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TESTAMENT Hopes To Be Done Recording New Album Within Three Weeks

In a new interview with Canada’s The Metal Voice, TESTAMENT singer Chuck Billy spoke about the progress of the recording sessions for the band’s follow-up to 2020’s “Titans Of Creation” album. Chuck said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “The drums are finished and half the vocals are done and most of the guitars. No leads or bass yet. Steve‘s [DiGiorgio, bass] out on tour with DEATH TO ALL, and Alex [Skolnick, guitar] usually waits till Eric‘s [Peterson, drums] done with all rhythms. But we’re trying to get it accomplished — we leave [for tour] July 10th, so we’re trying to get it all recorded before then.”

Regarding the songwriting process for TESTAMENT‘s upcoming album, Chuck said: “We started since November — since about November, we started working and through the holidays, Chris [Dovas, drums] has been coming out, working with Eric a lot. And then into this beginning of this year, he’s came out dozens of times and really has put a lot of fire under Eric and got him fired up and writing some pretty aggressive stuff, some really challenging stuff for Eric.”

Billy continued: “Chris is — he’s a young guy, 25 years old, a really fast, great drummer. So it’s given a little breath of some new life into the band and into the writing, really, which is exciting. We always write different things for every record, and once again, this is another TESTAMENT record that’s gonna have some new stuff that we’re exploring and stepping into. So we’re looking forward to this one.”

Asked if the new TESTAMENT material is “a progression from the last album,” Chuck said: “Yeah, but I think last record, I think I stayed in one vocal tone and range where this one, I’m doing a little bit of everything — some death metal vocals, classic TESTAMENT-style vocals. And then we actually have — I don’t wanna say ‘ballad’, but we have a slower song that has a lot of feeling. How’s that? [Laughs] And we haven’t done that in a long time. So, there’s a little bit of everything, but staying true to the band.”

Asked if he is writing all the lyrics for the new TESTAMENT songs, Chuck said: “I write most of them with — I’ve been writing with Del James. Del, he works with GUNS N’ ROSES. He’s been working with them and wrote with them a long time ago. I think he had big hits like ‘November Rain’ with them. And we’ve been working [together] for over 20 years. So I always go down and work with him because I come up with a lot of the ideas and concepts, but he really interprets and gets the right words, how to say what I’m thinking. And we work fast. When we get together, we’ll knock out like two songs in a day. So we don’t mess around. We get there, say hello to each other, we sit down and we go right to work. It’s about what we do.”

Chuck also talked about how TESTAMENT‘s songwriting approach has evolved in the last couple of decades. He said:  ”I honestly have to say after I beat cancer [more than two decades ago] and we had the original lineup back together, everything kind of changed because… We’ve always been in a friendly competition with other artists, watching what’s going on and who’s doing what. And I think around that point, once we got together and I felt like… I didn’t think I was gonna play music anymore, first of all, and once I had the chance to get back with the original band, I felt very blessed, like, ‘Wow, I’m getting an opportunity to do what I love to do again, but also with the guys I started with. It’s kind of odd that we’re gonna go back at this now, maybe try to finish something that we all started together.’ And once we did that, it was enjoying our company. We never fight. We never argue. It was just, like, relaxing. And the critics, we didn’t care what the press thought or a lot of people. I mean, we wrote for ourselves. So a lot of those records were just making us happy. The songs we were writing, we weren’t thinking about, ‘Okay, this has to be, for this,’ and ‘where’s our radio song?’ and ‘What’s the fans gonna think if we went and did a ballad?’ All that went out the door. And I think over the time, it’s really just about making good music, having fun at this point. And every record is a challenge ’cause you always wanna do better and make the next record sound better, have better songs. And I think where we’re at today, once again, especially having Chris, the new drummer, we are progressing. Me and Eric actually said, like, I don’t know, about three weeks ago, we were hanging out and like I said, the music’s pretty aggressive and we’re doing some heavy stuff, and he said, ‘Did you ever think, in our sixties, we’re gonna be playing thrash metal music, writing songs like this?’ And I’m, like, ‘Actually, no,’ but that’s a good thing that we still feel young at heart and young in our minds and still we’re not struggling to do it.”

In January, Skolnick told Radioactive MikeZ, host of the 96.7 KCAL-FM program “Wired In The Empire”, about the progress of the songwriting sessions for TESTAMENT‘s new LP: “Well, we got delayed a little bit by the fact that 2020 basically didn’t exist [due to the coronavirus pandemic]. It’s a year that went away. And then there was so much touring to make up for. And for about a year of that, we had Dave Lombardo [ex-SLAYER] on drums, which was fantastic. And he’s become a great friend and a great musician, but he’s also spread very thin in many different bands. And now we have Chris Dovas [playing drums with us]. And he’s a guy old enough to be any of our sons. But he is just unbelievable. He really brings the right energy. I mean, he brings the energy that the music had in the early days.”

Last August, Dovas was asked by Pod Scum if it was “unnerving” to step into a group whose list of previous drummers includes such heavyweights as Lombardo and Gene Hoglan. He responded: “It was, especially at first because I knew that a lot of eyes were on me, and also I looked up to the band since I was a kid. Especially Lombardo and Gene — those are two of my favorite drummers right there. So to be put in that situation of taking over for them, I felt like I had a lot of responsibility and a lot of… I felt like I had something to prove a little bit, and I’m still practicing a lot and I just wanna do the best that I can do. Right now I’m not really nervous anymore because I’ve done two full tours with them now and we’re working on the [new TESTAMENT] album and the friendship has been developing now and we all get along super well. They’ve welcomed me with open arms and it’s been great and the fans have been great. I’ve been putting hours and hours of practice into it to make sure that I can do the best that I could do. And I look up to Dave and I look up to Gene as well, so, yeah, I just wanna play the songs well live and keep making the band sound good.”

Asked what his role has been so far in the creative process for TESTAMENT‘s next album, Chris said: “I don’t know exactly what I’m allowed and what I’m not allowed to share yet, but what you’ve seen publicly, though, right now is that Eric and I have been working on a lot of stuff together. And so it’s been really cool to get into their brains, in a way, and how they write stuff. I’m used to people sending me tracks with scratch MIDI drums or programmed drums or something, and I’ve gotta put my drums to them and then hop on a Zoom call and we can edit things and move stuff around. But with them, Eric and I, he set a timer at one point for, like, 20 minutes and we would just jam random ideas. And then sometimes we’d make mistakes and stuff and that would be cool, and we could take that… It’s very organic, though, and it’s very involved, I guess. It’s a different way of writing and I’m super excited to be a part of that method of writing. And I could see why they’re so successful for all these years, now finally being a part of this current writing cycle, I guess.”

Prior to joining TESTAMENT as a full-time member, Dovas previously filled in for Lombardo on the first six dates of TESTAMENT‘s summer/fall 2022 leg of “The Bay Strikes Back Tour”.

Photo credit: Stephanie Cabral

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