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"Practice What You Preach" is the 3rd studio album by American thrash metal band, Testament. It was released in 1989 on Megaforce Records and produced by Alex Perialas. The line-up for the album was Chuck Billy (vocals), Alex Skolnick (guitar), Eric Peterson (guitar), Greg Christian (bass) and Louie Clemente (drums).
As one of thrash metal's premier bands, Testament had delivered on their previous albums, 1987's "The Legacy" and 1988's "The New Order", and now it was the turn of "Practice What You Preach", which eclipses the previous two offerings in quality song writing and production. I remember watching a video interview with the band around the time of recording who said that it was being recorded live in the studio instead of individual tracking, and thought that I'd like to listen to the album when it was released, so I bought it. Is it any good? Let's find out!
"Practice What You Preach" kicks things off and starts in high gear, taking us on a ride that is full throttle for a very large part of the way. The song is very thrashy with some killer riffs and Skolnick's solos absolutely blow me away. I have no idea how he shreds guitar that fast, but he is seriously talented. This is my favourite song on the album by far and lyrically, it's about a man who tells people to do things one way and does things another. He's his own worst critic and the narrator is telling him to practice what he preaches.
"Perilous Nation" begins with a chunky bass riff which brings in the drums and then the guitars in a groove-infested melody that sounds way different to the opening track but still keeps up the high standard. You also get another blistering Skolnick solo that has great harmony but it's the hook at the end of the main riff that I like the most with its 1-2-3-4 chord combo down the fret board. Chuck Billy's vocals sound really good as well, and considering it was recorded live in the studio that has to be a good thing. The only problem I have with the track is that it fades out unexpectedly, just when you think it could go on a little longer. It's a song about freedom of speech and the fact that it really means there is no freedom of speech - you can be arrested for saying what you want but you're encouraged to do so.
"Envy Life" is a rocker of a song that has an interesting main riff with some strong vocals from Chuck Billy, but the track seems to fall off the quality trail a little about halfway through. There's a nice little section with the double bass drums being used but then it gives up until another great solo from Skolnick. This one is more laboured than the first two songs and is played with feeling instead of ferocity. It's by no means my favourite song on the album but I still enjoy listening to it now and then, and I would definitely put it on a playlist.
"Time is Coming" has some really good vocals from Chuck Billy, who isn't known for being a brilliant singer but a good front man if that makes any sense. I like the drums on this song which keep the pace moving along at a pretty fast rate, and about half way through the song they're intensely thrashy, which I really enjoy. The bridge switches from thrash to groove metal and you can't help but tap your foot along to the riffs, solo and drumming. This is another strong song on what is rapidly becoming a strong album.
"Blessed in Contempt" has some stellar drumming from Louie Clemente, but with it being a live recording in the studio they're often drowned out. The bass is brilliantly audible, though, and the guitars, as ever, sound really good. There are some strong riffs and an even stronger chorus that Chuck Billy grabs hold with two hands and makes his own. I'm not entirely sure what the song is about but I think it deals with the narrator as a young boy and being abused by his father. He's saying that he begins to hate him but he's becoming him when he gets older and there's nothing he can do to stop that from happening.
"Greenhouse Effect" is a song about the environment and what we're doing to damage it. The song is focused on the rain forests of South America and how they're being gradually reduced year by year. It's a serious song but those guitars are definitely having fun in that studio. It's a decent track but it isn't one that stands out at the forefront as far as Testament songs go. I do like the chorus as I've always been a fan of backing vocals which shout in unison like these do.
"Sins of Omission" is my favourite song off the album. It begins with a groove-laden intro where the band is fantastically tight, and Chuck Billy's vocals are dominant throughout the song. It's a song that speaks out to people contemplating suicide and attempts to tell them that the band hopes that if you're thinking about taking your own life then stop and think about it for a minute and find yourself within yourself. I love the chorus on the song and Skolnick does it again with a long solo that sounds amazing.
"The Ballad" begins with an acoustic intro that is maybe a little too long, but then it goes into the main part a bit too abruptly with a strange time change. It's the least favourite song on the album for me but that's largely because Testament tried to do with "The Ballad" what Metallica did with "Fade to Black" and didn't quite succeed. There is a very good part part-way through with some very heavy bass progression that's backed up by the drums, but then it gets faster just as "Fade to Black" does and falls off the rails, which is a shame because the album had been very good up until this point. Testament might well be proud of this song but I don't like it.
"Nightmare (Coming Back to You)" is one of the fastest and thrashiest songs on the album and one I like very much. It's the shortest song on the album but packs a big punch which doesn't fail to connect with my music-appreciating ears. The best thing about the song is that it doesn't go overboard with thrash and sits nicely on the fence, knowing exactly what the fan wants. So many bands overdid songs in the 1980s and it's refreshing to hear tracks that are down the line.
"Confusion Fusion" is the album's closing track and is basically a jamming session without lyrics. There's not much to the song to be perfectly blunt, and they're riffs that could have been put to good use on a proper song instead of filler at the end. It's a shame really but I guess this is what you get with a live studio recording.
In summary, what you get on this album is pure 1980s thrash with a no holds barred attitude. It's not at breakneck speed, but Testament had (and still has) their own style of how thrash is played, just like Slayer is Slayer, no other band sounds like Megadeth and Anthrax do it their own way, too. "Practice What You Preach" is one of those important records from the heyday of thrash metal, and your collection would be greatly enhanced by owning it.
1. Practice What You Preach
2. Perilous Nation
3. Envy Life
4. Time is Coming
5. Blessed in Contempt
6. Greenhouse Effect
7. Sins of Omission
8. The Ballad
9. Nightmare (Coming Back to You)
10. Confusion Fusion
My rating: 8/10
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Practice What You Preach (Lp Version)
2 Perilous Nation (Lp Version)
3 Envy Life (Lp Version)
4 Time Is Coming (Lp Version)
5 Blessed In Comtempt (Lp Version)
6 Greenhouse Effect (Lp Version)
7 Sins Of Omission (Lp Version)
8 The Ballad (Lp Version)
9 Nightmare (Coming Back To You) (Lp Version)
10 Confusion Fusion (Lp Version)