Review written by PAUL CASTLES

Whenever pints are raised to the heavens in recognition of the metal family’s so-called ‘Big 4’ the conversation will inevitably drift to who has the greatest claim to making it a ‘Big 5’.


It tends to be a fairly short-lived discussion, however, as few can offer up quite the same ironclad bunch of credentials as Testament.


The Bay Area thrash titans can go toe to toe with Metallica and Slayer any day of the week.


Testament are taking their latest offering ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ out on the road and while Chuck Billy and the gang aren’t able to command a crowd of Metallica – or even Slayer – proportions they did draw a healthy number of punters away from the fire on a bitterly cold night in the Black Country.


Anyone seeing Testament for the first time and wondering if the journey was worth the effort had their answer in spades the moment the Californian crew launched into ‘Rise Up’, the opening number from the latest album.


Chuck knew he had the fist-pumping faithful with him from the off when screaming ‘When I say Rise Up – You Say………………..’ and being answered with a crushing cry of ‘War’.


Testament have always lived their musical life in the fast lane and they immediately flipped back a decade and a bit to venomously thrash their way through ‘The New Order’ and ‘The Preacher’.


Billy is one of metal’s magical frontmen. Burley, brazen and with a voice stronger than a Venice Beach musclehead he is also a really genial guy, constantly throwing handfuls of guitar picks into the crowd’s outstretched arms, just like a kid would toss up confetti at wedding.


In his sleeveless leather jacket with ‘Oakland CA’, stencilled on the back, Billy could fit seamlessly into the biker gang on the American TV hit Sons of Anarchy.


Although Testament have three axe thrashers alongside Chuck, at times it looks like a four-man barrage of string with Billy’s fingers working his mic stand with the speed and dexterity of a champion Subbuteo player.


Testament may be renowned for being some of the fastest muthas around but ‘3 Days in Darkness’ showed their slower side is every bit as heavy, slapping on the sludge so thickly it was almost crawling off the stage.


The band recently scooped a best vid award at the American Indian Film Festival for their production of ‘Native Blood’, a song close to Chuck’s heart as it connects with his own indian heritage.


Live it came across with the same amount of fire and other stand out moments at the Wulfrun included ‘Practice What You Preach’, ‘More Than Meets the Eye’ and the closing ‘Formation of Damnation’.