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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.