The Formation of Damnation

After a nine year studio silence, the Bay Area legends Testament have given us The Formation of Damnation – a 10 song (11 with intro) thrash opus that delivers quality just as you would expect.As for the direction they’ve taken this time out, band founder and mainstay Eric Peterson mentioned before the release that it would be a little more reminiscent of their early work, mixed with some of the elements and intensity of their last studio album, The Gathering, and I couldn’t agree more.

┬áThe death metal elements that the band has played around with on their last three outings have been taken back a good deal and instead have been replaced with a more classic Bay Area and early Testament trademarked sound – Peterson’s riffs are as potent and memorable as ever before (I don’t think he even knows how to write an average or so-so riff) and the bass work of returning original member Greg Christian are the perfect compliment to them. Speaking of returning members, guitar god Alex Skolnick provides some ripping solos, and drummer Paul Bostaph (who has filled in for the band live twice in the past) kills the kit with precision and fury as he has done with every other project he’s played with. Vocally, Chuck Billy has stepped back somewhat from the low end growls that have permeated his performances over the last three albums to deliver a more traditional one, though a bit deeper.

After a brief intro titled “For the Glory of…” (which honestly should have just been a part of the following track), “More Than Meets the Eye” takes hold, immediately screaming TESTAMENT! with mid paced stomping thrash riffing, and mostly classic Billy vocals with a few growls thrown in for good measure. The self titled track hits like a ton of bricks – it could have been a left over track from The Gathering as it would easily slip into that albums track-list with it’s extremely aggressive riffing, drumming and Billy’s vocal performance. “Dangers of the Faithless” slows things down considerably, showing a bit more groove which brings to mind parts of Low and really allows for some great melodic and more laid back lead work from Skolnick. “The Persecuted Won’t Forget” is arguably the albums fastest, intense and downright mean track with constant drum battery and ferocious riffing, and of course a scorcher of a solo from Skolnick. “Henchman Ride” and “Killing Season” both drip with mid paced thrash groove and the former has a short, simple chorus that etches itself into your brain after just one listen. “F.E.A.R.” is another barn-storming thrash assault through the verses, but then slows down for the chorus. Album closer “Leave Me Forever” is the closest thing we get to a ballad, with some very mellow, ballad-like verses that see Billy experimenting with his vocals a bit as they’re bordering on being spoken word/whispered almost, but later on it gets heavy and crushing with the growls making an appearance.

Lyrically, things this time out are very personal it seems, best exemplified by “Afterlife”, which is about the passing of both Eric and Chuck’s fathers. “The Evil Has Landed” is a song about 911, which personally I can say for the first time about a Testament song, I cold have done with out. Musically it’s a killer, but being reminded of something that hits so close to home and brings on strong feelings of anger and sadness simultaneously is not something I care too much for in my metal, especially Testament. Possibly if the lyrics were veiled a bit more instead of so forward, it wouldn’t have bothered me as much. This is my only gripe on the album, and while I wouldn’t call it a minor one, it doesn’t take much away from the experience.

The Formation of Damnation has once again cemented why Testament is my favorite band – because they write some of the best thrash the world has ever seen, and they do it consistently. Like thrash? Like Testament? Buy this. Now. There’s no room for disappointment.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Larry "Staylow" Owens
May 2nd, 2008


  1. Commented by: Apollyon

    Can’t wait to get my copy in the mail; didn’t want to spoil myself by listening to any of the officially and unofficially released mp3s. The band’s yet to fail my expectations.

  2. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Excellent record. I disagree a little about “The Evil Has Landed.” I like a good gut-punch song every now and then, and I think the ability to draw those emotions out musically makes for a great song. I think the review’s dead on, though.

  3. Commented by: Dan Zidar

    Such a great album…

    “Afterlife” is the standout track to my ears.

  4. Commented by: Apollyon

    So I got this a few days ago. Took a while to adjust and realize what it was; a new Testament album. Been so long I was almost questioning its authenticity. It wasn’t as mind blowing on the first listen as I had hoped, but after the 2nd listen it’s starting to grow big time. Be that as it may, it’s still best ‘new’ thrash metal that I’ve heard in ages. Current favorite is the title track.

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