by Martin Popoff
Testament’s Eric Peterson is jet-lagged, somewhat jaded, and worn-out by the whole Dragonlord process. But the long-festering side project for this riff monster of a thrash addict is worth the wait.
“It’s very heavy, very melodic,” begins Eric, “I don’t know, a little bit more modern sounding. It’s got some black metal influences, death metal influences, and, of course, with me being one of the main songwriters in Testament, it’s got some of that. I would say it’s Testament in Hell (laughs). I actually did the vocals myself, and they came out pretty good. There are six or seven different types of voices I’m using. I really tried to mix it up.”
Eric’s fellow Dragonlorders include Jon Allen (Sadus) on drums, Lyle Livingston (Psypheria) on orchestrated keys of oblivion, Steve Smyth (Vicious Rumors) on lead guitar, Steve DiGiorgio on fretless bass, with Peterson doing vocals and additional guitars.
Are the specific songs and riffs on here something you’ve been “dragon” along for awhile?
“No, these are songs that all came to me lately. It’s been an idea for a while, and three or four of them I was working on during The Gathering. But the songs were just not Testament… I had them on a four-track and forgot about them and I had some vocal ideas I was just screwing around with… Dave Lombardo and I were hanging around a lot when we were recording (The Gathering), and we would have coffee and I would play these songs for him. He was always like, ‘Aw man, you have to do a project with this.’ He was Mr. Project Man in 1999… He did, like, four or five records that year, so he was in a project mode of thinking.
“But it’s been a nightmare,” sighs Peterson, “although a good nightmare. Nothing’s been on time, certain people didn’t come through, some were on different schedules. But when I listen to it, it was worth it.”
Of course, another worry on the man’s mind is the health of his vocalist-fer-life Chuck Billy. Everybody is rooting for the big man, of course, and the first order of business when he gets well is to bite into the Testament “re-recordings” project. “Chuck has been diagnosed with cancer,” notes Eric. “I he’s started his treatment and the treatment doesn’t sound as long as we thought. We’re all just hoping for the best, you know? We need him to kick its butt. The line-up for this recording is going to be John Tempesta, the drummer from Low, Steve DiGiorgio on bass, Alex Skolnick doing lead guitar, myself doing the rhythms, and Mr. Billy tearing it up on the vocals.”
The Dragonlord album is called Rapture, which Eric picked “not so much as a religious thing, but more when you are raptured, you’re hit over the head with enlightenment. For me, this is an awakening – millennium metal with a lot of different sounds. I think it’s going to surprise people. There’s an intro that has strings, cellos, timpani, and some really, really crazy Nine Inch Nails undertones. It’s not your traditional black metal intro. And then we have ‘Tradition In Fire,’ ‘Born To Darkness,’ the title track, a really good thrasher song called ‘Wolfhunt,’ ‘Judgment Failed,’ and ‘Unholy Void.’ That’s some of them… I’m also working with Del James who’s written with us and Guns N’ Roses in the past. We’ve got, like, ’60s organ in one of the songs, but it’s over a blastbeat. It’s got a Sisters of Mercy feel, but you wouldn’t recognize it because there are a lot of influences from Venom, early Mercyful Fate, and Dimmu Borgir.”
Eric also recruited the first singer from Darkane, Lawrence Mackrory, for a song they co-wrote called “Spirits in the Mist,” Eric calls Lawrence “one of the big influences on me in terms of pitch.”
The “special-ness” of this project extends resplendently into the visuals. “Travis Smith did the cover art and the whole layout,” explains Peterson. “His most recent work is the new Opeth record, Blackwater Park, and he did the last Nevermore record, too. Steve turned me onto him because he’d done work for Sadus. I told him the name and he came up with the logo, and that was really cool. And he’s also really quick. There’re about six or seven pieces of art inside that could’ve all easily been album covers. One thing he mentioned was that, most of the time, he does album covers in a month to four months. He’s been working on this for almost eight months (laughs). He’s worked alongside me the whole time, from the demo stages until the end, so I have to commend him on that!”
(101 Bay Ave. Hicksville, NY 11801)