The Ritual

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Once on the verge of breaking the platinum sales barrier and transforming the "Big Four of Thrash" (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth) into the "Big Five," the members of Testament were trying to simply stay afloat by the time they released this, their fifth album. In fact, The Ritual is a microcosm of the entire thrash metal scene. Once seemingly indestructible, by 1992 the group was crumbling towards an ignominious end, and despite possessing the genre's most technically gifted guitarist in Alex Skolnick and one of its most fearsome growls in vocalist Chuck Billy, Testament was obviously going down with the ship. Yawn-inducing, production-line moshers like "Electric Crown," "So Many Lies," and "Deadline" dominate the album; brief flashes of inspiration, such as the intro riffs of the title track and "As the Seasons Grey" are few and far between. Ironically, the disc's most uncharacteristic track, "Return to Serenity" is also its best. With its beautifully ethereal melodies, the song is one of the band's greatest achievements. Alas, it was also one that arrived too little, too late to save Testament's classic lineup, which would splinter immediately after The Ritual's release.

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