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Ripping Open A Path Up To Heaven - 96%

SweetLeaf95, December 14th, 2019

Although Dark Roots Of Earth may be the first record that I would recommend to newcomers of Testament's revival, The Formation Of Damnation is easily the most focused, and well crafted. Present are all of the tropes that made every record since The Gathering; the occasional death metal growls, the super clean production, the thicker thrash riffs, you name it. What makes this one feel so stacked is that Skolnick and co. inject more intricacy into the music itself without losing any beefy songwriting stability.

Testament aren't newcomers to writing about real world issues, but Formation holds so much more passion in regards to that, and the obvious standout for this is my favorite one, "The Evil Has Landed." An obvious ear puncher about 9/11, Chuck sounds absolutely livid, delivering a steady chorus while holding loads of oomph over-top of the ferocious and thick riffs. Not to mention, the solo on this one is the best on the album. To add even more, the title track follows this, being one of the only ones to lay on the death growls the whole run, backed by that same aesthetic with Paul Bostaph's drumming.

In fact, that's another one of the best parts about this album. Gene Hoglan and Dave Lombardo are two of the greatest drummers to ever be in the band, yet Bostaph did better than either of those masterminds did on any Testament disc. It paired excellently with Skolnick and Peterson's dual guitar tracks, which are already out of this world as is. For someone who usually dislikes overly clean production, this combo of musicians made it work wonders.

Of course, the melody dense tunes are the entire other half of The Formation Of Damnation. Another one of my favorites is "F.E.A.R." thanks to its ability to hone in on the same reactionary energy as "The Evil Has Landed" while dialing back the intensity. The lyrics around the false reality of being scared are quite fun, especially when you reach the vocal build-up at the end of the song. Paired with this is "Afterlife," a similarly constructed song dealing in life after death (if that's not obvious), and reeling in the melodies as well. You can find this weaved into the others quite smoothly, such as in the straightforward "More Than Meets The Eye" or the stomping rhythms in "Dangers Of The Faithless." The latter contains a lot of progressive passages on the fret-board, and I love every every second.

I totally get why people would like this album's follow-up better, as it's an easier one to swallow. Formation just goes back further for me, and I've always admired the advanced craftsmanship from every angle. But most importantly, the songs themselves are memorable. It may not reach the beauty of the first three records, but it's damn close!