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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!