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Let’s get one thing out the way first. I want my thrash metal to be fast, vicious, and brutal. If it’s not fast, vicious, and brutal, it had better be melodic and/or catchy. If it doesn’t fulfill any of these criteria, chances are I won’t like it very much.
In comes Testament’s latest album, “The Formation of Damnation”. In light of the preferences stated in the above paragraph, I’m afraid I might not be able to give the album a fair shake, but then again, music reviews are always to a certain degree subjective, so I won’t back down from the opinion I have reached over time.
“The Formation of Damnation” is a very top-heavy album with the best tracks all coming at the beginning. In fact, the impression the listener gets after spinning the first four songs (including a short intro that kicks things off in convincing fashion) is quite deceiving as these songs are all very good quality-wise. However, by the time track number five, “Dangers of the Faithless”, rolls around, the initial euphoria quickly gives way to disappointment. Sadly, of the last seven tracks on “The Formation of Damnation”, only the wildly entertaining “Henchman Ride” with its galloping riffing can match the quality of the first four while the rest is nothing more than largely forgettable, generic “modern” thrash.
Let my briefly clarify the “modern thrash” label I have just slapped on this record. Generally, the songs are based mostly on mid-tempo groove instead of high-speed shredding (with the exception of the few tracks pointed out above) and use only a rather limited amount of riffs and tempo changes. Sure, there are plenty of nice guitar solos delivered by well-known standout guitarist Alex Skolnick, and the drumming courtesy of Paul Bostaph is, of course, top notch. Another positive asset is the very crisp recording and mixing job handled by Andy Sneap, though this may be a point of contention as the album might sound just a little too polished for some people's liking. Oh, and it definitely is true that many of the albums recorded by Sneap over the last decade or so have a tendency to sound very much alike.
But overall, what the album sorely lacks is a certain killer instinct that I am always looking for in a thrash record. Instead of delivering some all-out aggression, “The Formation of Damnation” is mostly too controlled for its own good and, in spite of the flawless musical performance, frequently has that generic going-through-the-motions feel to it. I just fail to see the artistic statement the band is trying to make here, and if they indeed tried to make one, the album falls short in too many areas for it to be taken very seriously.
In conclusion, while calling it bad would be too harsh of a verdict, “The Formation of Damnation” most of all is painfully mediocre with only four really good songs (plus a short but sweet intro) out of a total of eleven. To make matters worse, it ends in a very unsatisfactory manner with the particularly lackluster trio of “Afterlife”, “F.E.A.R.” and “Leave Me Forever”. Trimmed down to the four or five worthwhile songs, this would have made an awesome EP, but as it stands, the album can only be recommended to long time fans of the band.
Choicest cuts: More Than Meets the Eye, The Evil Has Landed, Formation of Damnation, Henchman Ride.
Testament is one of the more melodic thrash metal bands. They haven't always stayed true to their genre though. We all know that thrash pretty much dissapeared in the 90's. We all know about the awful Load and Reload. Testament decided to take the train of death metal, instead of trying to play groove metal or grunge. This may have been a smarter decision than a lot of other thrash bands, although I didn't like Testament's death metal stuff. I guess that the guys in Testament knew that thrash was coming back, and so they wanted to be a part of it too. Well, did they actually manage to become one of the great thrashers again? The answer is, YES!
I know that there's a lot of different opinions about this album. However, I don't quite understand what people think is so awful about it. There was one guy who thought Chuck Billy's vocals were so damn awful compared to his earlier days. Well then. I'm going to try to explain my opinion on exactly that case. Chuck Billy has been through many different phases. At first, he was a young thrash metal vocalist who could sing half-good, and had some pretty damn amazing screams here and there. As time flew by, Chuck started to change his style. On The Ritual, he tried to have a more melodic approach to his vocals. I think that he actually managed to do this pretty well. He then came to realize that Testament was starting to become more of a hard rock band, and immediately tried to change that, by learning how to use his death metal voice. They showed that they could still play metal on Low. However, on 97's Demonic, things went too far in my opinion. Testament just doesn't fit the genre of death metal. That's just not them, and I think they realized this too, as they quickly got more back to their thrashing style on The Gathering. Here, they combined their vicious thrash stuff with the newer death metal material. This worked out pretty well, except for some songs on The Gathering, which I thought wasn't good enough. Then Chuck got cancer, and Testament had to take a little break. They wanted to release a new album, but it was just delayed again and again, until they finally made it in 2008. They have had a lot of time to write all these amazing songs, and edit them to make them sound the best they can. What was I talking about again? Oh, Chuck's vocals. It seems as he has practiced his melodic singing a lot since The Gathering. I was pretty impressed by his singing in songs like The Persecuted Won't Forget, and Killing Season. It almost sounds like he's using auto-tune, but don't worry, cause I've listened closely, and he doesn't use that! In my opinion, he is the guy that stands most out on the album. He certainly does a better job than James Hetfield did on Death Magnetic (although James' vocals weren't too shabby either). Well anyway, Chuck does an amazing job here. He keeps the melody going, with beautiful slides between the notes, as well as some death metal grunts here and there. Actually, the title track is only death metal vocals through the whole thing, although I look at it as a thrash song.
Alex has returned to his guitar duties! This was a good thing! Something I find interesting about this album is that the riffs aren't like they used to be on the older Testament albums. Have you for example heard a riff similar to the on ein the beginning of The Persecuted Won't Forget? This shows more of their variety of riffs, and opens up possibilities of even more interesting melodies than they had on their old 80's albums. The songs also have a lot more different riffs than you would expect from Testament. The older Testament albums had songs that kept the same riffs going for too long some times. This album is something completely different, as songs changes tempo and riffs very often. The most clear examples are The Persecuted Won't Forget and Henchmen Ride. The last one mentioned suddenly changes into a really thrashy song after the verse has been played several times. Same goes for The Persecuted Won't Forget, as it changes after the second "chorus." Testament has always been good at playing solos too. However, the solos were never the same without Alex to play them. He does an amazing job on this album, keeping the listener entertained and interested in what's going to happen next. You all know that many guitarists fail to do this while playing solos. Kirk Hammett is a perfect example. He is starting to sound more and more like Slayer's Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, who just plays something random (although this is what Slayer is all about).
Paul Bostaph does a really good job at the drums, like he always does. He saved Slayer when Lombardo quit, and saved Testament now. He can do all the basic stuff you expect a metal drummer to be capable of, unlike Lars Ulrich, who does an awful job on the drums. I really don't understand how Metallica can have such a bad drummer. He is just so fucking gay! Anyway, Bostaph does a great job at keeping the songs tight and in rhytm. I epsecially love his thrashy playing in Henchmen Ride, as it is some of the fastest stuff he plays on the whole album! By the way, I should just note here that the bass is not audiable, so there's nothing special to say about that.
I've still got some last words to say though. I don't get why a lot of people don't like this album if they didn't like Testament's old stuff. Is it because of the clean production? Is it because Chuck Billy has become a better singer? I just don't seem to get it. However, you will most probably like this album if you liked Testament's old stuff. Give this album your full attention, and listen to all the intelligent melodies, riffs and vocal lines. This is an album you don't wanna miss!
Nine years of studio album silence is the longest time interval in Testament history. There were many handicaps (personal, musical, health dangers…). But at last the band had controlled himself and recorded an album “The Formation Of Damnation” for a new label. My love to the band started after listening to their first album “The Legacy” in 1991 and this thrash masterpiece is my favorite recording till today. My appetite was stimulated by the previous successful album “The Gathering”. And I thought: “Murphy is changed by maestro Skolnick!”. In fact the best message in last ten years! But this isn’t the only change. No Lombardo and DiGiorgio means return of Bostaph and Christian on the board. I read many interviews after releasing the album. The new work had to be a mix of two albums “The New Order” and “The Gathering”, what is more “The Formation…” had to be heavier than “The Gathering”. Very courageous theories. The question is: did Testament members (Billy/Peterson) tell the truth?
Yes, let’s have look on the front cover. At last great artwork! After very average covers (Demonic/The Gathering) Testament showed really something good to the metal world. And what about the music? The album is opened by great one minute guitars/drums intro which should be a thrash song! This one is uncomplete. What else? I have to be a guardian of honest confessions. Album ends after this first track. It is very hard to write but album starts to resurrect with song number eight. The title “Killing Season” is the best song on this album. It has a middle tempo and incredibly broken structures, everything is beautied by excellent Skolnick lead, for me it is a kind of technical thrash metal. Billy sings in his own fascinating style with no growling. In turn the next song “Afterlife” is not such a complicated track, but it is faster and coherent with surprising lead guitar. “F. E. A. R.” doesn’t relieve a tension, this song is composed by Skolnick himself, mid-tempo structures with perfect chorus. And again excellent vocals and guitars work. The last one called “Leave Me Forever” is something new for Testament. Balladic stanzas with pulsating rhythm section turn to vehement sounding of chorus, the great ideas for the end.
Only four songs seem to save the situation. Unfortunately the compositions with numbers from 2 to 7 are very average to remember about it as a classic production of Testament. It’s very hard to severalise something remarkable. Only negative feelings around me. The title track is a just fast song with all-time-growls and it is a good but for “Demonic” album. It does not fit here. Let’s continue. “Dangers Of The Faithless” contains of some strange vocals experiments what makes this song totally horrible. “The Persecuted Won’t Forget” has an immense opening which becomes a boring, slow riff. Well, the first impression was really favourable. Beautiful, luxurious digipack with… content-free. I have to declare that this album is the weakest Testament recording so far. Not only compositions but also production (recorded/engineered by Sneap/Wojno, mixed by Sneap) is very sterile and such unexceptional and expressionless for today. The undisputed fact is Chuck Billy is a superb vocalist (maybe my favorite...) and this work is confirmation of my opinion (except things I mentioned above). Skolnick comeback made more melody in songs structures and guitar leads, Peterson seems to revived himself, I really like his performance on this album. Much worse is the drum work. The musicians said that Bostaph had again recorded drums (Nick Barker was the previous drummer) and what can I say? This is the weakest element in puzzle. Very simple and schematic playing with wretchful production, where is Paul Bostaph I know? Only the best song “Killing Season” affords satisfaction to me, it is like a recollection from the great unforgotten Forbidden times. In my opinion nothing is true in earlier announcements which I wrote above. “The Formation Of Damnation” is only mediocre product with two or three fine songs. That is truth each track contains of excellent guitar solo leads by Skolnick and Peterson, just the other way about “The Gathering” album. But notwithstanding Alex is onboard, there is no mastership.
To end this critical review I hope the band will record the album in the vein of the old times, for example mix of “The Legacy” and “The Gathering”. The album I will put on the shelf with pride just beside “The Legacy”. Is it possible? I hope so.
Hey, kids, have you ever wondered how to make your own lifeless corpse of a Thrash Metal band, with no vitality or relevance in the modern world at all? Have you pined in your bed at night for the perfect formula to take relatively decent riffs and completely fuck up the actual songwriting process that would use them in the studio? Have you ever just felt in the mood for some of the most pedestrian, un-threatening metal music there can be? Well, being the generous and wonderful person I am, I have decided to construct this tutorial for those of you who just can’t live without it. People, this is the How To guide for making a lame Thrash comeback album, and the example we will use today is Testament’s The Formation of Damnation.
The first road to getting there is to give up all your hopes and dreams. That’s right! Just…throw the useless things out the window. Devote yourself wholly to making money and pandering to people who don’t really care about music beyond what was only very marginally underground 20 years ago. With your crushed spirit, you will rise above the mediocre and petty aspirations of soulful and meaningful music and be able to craft the dull hacked up shash you always dreamed of! Joyous.
The second step is to get your band. Testament has an overgrown hunk of armpit hair shouting like a Neanderthal, a guitarist and drummer who are playing below their talent level and a whole lot of meaningless arrogance and swagger. Perfect formula for any band who don’t feel like putting in the effort to make powerful, lasting impressions on their listeners.
If you really want to suck, try to make your music…unbelievably shallow, and uniformly bland in every way. Like Testament’s The Formation of Damnation again! The guitars chug and flail around with a lot of gusto but little substance or actual, real aggression, dropping the volume significantly whenever Chuck Billy decides that the music is worthy of his talents – and it will be quite often, because clearly HE is the most important part of the band, and not the guitars or the drums at all. And hey, have you noticed that every passage with his vocals in it sound like…something that would play when a phony WWF wrestler enters the ring, trying to look tough? The evocation of this atmosphere is so flawlessly executed that I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Take notes, people. Take notes.
I mean, just witness the sheer lack of trying on every single track as they pander only to the bare minimum of what people expect from Thrash, never breaking the mold or making anything that makes a statement or sounds strong in the least. Listen as every single song plays out like a grocery list of what Thrash is supposed to be – they aren’t doing these things because they want to, they’re doing them because it’s expected of them. That is what it sounds like, at the very least. Yup, there’s the song with the acronym for a title, even though it doesn’t seem to actually spell anything. There’s the song about 9/11, the one singing against Christianity and the one about love. Are there a few songs about the New World Order, talking about fascist governments and rebellion against them? You bet! The band’s dedication to tried-and-true subject matter is admirable. Pfft. Imagination and creativity are not needed in order to…uh, well, create something. Why fix what isn’t broken, after all? Just stick to the clichés and your album will be one of the most silly, irrelevant pieces of crap out there. Wonderful.
If you want to know exactly how to add the right vocal flavoring to your mess of redundancy, listen to Chuck Billy on this album. Be amazed at his absolutely terrible, grating tone, and listen in wonder as he constipates and gruels his way through all ten songs. You might notice that he has absolutely no sense of, well, being listenable at all, and that nothing he sings does anything but rob the music of emotion and make it naught but a complete joke. Isn’t this just absolutely charming in every way? Perfect for those of you out there who want to go the extra mile with making a crappy album.
Well, there you go. Now you know how to make your own soulless corporate slave-album just like Testament. No emotions, no fun, just unbelievable laziness and pain on every level. For extra points, try and ride on nothing but hype for a decade in between releases. Don’t worry, countless morons with money in their pockets will buy it anyway. You will be set for a while, and when you’re out of cash, you can always just make another album and be set for another eight or nine years straight. Have fun creating your banal pile of mind-numbing idiocy, and I hope to be reviewing your album someday. You can leave your thank-you cards at the door.
Testament have been a band who have everything i look for in a band but somehow they never totally impressed me. They have the right approach to making thrash metal, Rather than the nonsensical approach of bands like Vio-lence, They have more emphasis on song-writing and catchy choruses you can actually sing along with. Chuck billy is a fantastic vocalist only when he keeps himself in check rather than go ballistic and try every vocal style in the book as in 'Demonic' and 'Low'.
The band is quite clearly influenced by Metallica, I'm not making this up. Infact, Chuck billy and Alex skolnick have expressed their respect for metallica and admitted to have been heavily influenced by them (Any real testament fan would know this). They also slammed metallica when St. Anger came out. They are influenced by the right bands, Which is a good thing. Unlike bands like 'Dark angel' who focused on sheer brutality to please a bunch of loyal blind fans who could care less about song-writing. They are one of the 'big 7' of thrash metal in my book.
This now brings us to 'TFOD', Testament's comeback, Alex is still as good as he once was. He is of a similar mould to kirk hammett, But only far more consistent. His soloing is easily one of his strong points and he has a great sense of style. Paul bostaph has always been a competent drummer, He can duel with the best of the best. He is probably the most well famous member in the band.
I am not totally convinced by the first track "More than meets the eye", Which has chuck billy using his 'Low' vocal style, His vocals are just way too loud and it all feels forced and unneeded. "The evil has landed" is the best track on this album, personally. The lyrics describe the events of 9-11, The chorus is catchy, This is testament at their best, Remember 'alone in the dark'. The guitarwork is heavy and is completely free of the filler material on the rest of the album. The title track is the most annoying song on the whole album. Chuck billy is at his irritating best as he uses a pseudo-death metal vocal style which only he seems to like. It's very hard to enjoy the guitarwork in the background thanks to his voice overshadowing everything else.
There is a lot of filler on this album but the album is ultimately saved by a few surprisingly good ones. "Henchman ride" is not totally bad except for some annoying vocal lines. This is where the sound their most thrashy. "Killing season" is like the black album done wrong. It's just totally filler and was probably an afterthought. The song has a more upbeat feel and goes no where. The key to making songs like this is writing catchy lyrics. This album isn't really thrash, It lacks the good lyrics it should have. There is too many mid-paced sections which lead to no where.
The biggest problem i have with the album is Chuck billy, His voice just overshadows everything else. Chuck billy still has some really good moments. He sounds very good on "Afterlife". In my opinion, That's how he should be singing on all songs. He completely eases over the "When my father passed away" part. Leaving a good impression. Skolnick is excellent but he can't save this one. Paul bostaph just breezes through the album without making any impact. The big positive on this album is the excellent production. The guitars sound pretty sharp, The drums are completely free of 'clicks' or the 'dong clong' of Lars ulrich's drums. 'F.E.A.R' is a real strong point. Skolnick's soloing is second to none. He is an excellent stand alone musician and can easily carry an album. Billy sounds much more natural and he doesn't over-use and mix up all his vocal styles he used in the past.
Is this better than Death magnetic?. I am not completely sure. TFOD is much more consistent and there are no lagging mid sections on any songs. There is still a lack of conviction in the band. The weakest link in the album is chuck billy's new vocal styles. He's better off sounding natural as he did on 'The legacy' or 'Souls of black'. The album is repetetive, There is a lack of melodic slower sections which would've made this much more memorable. There are no breakdowns which break the monotony. This is still a pretty decent album and should please any Testament fan, Just don't expect another 'The legacy'.
Testament is an interesting band to look at, regardless of whether you like them or not. They've never been a band who alot of people have gone crazy over, and some even branded them as Metallica rip-offs. As much as I like the band, and most of their catalog, that branding does fit to an extent, particularly their late 80's releases. Unlike most bands of the caliber, Testament wasn't infected by the 90's Syndrome, which caused a good number of formerly respectable thrash bands to become walking embodiments of heavy metal suckage. Instead, Testament crafted a new identity for themselves, and proceeded to actually get more interesting as time went on.
In the 21st Century, Testament had seemed to run their course, particularly when Chuck Billy was diagnosed with a form of cancer in 2002. This undoubtedly had many Testament fans on edge, myself included because we didn't know if this band would get back. Sure enough they did, the end result was one of their stronger albums of the last fifteen years or so. "Formation of Damnation" is both the band's earlier days and later days meshed into one, albeit with more emphasis on the latter. Some of these songs reach into thrasher territory, but there is also a good deal of their 90's half groove half thrash style coming into play. This is not a bad thing in my eyes, because its been counterbalanced to a good degree by speedier moments. This might sound like your general "not quite" thrash band of the modern era, but rest assured, Testament do it better than most out there today.
As some have already said, one of the best things about this album is Alex Skolnick. While I didn't particularly dislike his replacements, nothing can substitute the original and this album proves that. Unlike the whole "-tallica" clone insult, Skolnick outclasses his percieved rival Kirk Hammett in almost every way possible, including his abilities as a stand alone musician. Skolnick's work is rather exceptional here, and it only reaffirms why I've stuck with this band for so long, as his work here is good on all fronts.
As I said before, the songs are sort of split between the groovers and the thrashers, and those that mix both. The faster songs are generally the better ones here, including "F.E.A.R.," "Killing Season," "Henchman Ride," and "The Persecuted won't Forget." The last song mentioned does include a little of the groove style, but again there is plenty of change-ups to keep things running smoothly. The songs that focus more on groove would include some like "The Evil Has Landed," "Afterlife," "More Than Meets the Eye," and "Dangers of the Faithless." Not all of these are straight-forward groove like Sepultura circa 1993, as they all possess other characteristics to keep the mid-tempo work from grounding them to a halt. As a bonus, Chuck Billy sounds far better here than Max Cavalera did on "Chaos A.D.," and delivers one of his better performances since his adoption of a more deep pitch growling style.
The one area I actually got stuck on was "Leave Me Forever." As a closing song, I expected something to really leave a good note behind, which is not what this does. This isn't really a throwaway track, but it strikes me as more of an afterthought than a real closer. The fact that Chuck Billy goes into something of a word salad fit with his gutteral vocals doesn't help out a thing.
On a final note to this album, it seems rather ironic that these guys got slammed as a Metallica clone. While that label was somewhat true, they had their own merit, and there were worse breeds of Metallica clones out there. Yet, in 2008, Testament actually came back after a nine year hiatus from releasing an album and knocked the hell out of Metallica. This was also the year of the grossly overrated "Death Magnetic," which wasn't entirely bad on its own, but "Formation of Damnation" is leagues better in almost every way that can be concieved. The production is far better, so is the singer's voice, so is the guitarist, and so are the songs. No seven minute jumbles of overlong sections and ideas worn too thin. It seems a little ironic that Testament would rise up and defeat the band they're so often compared to as ripping off, clearly winning out over that band's effort in the same year. Clearly, 2008 was the year of the underdog when considering these two bands who are often unfairly compared.
That being said, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed "Formation of Damnation." Its just about as good as "The Gathering" was, and trumps just about everything before that, except maybe "The Legacy," for the sake of its classic status. Still, in the world of halfway modern thrash that's going on these days, its good to hear an old guard who can still put those young bands to shame. I understand there is another Testament album in the works, and we can only hope it will continue to empower the band like this did. If you're looking for a good comeback album by a band too many people have underestimated, look no further than this.
TESTAMENT and I have a more associate-style connection than some other bands of their ilk. They've released some great albums, but also released their fair share of stinkers, depending on the era and your given mind-set. And this was one of the albums that I'd been on pins and needles about, primarily due to wondering how they'd be able to overtake the incredible "The Gathering"...and also to find out what kind of album would come to pass that takes so fucking long to concoct.
In the end, I was both wowed and floored.
I've taken the new thrash metal revival movement with a pensive interest; while I find it great that it's giving some second-tier folks new careers and long-overdue attention (TESTAMENT, EXODUS) and giving us newer acts that inject fresh blood into the style's veins (SKELETONWITCH), it's also spawns maddeningly horrid acts that do nothing but water down the punch bowl (WARBRINGER, LAZARUS A.D.), so it was with great interest that I procured "The Formation of Damnation". I feel this is what the band should've sounded like back in the 80s, that doing so would have given them the fair shake that was always out of reach. Old school thrash is the order of the day, but delivered in a wildly energetic and violent fashion, as though showcasing the band having an absolute ball of a time rattling off meaty, head-crushing riffs with no end in sight. Misters Peterson and Skolnik are at the top of their game, dipping into a seemingly endless well of guitars riffs, leads and solos that have been sorely missing over the years. The rest of the group caters to this cohesion with ease; Greg Christian plugging along, keeping the low end in full-time working order, Paul Bostoph showing that he still has what it takes to beat the ever-loving hell out of his drumwork (that his incredible stints in SLAYER haven't been forgotten), and Chuck Billy's growls and bellows are delivered with the same insurgent energy that's populated some of his better moments in past albums. When it all comes together, a better feast of metaldom has yet to surface, evidenced on tracks like "More than Meets the Eye", "Dangers of the Faithless" and "Killing Season", with guitars and bass o'plenty tempered with the fire that burned through the group during their "Gathering" era. However, what good is present is shadowed somewhat by songs like that slightly annoying "Henchmen Ride", seen more as mere flies in the ointment than horrific flaws in an otherwise solid release.
So in the end TESTAMENT again blow themselves out of the stagnant waters with "The Formation of Damnatiion", easily their best album in years. This bad boy will stick to your bones like nothing else, with a plenitude of staying power and intensity. Well done, fellas!
Numerous bands have issued new albums this year that were 'returns to form', after numerous years of hiatus. Metallica would be the most glaring example, but I'm surprised people have already forgotten about Testament's latest offering, the first in many years to have Alex back on the guitars. I'm even more surprised, because not only is it the best album these guys have released since The Ritual, but it's also one of the best pure thrashings we've had this year.
Things get heated immediately with the instrumental "For the Glory of..." and suddenly you are back in 1988, The New Order, but with a more modern sound, and what an excellent production. "More Than Meets the Eye" rages forward with an epoch of Chuck Billy whoah-oh-ohs and then a thrashing beat down. What the fuck? Where has this beloved Testament been all these years? Because this. is. AWESOME. Alright, alright, to be fair a lot of their 90s material was decent, but not nearly as consistent as this. Billy's voice is insane, Alex fits right back in as if he'd never left (the last full-length he was on with these guys was The Ritual, an amazing album and personal favorite, if a bit more mellow than most of their work). The next track "The Evil Has Landed" is more pure old school Testament, like it literally could have appeared on any of their first four albums.
But I haven't even arrived at "Henchman Ride" one of the best songs this band has ever produced in their entire career, with some inspirational, awesome lyrics. The song is called "Henchman Ride", and when you hear it you want to fucking obey. Get on your hog or your horse or whatever century you come from and ride into battle for your dark lords and masters.
Wait, have I made a mistake here, Watson? Is this a kinda pro-American song in an age of bitter, two faced media brainwashed liberal irony and dour condescension? I do believe it is, Dr. Holmes. This is a seriously amazing re-stoking of the furnace that was/is the prime of Testament. Energy, aggression, sick riffing, amazing tone, no apologies. And thank every god you praise for it, in 2008. Thrash until death, brothers.
For once it's refreshing to see a band's promise about a forthcoming release actually live up to how they hype that it will sound like.
Testament's 1st album of all new material in 9 years was billed by the band of having the songwriting style of their classic 80's material while featuring the much more aggressive playing style/production of 1999's The Gathering (which is still a most amazing album.) Well, that's what we got with The Formation of Damnation.
To be honest, this isn't as great of an album as The Gathering was, and this is coming from a long time fan who has been listening to the band since 1987. I still greatly appreciate their classic material but I felt that with The Gathering the band really reached their apex (depsite the fact that Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson were the only 2 original members left in the group by that point). But The Formation of Damnation is still a very good release that will please long time fans (of Bay Area thrash in particular) while not being quite as earth shattering as it needed to be to convert current audiences into new fans.
Song wise the album isn't as thrashy or as brutal as the Gathering with maybe the exception of the crushing title track. Writing wise a lot of this sounds like The New Order and Practice What you Preach styles with a more brutal guitar/drum attack. Chuck Billy still occasionally dips into his 90's death metal growl at times, but he doesn't do it nearly as much as he did during that period. He sings here much more in his older style and while his range isn't what it used to be he still turns in a tremendous performance. Returning original lead guitarist Alex Skolnick does his usual brilliant guitar work and drummer Paul Bostaph (who played on their Return to Apocalyptic City E.P.) does his always solid and fantastic drum work. Original bass player Greg Christian returns and I was a bit disappointed by how root oriented his playing was on this album, but it still does fit, just don't expect some of his memorable bass lines from yesteryear (with the exception being the final track Leave Me Forever which features a fantastic bass line throughout and was co-written by Greg Christian ironically enough). Eric Peterson still remains one of the most criminally underrated rhythm guitarists (who also can rip great leads) in all of metal and his riff work here is great as always.
Seeing as this is basically a new fresh start for this band, it should be interesting to see how they are able to build on this release as while not being their best work is still much better than a lot of people are probably expecting out of it.
This album does nothing and goes nowhere, which is par for the course with most '80s thrash bands, who are now trying to relive their former glory as thrash has become "retro cool."
In order to increase their street cred with fickle teenagers, Testament have added generic metalcore elements to their sound. We can assume nobody bothered to tell the band that their "cred" was never very impressive to begin with. At best, they were a respectable second division band. Never visionary enough to become heroes of the underground, and never infectious or charismatic enough to be assimilated into the mainstream. The band always boasted strong musicianship with decent lyrics and composition, but even these strengths have decayed with time.
The production of this album is also a point of contention. The sound is quite high gloss and heavily edited, feeling very digital. This is the antithesis of thrash, a music meant to be brash, unprofessional, and offensive to every sort of good taste. Instead of dedication and mature accomplishment, this shiny packaging reveals the band's loss of purpose and general thoughtless approach towards their craft. The only sources of inspiration here are Chuck Billy's medical bills.
And Billy's vocal performance is particularly yawn-inducing, feeling monotonous and thoroughly uninspired. I never thought I'd say that him, but his vocals display no variety whatsoever. Just one monotone line of grunting and sore throat shouting after the next. Eric Peterson is also a major offender, doing riffs that feel decidedly cut-and-paste. Yet worse are his long train of breakdown "pit stomp" riffs, calculated to excite idiot kids with cargo pants and suspenders, as they look for new music at Hot Topic. Where is Greg Christian? Did he even play on this album? At least Skolnick and Bostaph turn in strong performances. If it weren't for their playing, this recording would be unlistenable.
And the lyrics here are rather wretched as well. Consider this sample:
For now I am in control choosing my own fate
And now I sleep at night because I'm not afraid
My demons haunting me I chased them all away
I've conquered all my fears my destiny awaits
Congratulations, you've just rewritten Goodnight Moon. You have nothing profound to say, no original ideas, and your "destiny" involves getting drunk at the local Chili's while eating steak fajitas and impacting more red meat into your colon. Enjoy the life that you've chosen.
Testament seems to have hit upon a very interesting formula here. Here's how it goes -
Step 1 - Choose ten songs spread across the various phases of their existence
Step 2 - Play around a little with each song. Slow down the riff here, up the tempo there. Allow Skolnick to doodle all over the song. Slap hastily written lyrics on top of each song, and get Chuck Billy to sing in a voice that tries to get as close as possible to the voice he might have used on the original song.
Step 3 - Sort the new songs in descending order of how good they sound.
Step 4 - Release a much-awaited reunion album.
And does this formula work? Yes, and no. Yes, when you are listening to the album - especially the first half. Yes, because it makes you want to reach out for your favourite old Testament albums and give them a spin. And no, because after your first few listens to this album, you are never ever going to play it again. No, because not a single song will stay in your head, and every time you try to recall a song from this album, some other classic Testament song will start playing in your head.
But every now and then, they stray a wee bit from the above formula. 'More Than Meets the Eye' and 'The Evil has Landed' (if you can ignore the lyrics that read more like a news report) are both good mid-paced rockers that will get your head nodding in approval. 'The Persecuted Won't Forget' has some of Bostaph's finest drumming work. And 'Henchman Ride' can easily make it to a Top 10 'list of songs to listen to when you are biking down an empty highway', especially with lyrics about 'roaring engines', and going fast being a way of life.
It is because that deviations like these exist on the album that I have not completely trashed the album. And have given it a rating that is still slightly right of center. Testament, we quite enjoyed this 'Testament - Greatest Hits with all new songs' album you put out. Can we have the real new album, please?
It is an understatement to say that 9 years is a pretty long time to wait for a new album, so the plight of any die-hard Testament fan was probably nothing to be envied before this came out. A comparison could be made to what Guns n’ Roses fans have had to deal with while waiting for Chinese Democracy to finally be completed, combined with suffering through third rate grunge/rock courtesy of Velvet Revolver. Personality issues don’t fit the reasoning for Testament’s delayed release, but regardless of the cause of the stagnation, they have finally managed to put out something that their fans can sink their teeth into.
“The Formation of Damnation” doesn’t really listen like a 2008 thrash metal release because most of it was written long before now. Nothing underscores this better than the lyrics of “The Evil has Landed”, which lyrically sounds like it was written the very next day after September 11th, 2001. The modernistic tendencies of this brand of thrash definitely run parallel to their 90s material, although Chuck Billy’s vocals are not quite as guttural as before. Elements of Pantera/Metallica influenced groove metal still persist at times, but they’ve been scaled back to reasonable levels and make way for a respectable amount of speed and quality riffing.
There is a good deal of positive elements on here that put this slightly above most of their 90s material, the most obvious aspect being the line-up. Unlike Metallica and other bands these guys are accused of imitating, the principle focus is the lead guitar. Alex Skolnick outclasses both Hammett and both of Slayer’s lead attack men with a reserved blend of metal/rock sensibilities and moderated shred, somewhat similar in character to Dan Spitz, but with a fatter tone and a longer overall average duration. Highlight solos can be found on “The Persecuted Won’t Forget” and “Killing Season”, though the quality of the lead work is extremely consistent from start to finish.
Likewise, although there are still some remnants of the lackluster “The Ritual”, the songwriting approach has improved drastically on here. Some shades of the older, epic style that was heard on their 80s material occasionally pop up, although the band doesn’t really bother with acoustic material anywhere on here. “More than meets the eye” has a decent up tempo gallop feel to it, not quite a full fledged speed assault, but definitely a keeper. “The Persecuted won’t forget” goes in between a few Slayer-like dissonant harmonized riffs and a good variety of sectional changes during the middle section. “Henchman Ride” and “F.E.A.R.” actually don’t bother with much mid-tempo build up and represent the two purist manifestations of thrash on here, loaded with speed and aggression.
Naturally like any modern thrash release, regardless of how much reaching back there is, some extremely lame ideas creep their way into some songs. “Leave me alone” has this really stupid section at about 2:15 where Chuck just starts growling nonsense in perfect rhythmic unison with the rest of the instruments. It is almost as bad as that stupid “I am the judge and I’m slamming my gavel down” part of “Dirty Window” was, and mostly likely was inspired by Metallica’s 2003 musical abortion. Fortunately Testament elected not to copy the ridiculous production sound of said album. There are also some weak groove-oriented sections in other songs, particularly “Dangers of the Faithless” and “Afterlife”, that are dwelled upon for too long, but most of the extremely bad moments are minimized to just the closing song, which really does drag down the ending of what is otherwise a mostly solid album.
This doesn’t quite fall into the category of a great comeback like MegaDeth’s “United Abominations”, but it definitely outclasses a lot of what older bands in the thrash scene have been up to of late. Testament were always a tiny bit behind the curve in comparison to their forefathers, but they’ve managed to maintain the positive elements of their sound on here and have provided something that is worthy of the thrash audience’s attention. If you like good aggressive thrash with jagged edged vocals, a good heavy/modern production, and can tolerate a small helping of mid-tempo groove from the early 90s; this will be worth your time.
After the lame duck release by thrash giants Death Angel earlier this year I personally thought that maybe just maybe 2008 wasn't exactly the year of thrash. I have never been happier to admit that I was wrong. Not just merely wrong but gargantuan wrong.
Well as I said that after the lame release by Death Angel earlier this year I was excited that one of my favourite thrash bands Testament was releasing their new album, but also scared of the fact that if they released something nearly as bad as Killing Season by Death Angel it would ruin their image as thrash giants and in today's music related environment lose a lot and I mean a LOT of respect. Now onto the actual review.
The album starts of with a small 2 minute long cool and sort of symphonic but blasts into the track "More Than Meets The Eye". This is simply put one hell of a song and one of the best on the album. Then comes "The Evil Has Landed" and while hearing the song I realize two things. Firstly, Chuck's vocals are much better and maybe his best. Secondly, unlike Chuck, Skolnick is not as his best. I mean he is not bad at all but he is not as good as before. The riffs are fine but after the image Skolnick has created for himself over the years one expects better. Also the solos are just ok. Nothing special here. Then comes "Dangers Of The Faithless" which is the only track on the album that can be labelled as bad but Testament immediately bounce back on track with their next track "The Persecuted Won't Forget". Alex is at his best on this album during this track as he plays out a nice guitar solo and surrounds the track with his riffs. The title track is also pretty much similar to the tracks before it. Good vocals and riffs. But it is after this track that the real fun begins.
Now comes "The Henchman Ride". This is my favourite track on the album and damn this song is catchy. The song starts of with a good quality drum intro and killer riffs by Alex follow. The best part about the song is the chorus and I am sure that this track will be a crowd favourite during live shows. With the chorus going, " Forward. Shifting Gears. In The Wind.The Henchman Ride." I personally won’t be surprised if this track makes it to the Original Soundtrack to same race or adventure flick. Also near the 3 minute mark on this track Alex produces some "Mustaine" type riffs and I think that they are the best on this album. The next track "Afterlife" has pretty much a similar song structure with a drum intro and good riffs. This is followed by "F.E.A.R" which too is one of the best tracks on the albums with a catchy chorus. The last track on the album is what makes the album perfect. It's a ballad by the name of "Leave Me Forever". I love it when thrash bands make ballads because sometimes the song is simply superb. Metallica's "Fade To Black" in their thrash release Ride The Lightning was great and so was Heathen's "Prisoners Of Fate" in their thrash Album Victims Of Deception. "Leave Me Forever" is a good song which must be heard to be believed.
This album is a must have for a Testament Fan but there is one major setback for the thrash phase fans of this band. This is their version of "The Black Album" and is not as thrashy as its previous releases, but on the other side Chuck is at his awesome best, Alex Skolnick has done a decent job and Paul Bostaph has done a great great job with the drums. Lay your hands on this album as quickly as possible as this is one of the best albums released in 2008 till now.
(Revised And Redone)
Generally, there are two opinions on Testament's long-awaited follow-up to 'The Gathering'. One side thinks it's the best thing Testament has done since the eighties, the other side is either disappointed or otherwise not impressed by 'The Formation Of Damnation'. I think expectations are more instrumental to one's opinion than ever here. Those who expect the second coming of 'The Legacy', mainly because of the return of lead guitarist Alex Skolnick and bass player Greg Christian, will most likely be disappointed. But those who expect another quality Testament album, will probably find something to their delight here. I know I did. And there's of course people who don't like this web site's most criminally underrated band in the first place anyway.
With that said, I must admit that 'The Formation Of Damnation' is probably not an album the band couldn't have made without Alex Skolnick and Greg Christian. Most of the music was written by longtime members Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson, as usual. The sound present on this album isn't radically different from 'The Gathering' either, although I must admit that I enjoyed 'The Gathering' - my favorite Testament-album - a bit better. The sound on this album is probably best described as a mixture between 'The Gathering', 'Low' and a few hints at their eighties days.
First thing I noticed about the album is the large amount of mid-tempo songs. This isn't necessarily a complaint; a good song is a good song, regardless of how fast it is, but there is the risk that semi-interested people won't be able to keep the great ones ('The Evil Has Landed', 'Afterlife', 'Leave Me Forever'), the good ones ('Killing Season') and the mediocre ones (the unbelievably boring 'Dangers Of The Faithless') apart and will just generally dismiss them as "those midtempo tracks" and won't bother after that. Still, I think there is enough variation to keep the album interesting. It was just something that struck me upon first listen.
Highlight of the album for me is 'The Persecuted Won't Forget'. That opening riff! My freaking god! That just gets my head banging immediately. And what follows is a killer track. Quite epic for Testament proportions as well. This is simply the best thing they have done since...well...'The Fall Of Siple Dome'...but if we ignore the album that one is on, we'll have to go back to 'Sins Of Omission' on 'Practice What You Preach' to find something equally awesome. There's a lot of changes, especially in the middle part of the song, still every shift in the song makes sense. Something which also goes for the following 'Henchmen Ride', which comes in as a close second when it comes to my favorites of the album. It also has a nice, catchy chorus, which appears quite often in the song, but doesn't get annoying.
But there's a lot more to enjoy on 'The Formation Of Damnation'. Opening track 'More Than Meets The Eye' is catchy and powerful. The riffs pound freely and cause a strong sense of Thrash euphoria for yours truly. The title track rips and tears through everything and shows why Chuck Billy is still the best grunter around. I'd rather have him singing clean, but he does a great job here. 'The Evil Has Landed' is a great, pounding song, despite the bad pun in the title. 'Afterlife' is a beautiful song and surprising is closing track 'Leave Me Forever'. I wasn't surprised that Greg Christian co-wrote this song, as the song heavily relies on a rather a-typical bass line. Something brilliant about this song is that it constantly goes counter-expecation-wise, it constantly builds towards climaxes it deliberately doesn't answer to. It gives the song the atmosphere of an extreme rage which needs to get out, but is forcedly held back. That fits the lyrics about divorce perfectly.
Speaking of which, some of the lyrics are quite interesting. Further investigation of the songwriting credits shows that Steve 'Zetro' Souza (formerly of Exodus and in fact Testament's original singer) co-wrote the lyrics to more than half of the album, including the most interesting two songs lyrics-wise, 'Leave Me Forever' (as mentioned, about divorce) and 'Afterlife' (about the death of the father of - apparently - one of the two writers). Only one song doesn't feature Chuck Billy as lyricist and that is the Skolnick-penned (musically as well) 'F.E.A.R.'. Not really special, quite standard Metal, but it fits the nice Thrasher it is quite well.
There is really not much to complain about on this album. 'Dangers Of The Faithless' is a track that has thus far failed to create any interest for me and I doubt if it ever will. But the rest of the album is great Testament to me. If Testament-fans criticize this album, I wonder what they WOULD want to hear. Okay, many years have passed, but it's not as if Chuck Billy WANTED to take a break. Testament has proven its right to exist with another fine album.
I just don’t know why I even try anymore. This band keeps disappointing me since the early nineties. Just like Megadeth really. Briliant firast four albums and it’s all over after that. Come to think of it, just like Metallica actually. I wonder why the die hard thrashers don’t bash Megadeth and Testament as well. Must be because, unlike Metallica, Megadeth and Testament didn’t have hits and MTV awards in the nineties or something. But they’re just as disappoiting really. Selling out and changing their style everytime. I can never call this band Testasuck though since they did really four excellent albums in a row in the eighties.
So then, no Louie Clemente but Paul Bostaph here. People keep understimating the effect a drummer has on the overall sound of a band. Forbidden with Gene Hoglan? That’s like Dark Angel without him really. Paul Bostaph is great but he has a typical way of playing and this modern digital sound doesn’t do Testament much good. The old Clemente was sloppy but gave Testament that hasty thrashy feeling.
Anyway, Greg Christian is also back and I still love his sound. He alone can’t save an album obviously. I expected a lot more from Alex Skolnick though. I don’t seem to hear the same man on this album who did some marvellous work on the New Order. I don’t hear any lead that even come close to what he did on “Apocalyptic City” and “Over The Wall”. What he does on this album is okay. Better than most guitarists in you average thrash metal band, but nothing close to what he’s done earlier. Ah well, there’s expectations for you. He failed me.
Then there is Chuck Billy. He’s the most suprising element on the album. I didn’t know he could really sing anymore. I have hated this man since he started growling in 1994 and ruined the ’99 album “The Gathering” almost single-handedly! Well here we have him sounding like Practice What You Preach / Souls Of Black most of the time again. Glad to hear Testament sounding like Testament again you’d say!
Unfortunatelly Billy fails to sing on the song which needed it the most, the title track. One of the best songs on the album but with the worst vocals (there’s that fuckin’ grunt again). Damn! A missed opportunity.
Wrong. Eric Peterson sucks big time. You remember the man who wrote 100 riffs per year on the first 4 albums? Well, he wrote some things here but not a lot of them can be called riffs at all. Chugging, some old school metal power chords, some melodies. That’s about it. Almost no riffs here. Key element missing ladies and gentlemen. And a very important one in thrash metal.
Last but not least. Apart from 1,5 song (really!) the album is SSSSLLLOOOOOWWWW. Mid paced dull humpty dumpty metal. Midpaced isn’t bad as long as the songs have strong riffs and a strong chorus. As said the good riffs are missing so the chorusses could maybe still save the album. Wrong! When the album is over I don’t remember any of them. The album just goes on and on in a slow pace but there are no stand out tracks like “Trial By Fire” or “Pratice What You Preach” to be found.
This is not a thrash metal album. This is a melodic and mostly mid paced generic metal album. I’d give this album about 55 or 60 points if it would have been a new band and because it is slightly enjoyable as background music. But since it is Testament and they have failed me for the fifth time in a row with a studio album, they must be punished. You have failed me for the last time, bastards. However, since this album is far better than the 2007 Exodus failure “The Atrocity Exhibition, Exhibit A” I must give this one more points.
Finally, Testament's latest studio album is here. Now, I don't know where to start.
I can't deny that after the first listening, I was excited about it, but as a few detailed listening sessions, it has grown a little unsatisfying. The album doesn't keep up the pace. It kinda drops after the first part. It sounds like a weird cross between The Ritual and the Gathering.
The production is almost the same as The Gathering. It sounds raw, heavy yet every instrument is heard clear in the mix. I kinda miss the good old "Low" sound, a little dirtier and mushier. I guess it fits their new blend of thrash metal better.
Now, I think Peterson is one riff genius. He can come up with great headbanging stuff. Sometimes the constant stacatto riffs saturate some songs (Killing Season and Fear for example). I guess this is Testament and asking for some variation is too much. But hell, some songs have that old school "The Ritual" vibe (Afterlife).
Now, that's exactly my point when it comes to the review. I am confused. They tried the "new" Testament sound with the "old" Testament line up? It works up to a certain point. This is not classic thrash. This is not the old Testament. Fact's a fact. But I think they did a pretty good job bringing some of the old vibe in and mixing it with their new style. A little aggro-thrash if you ask me, but hell, I have been wrong in the past. Ha ha.
Now, there was another issue I was scared of the most: Skolnick. We all now since he departed Testament, he went expanding his musical horizons playing jazz /progressive/instrumental music. Everything but metal (except for his appearance in Savatage). And when I heard his leads on the awful thing that was "First Strike Still Deadly" I was really disappointed. I thought he had lost his "metal side". Thankfully his performance in "FoD" is flawless and his gritty tone is there. It's great to have him back doing what he knows how to do.
I've never had any complaints when it comes to Greg Christian and Paul Bostaph. Great musicians, great rhythm section, great performance.
Overall, the album is good. Not all of it, but it's a good sign of what these guys can do and (hopefully) what may come. They haven't worked together for some time, they need to develop their own "old school vibe" if Testament really wants to do a come back and fulfill fan expectations.
Highlights: Afterlife, Evil has Landed, Henchman Ride.
It took 9 years for Testament to come back after the great, heavy The Gathering and the wait was quite worthy, especially for a long time Testament fan like me. Even if I’m quite young, I’ve always liked this band, especially during their first period…I wish I could be there, back in the 80s to see them live. Anyway, as lots of other bands, they had a small period of crisis, immediately surpassed with that 1999 album: The Gathering. Even if it showed a different, a bit groove approach, the violence was filling their sound again and I must thank a lot that great line up on that album.
The wait for a new sign of life was enormous but now is over. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back Testament again. With a brand new line up that features the one and only Testament’s lead guitarist Alex Skolnick and the original Greg Christian at the bass, here we go again with good songs and devastating production. “For The Glory Of” is an instrumental intro where we can taste the brand new Alex lead guitar’s notes on a carpet of apocalyptic sounds. “More Than Meet The Eyes” is a classic The Gathering oriented song with bludgeoning semi mid paced parts and galloping guitars. Big Chuck is always great behind the microphone and his style follows the one on the previous album, alternating chorus and clean (powerful) vocals, to growls.
Alex is unique with his six strings while Bostaph is compact and precise as always with no signs of tiredness. The solos have another quality and you can hear it very well, without a shadow of a doubt. The atmosphere is always the classic Testament’s one: dark, murky and truly apocalyptic. The production exalts in a perfect way all the instruments even if it can be seen as a modern one, like it was said for The Gathering. The melody in the solo of “The Evil Has Landed” is very good while finally, with the title track we can experience the real band’s power during the up tempo with a growler vocals.
Bostaph has replaced in a perfect way Lombardo once again after Slayer. Many criticised him but I like him a lot, he’s like a machine: you load him and he’s able to go ‘till the end with no problems and hesitations. Anyway, this album has not good things only unfortunately, but also some song writing problems. The songs are not too different and even if the riffs and the melody could change in each one of them, it’s hard to find so many catchy parts like in The Gathering album. This is not necessary bad because here Testament has pointed a bit more on the impact and a bit less on the groovy riffs of that album. It’s a matter of tastes but, for example “Dangers Of The Faithless” is different and surely stands out of the pack.
Another thing to notice that could case a lower rate is the length. Starting from the point that 50 minutes of thrash metal in an album are a bit difficult to appreciate (but I loved Kreator’s “Violent Revolution”), you must fill them always with excellent parts to avoid boredom and inattention. Here Testaments are not the best but “The Persecuted Won’t Forget” is a good waking up thanks to lots of fast parts. The other songs are nice and worth a listen but they are mostly mid paced and for example “Afterlife” is a bit boring, apart from the always beautiful solos.
Well, at the end, it smells like a promise not entirely kept. It’s a good comeback by great musicians with great technique but I believe it lacks in spirit and something is wrong concerning the song writing. Anyway, this is a good album for Testament’s fans.
I don't know why people have a problem with this album. Sure, it's no "The New Order," but it doesn't try to be. And that's why it succeeds. The Formation of Damnation represents the perfection of the "modern thrash" sound. Modern thrash isn't really even thrash at all (more like groove played fast with the occasional thrash riff), but if you have any stomach for it at all, you'll be able to appreciate this album's greatness.
Let me just say, it is damn good to have Alex Skolnick. The Gathering would have been a lot better if he'd been around, and his solos really make this album stand out. Riff-wise, it's about what you'd expect: fast, somewhat groove-oriented, sometimes thrashy, backed up by Paul Bostaph's intense pounding on the drumset. Not much bass to be heard under the guitars, drums, and vocals...but that's a pretty common thing in modern metal albums. And then there's Chuck Billy; you either love him or you hate him. I, for one, am a big fan, and he's in fine form here. As always, he mixes it up between snarling clean vocals and death growls, with the balance perhaps a little more on the clean side than on The Gathering.
There are some real smokers on this album. After a grandiose intro track, "More Than Meets the Eye" kicks things off with a lot of intensity. The terrific chorus and even better guitar solo make it a real standout. "The Evil Has Landed" is another gem and is solid enough to overcome the terrible pun in its title. "F.E.A.R." is pretty killer as well; Chuck's vocals in the chorus (which is amazing) recall James Hetfield's better days. The title track isn't as strong as those three, but is terribly catchy and showcases Chuck's death growls. There are few songs that seem a little bit like filler, but they all have their moments. Nothing bad enough to use your skip button.
Bottom line: if you enjoyed Testament's past couple albums, you'll absolutely love this one, as it is definitely a refinement of that sound. If you weren't too crazy about The Gathering but didn't mind the style, then you should definitely pick this up. But don't expect true thrash. Testament knew exactly what kind of album they were trying to make, and they pulled it off perfectly. Highly recommended.
I have listened to this album with a clear and un-biased mind, not reminding myself of older Testament or the reactions of others. In itself, this is an "ok" effort. It has some great thrash moments, a bunch of rather stupid tracks and the rest is filled with the typical Testament sound. Obviously, this is no Legacy or New Order, but itâ€™s not their worst cd either.
The point is that I'm extremely glad this is not an attempt at selling out: Chuck and co. have tried thrashing, and while at some points they miserably fail, at least they sort of tried. Essentially, this is what thrash would sound like if it would be slowed down a bit. No, not groove metal, simply slower thrash. An amount of good thrash riffs are present, but unfortunately most of the riffs are rather bland. Alex Skolnick is pretty disappointing and takes a huge step backwards after his incredible performance on the Live in London DVD. Alex (lead guitar) has his moments of glory, like on 'The Persecuted Won't Forget'. Overall, however, he is below his own standards and takes resort in mindless shredding too much. Most of the soloâ€™s on this album are crappy, while the rhythm guitar is nothing more than average.
Chuck Billy sounds â€˜alrightâ€™, the adjective that is most suitable to describe his performance. Nothing out of the ordinary and a lack of variation ... but still not to the point of him sounding annoying or whiny. In fact, on some songs he does sound annoying (even approaching the boundaries of standard groove metal faggotry) -'Leave Me Forever' and 'Dangers of the Faithless for example- but most of the time he's not. To be honest, I think he has lost a lot of his vocal range, mainly because his vocals on this record are far from varied. They all sound similar, except for a couple of horrible attempts at â€œwhoa whoaâ€/mallcore yelling.
As for the bass, well, where IS the bass? Sticking to root notes and only claiming attention a handful of times? What? Is this really Greg Christian playing? Probably the biggest let down on the album: Christian seems to have disappeared and replaced by some root-note copying idiot: a shadow of what used to be a great bassist. Thank god at least one song ('Leave Me Forever') has a decent bassline, because I was really starting to get worried about Gregâ€™s disappearance. Itâ€™s clear he hasnâ€™t even tried doing a good job and decided to take a shortcut. A shame, because some parts are literarily screaming for sweet bass.
Paul Bostaph is, just like his fellow band members, nothing more than 'ok'. Accompanying the rest as it's supposed to be, but that's where it ends. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, because his performance here is definitely better than the average thrash drummer. But, we've seen better from this guy. The same goes for my final conclusion on the album: it's ok, about what I expected ... but we can't hide the fact that they might have lost the holy art of thrashing a bit. No big deal though, it's better than a major sell-out and in itself a good sign that they still want to thrash. The lack of variation is, however, extremely disturbing.
There is an unwritten law in thrash metal which literally means: the better your riffage is, the better thrash you got. Then 'Testasuck' should be jailed for ignoring this law monstrously for almost twenty years to date.
The riffage, which is the absolute backbone in thrash metal, has a serious diagnosis of developing scoliosis in our irredeemable case known as 'The Formation of Damnation'. The riffs are just utterly boring and tasteless. They lack any aggression, just go through the motions and never really punch. The leading guitar, except for one bearable solo at 'The Persecuted Won't Forget', had never been suckier than now. If you are a die hard fan of shredding boredom fests then you'll maybe suffer the leading guitars, but still, it's all sounding like the same half assed pattern repeating itself here and there to take some space between the songs. Nothing interesting at all.
What else? The vocal delivery is just numb. Chuck singing at the same pace for the whole album and even having some stupid "whoa whoa whoa" lines here and there ('More Than Meets The Eye') or some annoying, mallcorish electronic effects over his vocals ('Dangers Of The Faithless') which just makes him sounds pathetic.
Overall: this is the ultimate Metallica's 'F' rated clone ever made since Testament's last studio album. This anemic album sounds like another poor attempt with imitating the 'Black Album' (Metallica 1991) and guess what? It failed big time. Now don't fool yourself by saying it's "a decent album for a veteran thrash band", because it isn't .The title 'Testament' means nothing in 2008. This hopeless abomination is just an exhausted output of a fading band that wish they could go back in time to where they didn't sucked and actually write an interesting, skull crushing piece of thrash metal.
'The Formation of Defecation' is just a valueless metal album. The best thing this band can release nowadays is a declaration of their breaking in their "Bada$$" MySpace page.
Sometimes, a band spends years in silence and then makes a comeback that blows everyone away and helps to regain an incredible amount of credibility like Celtic Frost. In other cases a band goes quiet and then releases something so underwhelming that it becomes hard to say that you were once a fan, for instance Trouble. In Testament's case, they spent almost a decade in silence after releasing several underwhelming albums with talented session members that still failed to chart and the only publicity that the band got was because of Chuck going through cancer treatment with only a collection of rerecordings and a live album to hold over hardcore fans, ti seemed like the once mighty band had finally become an afterthought to all but the most devout thrash fans.
Fastforward to 2008 and you have not only the first real testament album of the new millennium but also their first quality album since Low. Hardcore fans will appreciate that four of the original five members are present on the album as well as ex-Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph. Testament is thankfully continuing the trend of quality comeback albums by 80s thrash bands by creating one of the best albums of 2008.
This is pure old-school thrash at it's finest that's been updated for the new millennium. Chuck's vocals show a lot of variety and Alex Skolnick plays some truly awesome solos while Paul Bostaph does a solid job on drums. Moreover, this album's finest moment comes in the form of its final track Leave Me Forever which is a truly moving song about divorce and for a thrash band to actually make you feel something other than reinforcing an already angry mood makes this one truly kick ass song that absolutely must be heard.
Other standout tracks like Henchman Ride have a cool sing along chorus that is sure to make this song a live favorite and The Persecuted Won't Forget has some incredibly shreddy moments to it which makes it a good candidate for the next Guitar Hero game. It may come across as a bit wanky to some, but in a post-Guitar Hero environment, Testament is wisely following trends but those who hate the current trend of fast technical riffing aren't going to appreciate this track.
At the same time, the title track is meant to please fans of the band's death metal days which makes it a curious choice to include on the album. Even though Demonic wasn't truly all that bad of an album, it still want' what fans were expecting. All things considered, Demonic was a better groove-death hybrid than anything put out by Six Feet Under, but it sticks out like a sore thumb among their discography. Now the title track is far less groove driven even though there is some groove in it but it's still played at a fairly high tempo and Chuck Billy's death vox are good, but overall it still sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the tracks and it was only put in there to appeal to a small part of their fanbase and make the album feel less whole and is what keeps this album from getting a review in the 90s range.
As a whole, The Formation of Damnation is one of the best albums released so far in '08 and continues the trend of old-school bands making strong comeback albums. Let's hope that Metallica doesn't bring that trend to a halt.