Touring on the back of their summer 2012 release 'Dark Roots of Earth', Testament return to London after a 3 and a half year gap, their last headline gig in the city being at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in 2009. This year, the Bay Area thrash titans are oddly joined by English progressive metallers Xerath and metalcore outfit Malefice at Camden's Koko, a venue used to hosting bands of this magnitude.
The night's first support, Xerath, launch uncompromisingly into a relentless 30 minute long set, although crowd interaction is unfortunately limited for the majority of their time on the stage. Triggered drums, bass heavy guitars and growls are delivered with passion, although the support unfortunately seems lost on the crowd, perhaps used to - and expecting - a more traditional American style thrash opener.
The venue becomes noticeably busier for the second support of the night, Malefice, and a skeptical audience gives the band the benefit of the doubt. With enthusiasm, Malefice's frontman Dale Butler attempts to whip the crowd into a frenzy, with moderate success. Circle pits break out intermittently although few are sustained for any length of time until the band announce their final song of the 30 minute support set. Malefice's sound seems a little less lost on Testament fans compared to Xerath, although it seems that most are here for the headliners alone. Malefice are seen off with warm, but by no means impassioned sentiment from the crowd.
Testament's most recent offering has generally received critical acclaim, and it is no surprise that as the American thrash legends appear on stage, an anxious crowd greets them with an all too familiar roar. The band obliges, launching into 'Dark Roots of Earth''s opener, 'Rise Up', with the approval of the audience. The album's sound has a markedly more polished, modern sound compared to the bands early, critically acclaimed albums although the crowd seems to have no issue with this, joining in as vocalist Chuck Billy launches through the chorus.
Testament's line-up tonight storms onwards with the title track of 1988's 'The New Order', joined now by a frenzied crowd - "Tell the world the new order's here" roaring through the venue. The band's line-up tonight remains almost identical to their classic, the only exception being live drummer Mark Hernandez who is himself filling in for Testament's non-permanent drummer Gene Hoglan - currently on tour with Brendan Small's semi-fictious Dethklok in the USA.
The band's crowd interaction is mixed between songs; a somewhat quiet affair punctuated by comments on Billy's Native American heritage, as well as a hearty commendation to the crowd's ability to "Kick our fucking asses". A common problem at the Koko, the sound quality is hit and miss but Billy's vocals and the crowds chants demonstrate an unrelenting spirit. The crowd joins in fervently to 'Alone in The Dark', echoing the haunting, eerie guitar melodies that characterise a band often noted as the 5th member of thrash metal's 'Big Four'.
The band ploughs onward, showing no sign of relenting with a barrage of classics including 'Over the Wall', 'Disciples of the Watch', and 'Practice What You Preach' as well as a healthy input of newer material. Billy remains heavily animated throughout non-vocal sections, air guitaring to Testament's addictive riffs without second thought.
Finishing with the title of their 2008 offering; 'Formation of Damnation', the band promptly leave for the 9.45 curfew, leaving a crowd clearly tching for more.
Overall, a superb offering from Testament, marked slightly by an unusual choice of support bands and the hit and miss sound of the venue. A welcome return surely awaits.