Titans of Creation

Titans of Creation

Nearly four decades into their career, Bay Area thrash behemoths Testament remain as ripping as ever. Fronted by towering, sonorous vocalist Chuck Billy and boasting one of the most skilled musical lineups in metal’s history—drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Alex Skolnick, bassist Steve Di Giorgio, and guitarist Eric Peterson—the band shows off their virtuosic chops on their 13th album. Titans of Creation sees Testament taking inspiration from a visit to Jerusalem, cult-related atrocities, and the healers who helped Billy beat cancer in the early aughts. “The title came after the artwork was finished,” Billy tells Apple Music. “We couldn’t figure out who the guys on the cover were—were they demons, aliens, humans? But we knew they were creating life, so we thought they could be titans as well.” Below, Billy gives us a look behind each of the songs.
Children of the Next Level “This was actually the first song we wrote for the new record, so it took right off from [2016’s] Brotherhood of the Snake. The song was inspired by Heaven's Gate, a cult out of San Diego, where they committed suicide and thought they were going to actually board a meteor to the next level of existence.”
WWIII “There were a handful of songs where some of the vocal melodies didn’t happen right away, and this was one of them. So we got in there and just started mumbling our way through it. Somewhere in there, the idea of nuclear warfare hit, so we built off of that and started writing about World War III. We used to write songs about stuff like this in the ’80s, and a lot of it has happened. They end up being weird kind of Nostradamus predictions.”
Dream Deceiver “This one reminds me of early Scorpions stuff, like In Trance or Tokyo Tapes. When I dropped the vocal, it just felt like it should have a more old-school melodic feel to it. Eric really liked the hook, so we built on that. A dream deceiver is basically just something that’s haunting your dreams, where you can’t get any rest and you’re living in this dream state.”
Night of the Witch “This was the first song we put out from the album. It’s definitely a different song from us, just because this is where Eric Peterson gets his vocal debut in the chorus. The part that he sings needed the witch voice, which is more like what he does in [his side project] Dragonlord, so we gave him a shot and he nailed it. It really just gave the song a different dynamic to what we’ve done in the past.”
City of Angels “‘City of Angels’ is really a survivor song on this record, because I thought it was maybe too long and repetitive at first. But then I was working on some lyrics in LA with my friend Del James, who I’ve been writing with for about 20 years, and he handed me these lyrics for a song he had called ‘City of Angels.’ So I went through the music we had, and they fit perfectly. Then I took it home and found myself trying new tones of voice. In the bridge I even doubled it and did a little three-part-harmony thing. I never do that kind of shit, but it ended up really coming to life. By the end of the session, it turned out to be one of the better songs.”
Ishtars Gate “This song sat on the back burner for a bit because, to me, the mood of the song was real different than your typical metal riff. The year before, we played in Israel, so we went to Jerusalem to see the gates and just walk around. I know Eric got inspired by it and had been referencing this song as ‘Gates of Ishtar’ since he came up with the riff. That was another one where Del and I came up with the lyrics, so we wanted to make Eric happy and write it about the gate.”
Symptoms “Alex wrote the music and lyrics for this one, and I think you can tell. It really stands out from the rest of the album and has a different vibe from the other songs. Lyrically, he’s talking about the social awareness of mental health, and different things that have been going on with that over the last few years. But it’s taken on a different meaning now with the coronavirus, and our band getting sick. It feels like it’s referring to us.”
False Prophet “Me and Zet—Steve Souza from Exodus—wrote the lyrics for this one, and Zet came up with the idea. It’s about the Kirtland massacre, where the guy thought he was God and he was killing people execution-style. It’s probably the fastest thrasher on the record, so it seemed to fit.”
The Healers “This is more of a personal song. It’s about the healers that helped me when I was sick with cancer. I really wanted to pay homage to them. One of them is now in a VA hospital and has Alzheimer’s, so he didn’t really remember me. Another one, Charlie, passed away about two years ago. The third one moved off the mountain where he did sweat lodges and stuff. So I just wanted to tell the story of those three healers and what they did for me when I was ill. The song has kind of an odd vocal melody to it, but the way it turned out as far as the meaning, it’s pretty powerful.”
Code of Hammurabi “This is another song that Alex wrote, and it fits more with the groove of the rest of the songs, but it has a different flavor—it’s not your typical riding-on-E metal riff. Me and him worked on the lyrics together, and he came up with the idea of the Code of Hammurabi, which is basically the first code of law. It was as simple as ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ If you get caught stealing, you lose your hand.”
Curse of Osiris “This is one is pretty blistering—Gene is just tearing it up on this one. I think this was probably one of the last ones me and Del wrote. As you can tell, the theme stayed more in the Eastern kind of vibe, and it’s just about [the Egyptian god of the underworld] Osiris avenging his father’s death.”
Catacombs “We’ve been using this piece of music as an intro tape for our show, but I think it wasn’t quite complete. So Eric took it upon himself to finish it and make it as big as he could. We haven’t used it for an intro since we finished the record, but we’ll see what happens. I think maybe it was just something Eric wanted to get done.”


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