Testament – The Formation Of Damnation (2008, Nuclear Blast)
- For The Glory Of…
- More Than Meets The Eye
- The Evil Has Landed
- The Formation Of Damnation
- Dangers Of The Faithless
- The Persecuted Won’t Forget
- Henchmen Ride
- Killing Season
- Leave Me Forever
Chuck Billy – Vocals
Eric Peterson – Guitars
Alex Skolnick – Guitars
Greg Christian – Bass
Paul Bostaph – Drums
Total Time = 49:40
It’s been nine long years since San Francisco Thrash legends Testament released THE GATHERING (1999) but the band has remained in the public’s eye: vocalist Chuck Billy fought and won his battle with cancer, Eric Peterson formed Dragonlord, Alex Skolnick kept his solo career alive, and Greg Christian played with Havochate for one album. Testament released FIRST STRIKE, STILL DEADLY in 2001, an album of re-recorded songs from the first two Testament albums, and LIVE IN LONDON in 2005 as a document of the band getting back together after so many years and a reunion with the original lineup. Still, even though they were still active, fans all over wanted a new record.
Testament does what Testament does: they play old school Thrash with high energy and pure musicianship. Chuck can growl with the best of them and sing aggressively clean and the guitar attack of Skolnick & Peterson has to be one of the best put to record this year. These two guitarists shred and solo all over this album that would make some other (former) Thrash guitarists (Hetfield & Hammett) quake in fear. I think the Jazz/Fusion music that Skolnick creates with his Alex Skolnick Trio keeps him fresh for creating heavy Thrash riffs. Of course there’s also the tight and driving rhythm section that includes the thumping bass provided by Christian and the precision rapid fire double bass attack of Paul Bostaph (Slayer) on the kit. Put all these elements together and you get a monster machine battering your ears!
‘For The Glory Of…’ opens up as a quick heavy insturmental and leads right into ‘More Than Meets The Eye’. If there were any doubts that this new offering from Testament would be in the same line as their mid to late ’90s records then they should be erased. Chuck growling, the guitars riffing and soloing, and the backline galloping with precision. This is what I want to hear! Right away the band throws the gauntlet down and challenges all the current bands out there. ‘The Evil Has Landed’ (inspired by the unfortunate events of 9/11) continues the battering and adds some melody while the title track speeds things up and Chuck goes for the old school Death/Thrash growl.
‘Dangers Of The Faithless’ slows the pace down a bit but maintains it’s heaviness until the Metallica-esque chorus while the opening of ‘The Persecuted Won’t Forget’ signals another old school speed machine that has some very interesting drumming and guitar lines, maybe Akolnick’s Jazz/Fusion influences showing underneath a little? This song is in the same direction of later Testament on albums like DEMONIC (1997) & THE GATHERING (1999) but in the context of this album it works better. My favorite so far is ‘Henchman Ride’…..you’ve got to hear Bostaph’s kit smash around those licks to believe it. Great fast driving song with a big chorus and then a frenetic mid-section with some absolutely amazing solos!
There’s a late ’90s groove to ‘Killing Season’ that I can’t put my finger on but it sounds like I’ve heard it before, the twin leads are solid though. ‘Afterlife’ would be a European Power Metal song with less aggressive vocals. I could hear the Hammerfalls and Primal Fears of the world doing this song with the higher soaring vocals over the top of the blistering riffs that are present. ‘F.E.A.R.’ is a speed showcase until it slows for the chorus, the drumming is insane making you wonder how many arms Bostaph actually has. The last song, ‘Leave Me Forever’, pounds (literally) the music home and Chuck uses that growl to perfection.
Not only is THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION the album that Testament fans have been waiting for, it’s the album that sets the standard for Thrash bands this year. The last few Testament albums were considered too modern but this new record blends both the newer Thrash elements with the old school ’80s glory years. Seriously, if Metallica released this album, we would calling it a return to form…..so Testament has thrown down the gauntlet and set the standard high for Thrash Metal with this awesome record. It’s heavy as hell with searing solos and artillery styled drumming, what more could you want? One of the best albums this year!
Favorite Tracks: ‘Henchman Ride’, ‘More Than Meets The Eye’, ‘The Evil Has Landed’, Killing Season.