Testament Plays First Ever India Gig

By Vikram Chandrasekar

December 15th 2012, Embassy International Riding School, Bangalore, India: I’ve been listening to metal for the last 26 years, and have been a Testament fan since listening to their first album ‘The Legacy’ in 1987. I have watched rock and metal concerts around the world for a number of years now. This, however, was my first time watching Testament. I made my way to the NH7 Weekender festival in Bangalore, and the biggest reason, was to watch Testament.

The NH7 open air festival had 6 different stages with a total of 60 bands playing, but the evening at the Bacardi Black Rock Arena progressed slowly. Inner Sanctum kicked off proceedings followed by Warren Mendosa. The place felt like what it was, a laid-back weekend festival.

It all changed at about 6.30 in the evening, when local thrash legends Kryptos took the stage. Known for their big riffs and head-banging tunes, the band sounded as tight as I’ve ever heard them. From the minute they hit their first riff,  Kryptos clad in their customary black leather and denim jackets tore through their set with their usual fury. They played a selection from their previous two albums, including the new release ‘The Coils of Apollyon’. The sound was near-perfect and the twin guitar-playing of Rohit and Nolan was superb.  If you are a thrash metal fan, its very easy to get warmed up to the Kryptos Sound. Fuelled by the endless riffing and pitchers of beer, a mosh pit erupted midway through the Kryptos show. The mood had been truly set.

Kryptos finished their set at 8pm. It was about 30 minutes to go before Testament would take the stage. I was standing right up in the front row pressed against the barricades through the Kryptos set and decided not to move from there. No way was I going to give up the best spot in the house. The 30-minute wait was a blur. I was lost in images of Chuck Billy, Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, thinking about all the years I spent watching tapes of all of their concerts. Testament’s guitar and drum techs were on stage setting up and making sure all was in place. Setlists got taped to the monitors, guitars were tuned, sound was checked, bottles of water and towels in place.

At 8.40 PM, the lights are dimmed and the ‘Dark Roots Of Earth’ album cover came up on the backdrop. By this time the place was packed with anxious metalheads. From the opening riffs of ‘Rise Up’ off of the new album, it was a full on metal onslaught of 15 songs. Testament played a mix of songs from the new album and older classics  and ‘Into The Pit’. They blazed through their first 3 songs before Chuck Billy decided to talk to the crowd. He enthused about how they enjoyed being in India for the first time in 27 years. Chuck Billy was in fine form vocally, playing air guitar with the mic stand and periodically sticking his tongue out. Skolnick and Petersen hit every note and shredded the audience with near perfect guitar playing. The drummer Mark Hernandez turned out a mind-numbing performance. Absolutely tight grooves with hyper speed beats and kick ass double bass work. The perfect foil to the twin guitars of Skolnick and Peterson.

One of the highlights of the evening was when Chuck Billy told Bangalore to jump ‘into the pit’ and launched into a slew of old school material. Bangalore needed no second invitation to mosh!

The Testament setlist was career spanning and comprehensive. The four tracks they played off of the new album were ‘Native Blood’, a song very close to Chuck Billy’s heart given his Native American background, ‘Dark Roots’, ‘Rise Up’ and ‘True American Hate’. These were well received by the crowd who were singing along to a few tracks. The second half of the set spanned regular classics like ‘Practice What You Preach’, ‘Over The Wall’ and the aforementioned ‘Into The Pit’, and while there wasn’t an encore, the band played ‘Alone In The Dark’, ‘D.N.R’ , ‘3 Days In Darkness’, and finished with the incredibly heavy ‘The Formation Of Damnation’.

The sound on the night was absolutely great. The guitars sounded heavy and massive but clean enough to decipher. Billy’s vocals were powerful and soaring. The lighting for different songs was a combination of reds, greens and trails of white and purple. A night where the band had amazing energy, feeding off each other and a metal hungry crowd.

It was 11 AM when I was back on the bus home and was left thinking about the night Testament handed Bangalore their asses with an almighty blistering performance. A night where the crowd and Testament were one, a night where I watched a metal crazy crowd take it all in until the final explosive rumble of the drum and wail of the guitar faded away. A memorable night for metal music.

Setlist (from setlist.fm)

  1. Rise Up
  2. The New Order
  3. The Preacher
  4. Native Blood
  5. True American Hate
  6. More Than Meets the Eye
  7. Dark Roots of Earth
  8. Into the Pit
  9. Practice What You Preach
  10. Over the Wall
  11. Souls of Black
  12. Alone in the Dark
  13. D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
  14. 3 Days in Darkness
  15. The Formation of Damnation