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Testament – The Formation of Damnation

Label: Nuclear Blast USA
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: Rich Catino
It’s been almost ten long years since Testament released their last studio album “The Gathering” in 1999 and understandably so given the events and circumstances behind the delay. So there should be no excuse why “The Formation of Damnation” is not absolutely invigorating and crushing. Correct? Well, I can tell you being a long time listener that “Formation” is more than worth the wait and Testament fans new and old will be more than pleased.
Original lead guitarist Alex Skolnick and bassist Greg Christian are back in the band. Paul Bostaf (who’s work you may and should be familiar with from Forbidden, Exodus, and Slayer) is on drums joined long standing original members Chuck Billy on vocals and Eric Peterson on guitar. As a result, Testament have delivered a disc of inspired and re energized thrash for today’s metalhead.

Combining elements of their past with the brute force of their post 80’s works, “The Formation of Damnation” sees the band coming full circle as artists. Lead off instrumental “For the Glory Of” followed by the first unofficial single leaked to the internet “More Than Meets The Eye” will put a smile on your face as it did for me. “More Than Meets” has a classic “Practice What You Preach” gallop and spicy solo section where Skolnick goes nicely through his scales with his trademark pinches and squeals.

“The Evil Has Landed” surely does land with “New Order” Skolnick/Peterson twin leads and equally devastating rhythm section (with a nice snap to the drums thanks to Andy Sneap’s excellent mix) to carry out the tracks end of days toned delivery. And you know all those great growls Chuck Billy is known for? Well, instead of over doing them like we heard on “Demonic”, he places them at the right times for effect, here as he says “When evil flies our way”. Chuck’s bark has always been as big as his bite which no longer I am happy to say, is being over used.

Chuck does go for the throat with a full on death metal vocal for the title track which works just fine and appropriate but it’s the only track done this way. As I said before, this album sees the band coming full circle musically and Eric Peterson’s “Gathering” swarm of bees sounding riffs take center stage for the pounding brutal song. Even the break down section is very reminiscent of “Demonic” and a perfect addition the albums inspired feel of reinvigorated creativity.

“Dangers of the Faithless”, written by Skolnick, is a little more melodic and progressive in arrangement with a great verse groove bringing the band in composition back to “The Ritual” as does “Afterlife” and “Leave Me Forever” with its beginning funky bass line could have fit on “Low”. Eric’s “Gathering” rapid fire riffing makes its return for “The Persecuted Won’t Forget” as does some of Chuck’s harsher vocal. The track, as many, offers composition changes keeping the listener interested.

“The Henchmen Ride” brought me back a bit to “The Legacy” in the melody lines for the chorus and Alex’s solo is very “Souls of Black” in nature. Speaking of Alex, he has not played on a Testament record since 1992 and here his playing is fresh sounding and relevant as ever. At times very much like “Practice” in his tone and technique. Delving in other music styles like jazz and the Christmas holiday themed Trans Siberian Orchestra has really broadened his scope given his talents a larger pallet to work from.

Unlike many from the 80’s plagued with creative stumbling blocks after the decade and an inability to live up to their past (like peers Metallica, Anthrax), Testament are making music that is as good and challenging as their loved and respected legacy.

I look forward to the next album. “Formation” will be in my top three for the year easily.
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