Testament Guitarist Talks Sleaze Metal


July 25, 2008

Rick Overwater of Sun Media reports that on one side, you had hair-farming Hollywood sleaze-metal.

On the other, you had thrash metal bands such as Testament in a full-on war that truly polarized metal fans as the 80s wound down.

So, you’d think that, as lead guitarist for one for the defining heavy bands of the day, one whose face was plastered on metal journals and guitar mags everywhere, with his own signature model Ibanez guitar (with a pointy headstock, of course) no less, Testament’s Alex Skolnick would have clearly picked sides.

“I was very open,” says Skolnick.

“I never felt that I would have fit into one of those real commercial glam bands, but I wasn’t militantly against it the way a lot of other metal-heads were.”


Does that mean fans of brutal riffing and atomic-clock-precise double-kick drumming had a traitor in their midst?

Perhaps not, but a sympathizer, for sure.

“I generally thought that kind of music lent itself better to guitar playing,” he says.

“A lot of the speed-metal players at the time were more like punk players. A little better perhaps, but none of them could hold up against someone like George Lynch from Dokken or Randy Rhoads in Ozzy’s band.”

That’s an acceptable explanation.

After all, it’s Skolnick’s light-speed lyrical solos, pummelled forward by rhythm guitarist Eric Peterson’s crushing song structures that made Testament stand out.

It was also the formula that made Testament fans pick sides, some decrying the hooks and melodic elements that Skolnick brought in.

When they released The Ritual in 1992, you could easily detect the difference between the riffs of a largely Peterson-written track like the title cut on 1989’s groundbreaking Practice What Your Preach, and anthemic material with epic solos like The Ritual’s Electric Crown — one of their best songs.

“Actually, a lot of people think The Ritual’s the worst Testament album ever and a lot of the blame is aimed squarely at me,” says Skolnick

The blame seems to have subsided.

After taking a 12-year hiatus from the band while it continued forging a heavier sound that included watershed moments like its Low album, Skolnick is back and consensus among the online metal community is it’s good to see the original lineup again.

The fact Formation of Damnation, their excellent new album, is the highest charting record of their career with fans not old enough to have been walking when the band started, is ample evidence.

When Testament hits the stage as part of Monsters of Rock tomorrow, some in the crowd will be there to see them specifically.

Skolnick credits the now-25-year run of the band to everyone being in a more mature, relaxed place with many of the trials of life behind them.

For him, that included taking time to focus on jazz and get a music degree that also included some philosophy.

“There is more to life than metal, stuff beyond music,” he says.

Uh, oh. More traitor talk.

Courtesy of jam.canoe.ca