Legendary California thrashers Testament joined the elite multiple-Hall-of-Fame crew when we inducted their 1988 The New Order album into our Hall of Fame in our November 2018 issue. The band—who already entered the Hall with their ’87 The Legacy debut back in our October 2008 issue—played this album in its entirety at our recent Decibel Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles, and for good reason: not only is it a beery trip down nostalgia lane, but The New Order is a thrash classic, and the amount of time-tested Testament essentials on it is impressive, as we found out as we ranked the songs from worst to best.
10. Nobody’s Fault
Man, I’ve just never liked this Aerosmith cover. Actually, I really dislike it, and, as embarrassing as this is, I think it’s the main reason I’ve never fully, completely, absolutely embraced The New Order the way I did the albums before and after it. The cover just never made sense to me on any sort of conceptual or intellectual level, and although our own Adem Tepedelen, who wrote this Hall of Fame, recently talked me off a cliff as I was complaining about this to him by explaining to me that it actually fits in to this album quite well lyrically, I still just say, with all due respect to Adem, ugh. I like the chord changes when vocalist Chuck Billy is singing “sorry” in the chorus, and I enjoy how he sings “sorry” in that part, but that’s about it.
I dunno man, as far as these sort of “spooky guitar stuff” songs go, I like “Hypnosis” a lot, because Alex Skolnick is one of the few guitarists I ever want to hear solo. Still, it’s not like I ever just jam “Hypnosis” out of the blue. When it comes on, I don’t immediately flip out and want to skip it, so, hey, that’s saying something for what is basically two minutes of Skolnick going crazy.
8. Musical Death (A Dirge)
By the time The New Order gets to this, its last song, you’re forgiven for thinking, wow, that’s a lot of instrumentals, instrumental parts, long guitar intros, and, hey, that Aerosmith cover was annoying. Alright, maybe it’s just me with the cover, but the rest, yeah, there’s tons of noodling guitar intros and whatnot all over this album, and they close the record off with this four-minute instrumental, which is, yeah, a lot of guitar noodling over a, well, dirge of a song. On one hand, this song almost barely exists, on the other, it’s actually an appropriate way to end off The New Order.
7. A Day of Reckoning
One of two songs on The New Order that I always stare at the title of in the track listing and think, “I honestly can not remember what that song sounds like” (the other being closer “Musical Death (A Dirge),” which is an excellent song title), and that’s because this song just ain’t too memorable, although I appreciate its slightly sludgier parts and then unexpectedly bright and melodic chorus, which is actually quite cool and welcome on what is a bit of a dour album, mood-wise.
6. The Preacher
I’ve never been as warm and comfy with this song as many thrashers are, something about the way Billy yells out “The Preacher” at the beginning of the song and in the choruses always actually grating on me, but I dig the groove of those verses, and when the band pick up it to go double time before hitting the chorus, it’s thrash magic. I also like it when Billy does a metal laugh (see also “A Day of Reckoning”) and says “In 1906/like the future predicts,” so there’s some gold here.
5. Eerie Inhabitants
A Testament-y enough way to start off the album, with a mellow guitar-doodle part then perfect mid-tempo raging thrash, with a chorus vocal line that all thrash bands of the era were totally jealous of. Although it’s not quite the incredible Testament album opener I want, the chorus is awesome and the verses rock hard enough, and it does a killer, memorable job of kicking off the album. The least great of five really great thrash songs here, which is still pretty damn great.
4. Into the Pit
I’ve got my thoughts on side two of this record (eh, mainly just that Aerosmith cover), but, man, side one is absolutely stacked, fully three and arguably four thrash classics on there, including “Into the Pit,” a song Testament never tires of playing live, for good reason: it rules. The verses threaten to have slightly less personality than Testament verses usually have, but then the chorus comes along and whips us all into a frenzy, every single time.
3. The New Order
There’s just so much good riffing on the title track here, it’s outrageous. Love the songwriting skills on display here, the band shifting bpms at all the right moments, the chorus, again, just totally killing it, Billy laying down what is, really, a classic thrash vocal performance. A great title track—this song sums up much of what makes The New Order great—and one of the album’s handful of stone-cold thrash songs for the ages.
2. Trial by Fire
I still battle with getting the KISS song of the same name stuck in my head every single damn time I look at this album’s track listing, but Testament’s thrash classic quickly annihilates that non-classic right outta my brainwaves once the quiet, solo-heavy intro starts, then… that riff. That riff, man. The main chorus riff here is an absolute classic, the band thrashing their way through another hit. Also, call me simple, but I always liked that little “ch-check” thing at 1:06.
1. Disciples of the Watch
I know other people would stick “The New Order” or “Trial by Fire” up top, but, man, for me, it’s this Children of the Corn-loving song all the way (which I always sort of considered the grown-up sibling to The Legacy’s “C.O.T.L.O.D.”). Starting off with another “spooky guitar” intro (real reason: the band had to bulk up the length of the album for contractual reasons; reason I want to believe: it kinda adds a weird, apocalyptic cohesion to the album), the band take their time getting to that incredible verse, and then that incredible-incredible chorus, Testament just absolutely slaying all here, Billy delivering vocal lines that I hope I mutter out on my deathbed, because they’re some of the greatest in thrash history.