All Saints' Testament: What You Need To Know
In recent years there has been no shortage of bands and pop groups who enjoyed their best years in the 1990s getting the band back together for another shot at the big time, but even amongst a list of reunions that includes a stylistic spectrum of acts running from Steps to The Breeders, it's probably fair to say the reformation of All Saints came as one of the most surprising. This is, after all, the group who famously jacked it all in as the result of an argument over who got to wear a certain jacket for a photo shoot.
But reform they did, first dipping a collective toe in the water with a handful of live appearances before burying all manner of hatchets and heading back into the studio to record their first album in over a decade, Red Flag, which arrived in 2016 and was met with a generally positive – if muted – reception.
Two years on, the all-girl R&B group are back with a follow-up and today they unleash their fifth full-length studio album, Testament. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Following the release of their comeback album in 2015, the four-piece comprising Shaznay Lewis, Melanie Blatt and sisters Nicole & Natalie Appleton embarked on the group's first headline tour in more than 15 years, tackling a string of live dates before hopping onto Take That's Wonderland tour as support act a year later.
By March 2017 the group were back in the studio working on a follow-up and the new album was announced along with its title in May this year.
Who's producing it?
Production duties on the album are shared between William Orbit, George Moore and longtime producer Karl “K-Gee” Gordon, who also acts as executive producer on the new album. There are also contributions from Grammy-winning producer Fred Ball and Peter 'Hutch' Hutchings.
Any special guests?
Nope, it's just the four group members here.
What does it sound like?
After more than a decade away, Red Flag was an admirable comeback record on which the girls' voices locked together as well as they ever did, but in places – particularly toward the album's second half - it was also obvious that the group had to tackle the same problem facing any reunited band returning after a lengthy hiatus: how to make a record that sounds fresh and relevant in today's climate without sounding like a throwback or, at the opposite end of the same stick, chasing stylistic trends?
There's a little bit of wrestling with that question here too – 'Don't Look Over Your Shoulder' owes more than a little to Frank Ocean's 'Super Rich Kids', for example – but generally on Testament, All Saints come up with a much better answer, sounding much more confident in the face of their own legacy.
The spoken word section on 'Who Do You Love' seems like a knowing nod to their hit 'Never Ever' and there are plenty of others tunes that put a fresh spin on the group's signature sound, but it's on songs like the soaring 'Love Lasts Forever' and the soulful 'Three Four' that the girls really begin to hit their stride and 'Glorious' is All Saints at their most anthemic, even if its uplifting vibe feels a little out of place on an otherwise quite gritty-sounding record. William Orbit's presence is also keenly felt on 'After All', another of the album's standout moments.
Does it deliver?
Despite their history of volatile inter-group relationships, All Saints always had in Shaznay Lewis something that many of their peers never did: real songwriting talent. That's what makes their comeback more viable than most and on Testament Lewis and her bandmates have really settled back into their groove. If Red Flag left you a little underwhelmed, don't give up on All Saints just yet because Testament might just be the record that restores your faith.