Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Testify - Pushing Back Darkness
   
Musical Style: Heavy Metal Produced By:
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2010 Artist Website:
Tracks: 8 Rating: 80%
Running Time: 28:58

Testify - Pushing Back Darkness

Just when I thought I couldn’t get interested in yet another band in the classic metal genre, along comes Testify.  My first exposure to the group was its independently released full length debut 24:27 from 2009, an album (85% Angelic Warlord review) I described as a “unique brand of metal with a message” and a “joining of traditional heavy metal and straightforward hard rock”.  Testify continues in the same direction – both musically and lyrically – on its summer of 2010 sophomore outing Pushing Back Darkness.

If your musical tastes range from Saint to Resurrection Band – including but not limited to Titanic, Final Axe, Armageddon, F.O.G. and Stonefuze – then Pushing Back Darkness will be certain to appeal to you.  The only difference this time around is the departure of original vocalist Ron Poggione and his replacement Lynn Louise Lowrey.  Now, it can be quite the transition going from the gruff and husky style of Poggione to the smoother flavorings of Lowrey but the group pulls it all without a hitch.  Credit goes to Lowrey, also the current Vixen bassist, for adding another dimension to the Testify sound with her versatility- at least in comparison to her predecessor.  Specifically, what sets her apart is her unique ability to complement each song by instinctively knowing when to go for a high note or sing in a deeper style.  In other words, she falls between the more fiery touches of Nancy Jo Mann (Barnabas) or Christine Steel (Arsenal) and gritty lower register of Lisa Faxson (Ransom).

Pushing Back Darkness features eight tracks of meaty metal characterized by solid chorus hooks and a pronounced rhythm guitar sound.  “Eyes Of Fire”, with its upbeat momentum, is the albums catchiest while “Pushing Back Darkness” serves up a powerful milieu in bringing an anthem-like feel.  “Pillar Of Salt” and “Sound The Alarm” represent Testify at its best, with the former showcasing a swarthy low end and latter a dramatic environs and propensity for the instrumental.  “Hells Gate’ almost reflects a thrash-like feel while “Time To Burn” is short but energetic.  “From The Grave” and “Way Truth Life” head in more of a hard rock direction in delivering some tasteful guitar riffs.

If I were to invite a comparison, the Pushing Back Darkness material is not as immediately accessible as that on 24:27.  The main reason being, in my opinion, is that the songs here seem to be more “riff driven” as opposed to “hook driven”.  Does that make sense?  Testify almost reminds me of Fires Of Babylon in this capacity.  Now, do not get me wrong in that there are hooks here – just give “Eyes Of Fire” and “Sound The Alarm” several listens – but it takes a bit of time in order to bring them out.  Yes, patience is the key but in the end you will be richly rewarded.

It also must be reinforced that each of the eight Pushing Back Darkness songs brings that extra something special to allow it to hold up under repeated play or stand out from the rest.  You will find no throwaways or filler tracks.  And therein the problem lies: in featuring just eight tracks and under thirty minutes of music Pushing Back Darkness almost falls within the EP category.  Not that this is a bad thing – and credit Testify for going with its best material and not offering anything sub par – but I wish we had two or three more songs here to push things within the 40 to 45 minute range.

Another deciding factor is the bands performance, which is oozing with tightness and professionalism. It all starts with bassist John Angle Jr. and drummer Chuck Hernandez, who remain interlocked throughout in anchoring the albums low end with their precision bass lines and spot-on drumming.  Angle, for instance, bestows some big low end groove to “From The Grave” while Hernandez adds some complementary double bass to “Eyes Of Fire”.

Guitarist Scott Weisenborn, for a lack of better words, remains a powerhouse player.  He literally adorns the project with layer after layer of rhythm guitar – some of the riffs that he bestows are nothing less than bone crushing – but can also deliver the goods from a soloing standpoint.  His lead work ranges from the fiery and blazing (“Eyes Of Fire” and “Pillars Of Salt”) to the blues driven (“Sound The Alarm”).

Production values are good as they get for an independent release.  The album has professionalism written all over it with its near perfect match of vocals, guitar and drums- all the while allowing the bass to breath life into the mix.  Jacobs Dream and Faith Factor are really going to have to stretch to match this level of performance the next time they enter the studio.

“Eyes Of Fire” is the albums most immediately catchy track.  Up-beat in capacity and putting forth a ton of groove, the song comes across boisterous with its full on energy chorus and periodic detonations of double bass.  Ironically, things slow to a near bluesy tempo over the final minute.  “Eyes Of Fire” details the qualities of Christ:

Holes in His hands
The Word made man
The scar on His side
Bring back the Bride

Angelic hosts
The Holy Ghost
The sounds of thunder
The spirit wonder

“Pushing Back Darkness” starts to a drum solo before diving into some anthem-like riffing.  The albums title track romps its remaining distance, delivering some cool guitar and bass interplay along with a rumbling chorus giving rise to a deep and heavy feel.  Lowrey really stretches and shows the full range to her voice here.  Lyrics are every bit as profound as the music:

Fear the cross
Fear the blood
Fear the One who brought the flood
Fear the thorns
Fear the nails
Fear the One who will prevail

Pushing back, Pushing back darkness…

The straightforward hard rock of “From The Grave” brings to mind old school Rez Band.  This one finds Angle laying down a backbone of groove with his plundering bass lines, underscoring the songs foundational verses and its powerful as all get out chorus.  Inspired is the first word that comes to mind.  “From The Grave” brings some praise based themes:

Crown of thorns
He wore for me
Now crowns of gold
On a thrown you’ll see
The Lord of Lords
And Prince of Peace

Lift your hands and praise Him

As non-nonsense a piece as you will find, “Time To Burn” might not be the albums catchiest but stands out all the same with the forceful feel to its delivery.  The riffs are driving and rhythm section joined at the hip as the song moves its three minutes in volatile fashion.  High energy would be the best way to describe this one.  “Time To Burn” warns against not thinking from an eternal perspective:

You’re the kind who never learns
To busy to be concerned
Who needs God
With the wealth you’ve earned
You’re life is done
Now it’s time to burn
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time

“Pillars Of Salt” maintains the spirited momentum.  With galloping riffs abounding, the song roars from front to back as Weisenborn decorates the impassioned setting with his shredding lead work.  Perhaps it is the swarthy feel to the low end, but I am reminded of Sacred Warriors’ more angst material (“Fire From Heaven” and “Temples On Fire” from Obsessions) in the process.  Not to dwell upon the past is the subject at hand:

You turn your back
To see your past
Not ready for the future
Your city burns
And now you learn
The price of sin and pride

No excuse
Your fault
You became
A pillar of salt

The jangly guitars at the start of “Hells Gate” led me to believe this was going to be some kind of groove-funk based thing.  But it all proves an indirect in that an abrupt transition is soon made to a near thrash-like tempo.  Of note, a touch of distortion is added to Lowrey’s vocals for the songs hard charging verses while she sings in a cleaner fashion upon obtaining its sweeping chorus.  The theme here is making the correct eternal decision:

So now you beg
For jus a drop
Of cool water for your tongue
You thought it fun
Your place to dwell
Your anthem song was
Highway to hell

“Sound The Alarm” opens, appropriately, with sirens wailing away in the background.  The song, otherwise, proves the albums finest, exuding an exciting intensity and melding it with a dramatic chorus sustained by shouted backing vocals.  The bands propensity for the instrumentally driven (Weisenborn, again, puts on a lead guitar clinic) helps put things over the top.  “Sound The Alarm” touches upon the end times:

Gear up the end of the age
Chapters turn a new page
New history here
The past disappears
Crown, crowns upon your head
Our robes in white
With a new name

“Way Truth Life”, a short but pointed piece characterized by its tireless milieu, is about as subtle as a punch in the jaw- and hits every bit as hard.  An excess of spirit and verve is put forth in the process while the hard rocking guitar riff is as catchy as they get.  A very strong way to end the album, but musically and lyrically:

Holy Spirit
Live in me
Let your power
Set captives free
Miracles will heal the people

Way, Truth Life…

Testify proves on Pushing Back Darkness that in no uncertain terms have they fallen victim to a sophomore slump.  The album is musically consistent in featuring eight quality tracks of traditional metal and hard rock.  While I would have appreciated an extra song or two, the strength of the bands performance and solid production values cannot be denied.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Eyes Of Fire” (3:58), “Pushing Back Darkness” (3:26), “From The Grave” (3:53), “Time To Burn” (3:10), “Pillars Of Salt” (3:49), “Hells Gate” (2:53), Sound The Alarm” (4:56), “Way Truth Life” (2:49)

Musicians
Lynn Louise Lowrey – Lead Vocals
Scott Weisenborn – Guitars
John Angle Jr. – Bass
Chuck Hernandez - Drums

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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