Tester recently released their King Of The World CD, and it certainly rocks out in a range somewhere between metal and 1970s hard rock. This music niche works for Tester. Their sound is huge, strong, and rocking yet always accessible.
Opening track “Look What You’ve Done” gives the sledgehammer pounding rhythm section, dizzying, speedy guitars, and the dark, horse, screamy lead vocals expected of this genre. Yet, Tester has a quality of doing it better than a lot of other local bands.
“Look What You’ve Done” is accessible to non metal fans because of its classic hard rock underpinnings. When lead vocalist Tony Casella briefly rests his voice, he rocks out on guitar while his brother Chuck Casella pounds the skins and Nik James pulls big muscular notes out of his bass., Drumming is still as merciless on this disc as on other metal discs.
As lead singer, Tony Casella shouts his gripes about someone who has wronged him. Yet he isn’t as mean as most metal singers. He doesn’t threaten the person with nuclear anniliation before sending the person to hell for all eternity.
“Call Me” continues this heavy rocking sound with skillful musicianship. Some thick, crunchy power chords push the song forward with adept, aggressive drumming underneath. James travels a smooth as rails rollercoaster ride of low end notes through many twists and turns in the music. This song just oozes along to a pre-determined destination with finesse.
Explosive, propulsive drumming is the engine on third track, “Undone.” Whether just keeping the beat steady and heavy under the guitar attack or punctuating transitions with numerous fills, drummer Casella is the suped up motor under the hood. “Black Out” has a cool, fuzzy bass line traveling the center lane, giving the tune all of its dark colorings. There is no underestimating how well any of these three control the color and tone of their songs. Vocals are dark, heavy, bad ass while the rhythm section underneath provides the rolling thunder that hints of menace, and the guitar that stabs into the storm with icy cold phrases.
“Darkest Day Tonight” has got the coolest hard rock/metal drums in our local heavy music scene. It sounds almost like Casella is playing two drum pieces at once, thickening the heavy sound with impenetrable muscle. Guitar notes dart in and out of this monstrous gruel with precise, killer instinct. If Tester could transform their instruments and gear into military weapons, the United States would have the most respected and most fighting force in the world.
This three man army of darkness march forward in locked step, metal groove on “Shattered.” A scraping guitar phrase strikes sparks against the bracing rhythm section. The pounding underneath the guitar and vocals is like a mountain of sound while Tony Casella shouts and plays it with the exuberant force of an anthem.
“Maybe Baby” finds the lead vocalist shout-singing with the aplomb and power of a god screaming down from Mount Olympus. The catchy chorus works much the same as in lighter genres, but the powerhouse singing technique makes you wonder exactly how he is going to “love you tonight.” Scary images of the dark side of love are conjured by this commanding vocalist.
Starting with down tempo guitar notes and easeful vocals, “What Did He Say To You” is a bitter-themed love power ballad. And this song has a “Wow factor” in that they astonish with their moving melodic guitar phrasing inside this tempest about a sinking relationship. Having some tender feelings and being unafraid to reveal them is what gives Tester their edge of others in their genre.
But worry not you serious fans of dark lord of the underworld music. Tester come back strong on their title track, “King Of The World.” It’s an emboldened theme with the screamy guitar, heavy voice, and pulse pounding rhythm section thing going on. There is a too brief bass solo that allows insight into what each band member can do with metal textures. Bass player James was likely using a pedal manufactured by local gear company Celestial Effects when he recorded this CD. You might find yourself playing air bass to this one.
“We Are Forever” races out of the gate with high octane, free-wheeling lead guitar. From there, it is trademark Tester oomph, the kind of oomph-grunt that someone makes when kicked right in the groin. If the Tester sound could be compared to sports, it would have to be martial arts. Every move is like an adept, power strike or kick to some place sensitive. You don’t want to meet up with Tester in a dark alley. They will let you keep your valuables, but they will most definitely take your life.
Official closing cut “Fire” could best be described as Kiss on steroids. An accessible heaviness dominates this track, but do not underestimate this lead singer’s ability to make lighting come out of his fingertips to disintegrate you. As lead guitarist, Casella is the villainous henchman who can slice you in half with his laser precise notes and beat you to a pulp with his sledgehammer chords.
Don’t mess with Tester, even if they do have a hidden track of John Waite’s “I Ain’t Missing You At All.” It is Tester’s emotional, melodic side that gives them their edge.