Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Testament

Metallurgy

Phases and Stages
Phases and Stages

Black Sabbath cut four LPs boomed by holy diver Ronnie James Dio after the band fired Ozzy Osbourne. No bonus tracks or DVD append the Dio-driven Rules of Hell (Warner Bros./Rhino), five discs anchored by 1980's Dante-worthy Heaven and Hell, wherein the UK doomers went from tar-pit tempos to the razor's edge of opener "Neon Knights," "Die Young," and the title track's spatial annunciation. Mostly written/rioted on the Heaven and Hell trek, '81's Mob Rules matches its predecessor sin for sin with "The Sign of the Southern Cross," "Country Girl," and "Falling Off the Edge of the World." The next year's live summation of both, double-disc Live Evil, recorded partly in Dallas and San Antonio, burns another pyre, while 1992 reunion Dehumanizer howls like a long lost Soundgarden album. In its fourth decade, fellow Birmingham juggernaut Judas Priest delivers its überambitious 2-CD conceptualization of 16th century French occultist Nostradamus (Epic). Subjugating Painkiller punishment for storytelling clarity, it's overlong by a disc – the second – but vertebrae cuts "Prophecy," "War," and "Pestilence and Plague" are canonically sound. The title track finally screams for vengeance, though Thin Lizzy did in one song ("Angel of Death") what Nostradamus oversynths on two CDs. Bay Area fivepiece Testament repeats history with The Formation of Damnation (Nuclear Blast), still boasting the best of all metal universes: Chuck Billy's intelligible Hetfield expulsion, simpatico shredder vets Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, and a rhythm section roaring Daytona. Damnation's post-9/11 reality, from the fall of the towers ("The Evil Has Landed") to the nitroglycerin title track, shit-storms not a single false note. "The Persecuted Won't Forget," pure avalanche; "Henchmen Ride," lightning strike; "Afterlife," a hit in any other genre; and closing creeper "Leave Me Forever": This four-star inferno fires on all cylinders. The new Metallica better live up to its neighborhood Testament. (Sabbath, Priest, and Testament crisp Selma's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Sunday, Aug. 24.)

Phases and Stages
Phases and Stages

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Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Testament

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