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Testament, "Return To Serenity"

After 1990, the Bay Area rock scene rather quickly retreated to the underground. As we went to The Stone (San Francisco), One Step Beyond (Santa Clara?), and The Omni (Oakland), you could feel that dying-on-the-vine vibe. It was a 1-2-3 punch of the earthquake aftermath, changing musical tastes, and the recession.

The summer of 1992 was really the last time my friends, in any larger numbers, went to concerts. Bay Area thrash kings Testament had a new album, The Ritual. Even when they weren't performing, their album was played at the three clubs above, before bands would come on stage.

One thing Testament never really did well was the ballad. The Ritual's "Return To Serenity" was a decent effort, but with mixed results. Still, when we wanted to dial it back a notch or two, "Return To Serenity" fit the bill.

The Omni was somewhere near 48th & Shattuck. It felt like it was up against Highway 24. You felt kind of trapped. I usually went with 3 or 4 guys, and individually or collectively, we always felt like we were going to get punked or mugged. But a-ha! When we were able to get 1 to 3 girls, all of a sudden, we had strength in numbers. The guys didn't want the girls to get grabbed or harassed, so we were on heightened alert. We were even more confident, when Marissa (Megadeth were among her favorites), who was good at martial arts, joined us.

Interestingly, when we saw thrash or death metal acts, the fans were least threatening to each other. To this day, I've always felt that Motley Crue concerts had the largest percentage of violent assholes.

The calmer "Return To Serenity" was a song which was suitable for mornings. One fine Saturday morning, some of us decided to venture back out to Oakland. During daylight, that area near The Omni [I think it's now called "Temescal"] was completely different. Obviously, being able to see helped. But we discovered that there was actually commercial activity in that neighborhood, which breathed life to the streets.

For those of you who were in Oakland 25 years ago, help me out here. My friends and I felt that the McDonald's on Telegraph and 46th was the anchor. But there was a triangular block, on which a Kasper's hotdog diner lay. And then further up the block was an Easter cottage, housing a Hooper's Candies store. Whatever happened to them? What else was nearby?

If Testament's thrash was this area at night, then "Return To Serenity" was the same area during the day. It was kind of peaceful. Moreover, for my friends who were Cal students, venturing to the Temescal was a nice excursion away from campus. From there, we could make a run towards Oakland Tech, up to Pleasant Valley Avenue, and even Piedmont. One time, we ended up at Fenton's Creamery!

Today, real estate is much more expensive than it was, 25 years ago. Even when my friends and I play "Return To Serenity" in our cars, as we cruise these Oakland neighborhoods, we don't feel the connection with that magical summer of 1992. Ah, gentrification.

However, today's teens often use keyboards, to play their versions of "Return To Serenity." Some of these kids make that song sound better/more beautiful than the original! Of that original version, my college roommate from the 92/93 school year recently remarked, "He [lead singer Chuck Billy] still sounds like he's singing into a toilet bowl."

-Lummy The Loch Monster

Edits: 06/21/17 06/21/17 06/21/17

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Topic - Testament, "Return To Serenity" - Luminator 22:39:00 06/21/17 (2)


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