred’s Rise” was awesome. It was only later that I learned that it was a drastic and controversial departure from the band’s norm. And it’s also why I appreciate that former Testament drummer Gene Hoglan stands by the album — even if he admits that Billy got sort of pressured into the death metal vocals.
Speaking to our lap candy at Metal Injection, Hoglan talked about the album in detail:
“Testament [was] undergoing a lot of the same kind of things a lot of things the previously established metal acts were going through in the mid ’90s. That was a challenging time for a lot of metal acts, the ones who did not play death metal.’“I remember it was [guitarist Eric Peterson], myself, Eric’s cousin Derek Ramirez who was the second guitarist for this project… and we hadn’t quite established our bassist yet at the time, but we were writing songs and I was like ‘wow, these are good songs!’ I remember Derek and myself… Derek moreso than myself, Derek likes to give me a lot of the credit or the blame for leaning [vocalist Chuck Billy] toward the super duper death metal thing. Derek was like, ‘Chuck! You gotta be heavier and death metal!’ and I’d always wanted to work with Chuck. When I saw him do [‘Practice What You Preach’] when we played some shows with them, he just rumbled the entire venue we were playing together at. I was like, ‘I gotta work with this guy at some point. Absolutely.’ Then to have Chuck being full growl death metal for the majority for that album… but when Chuck sings, Jesus man. The ground rumbles. I never felt the ground rumble below me as a vocalist is doing his thing. But that’s Chuck’s big ass lungs.“It was not up to me to say ‘hey do more’ or ‘hey do less.’ [I just said] ‘do you.’ That’s all I will say. Derek was like ‘come on Chuck, more.’ So granted, when a Testament album like Demonic came out, I would imagine there was probably a lot of Testament fans that were scratching their heads at that. But me, I am always [erring] on the side of heavier. Nobody’s gonna fault you for [making a band go heavier]. Like, ‘this band went even heavier?’ You know? Low was a kickass record. That was a good album. Songs like ‘Dog Faced Gods’ on it. Like I said, when we were doing Demonic I had no idea about that song until months tracking into tracking Demonic. That’s where was like, ‘hey Chuck, you already did it here, you know? So go, go, go with the death metal.’”
Check out the full video below: