testament-chuck@ Newcastle o2 Academy, July 22 2009

When the mood takes you it’s time for some serious thrash metal. And if you’re in the mood then there’s no better band on the planet to take you there than Testament.

Veterans of the Bay Area Thrash scene and boasting a brilliant new record to complement their uncompromising back catalogue, the US band are on a roll. And just months after upstaging headliners Megadeth at Newcastle’s Academy,  Chuck and his chums were back on Tyneside to blow away the assembled masses. Or at least that was the idea.

For 20 minutes it was impossible to hear a word Testament’s larger than life frontman was singing as his vocals were lost in a truly shocking mix. Just minutes earlier support band Onslaught had sounded so much better on the back of a far shorter soundcheck.

Not until the classic Practice What You Preach commanded the PA was Billy suitably audible and that meant Over The Wall was a huge disappointment for fans who’d been milling around the venue since lunchtime. A standout track during that stunning Megadeth support set, it was dogged by one of the most desperate mixes in living memory.

Thankfully the sound was sorted midway through PWYP and a typically raucous show followed. With pits not seen since Machine Head’s Newcastle Arena slots on the Slipknot and Metallica tours, the atmosphere was electric – ironically enough never more so than throughout the cranium crunching Electric Crown.

Burnt Offerings was a brilliant reminder of what old school thrash metal really meant to its devoted congregation more than two decades ago and the title track from the band’s current record, Formation Of Damnation, pre-empted the most passionate pit of the night, such is its obvious class.

But for the majority of the generation-spanning crowd present there was one song and one song alone which represented the highlight of a magnificent night of no-holds-barred live music. Souls Of Black may have been composed at a time when thrash was reputedly in a state of terminal decline but in 2009 it sounds like the best heavy metal song ever written. Bar none.

With the promise of a new record in 2010 these are heady times to be a Testament fan. Enjoy it while it lasts.