Testament
"The Formation of Damnation"

(Nuclear Blast 2008)Testament - The Formation of Damnation

So here's a true story: I hop in my car, embarking a mini road trip to go buy some comics. (Yeah, I know. Shut up.) Because I'm a multitasker, I decide to listen to the new Testament album I'm to review on the way. So I pop out whatever CD was in my player at the time (probably Pig Destroyer), and in the awful moments it takes me to load Testament, I'm treated to the local rock station. Now, what should come out of my speakers but Metallica's "Whiskey in the Jar." Hey, I didn't say it was an interesting story, but it is at least relevant. I guess.

You see, Testament came out of the same San Francisco Bay thrash scene that spawned Metallica and so many others in the '80s. And while they have never risen to the level of prominence of the giants of thrash, "The Formation of Damnation" proves that Testament can still do something the Big Four can't: make music worth buying. By taking classic thrash sound and infusing it with over twenty years of experience, Testament are out to teach both the older guys and the young 'uns how it's done. A lot of newer thrash outfits are content to just whale away, but these cagey veterans know that it's not always about speed, speed, and speed. While there are plenty of killer breakneck jams, some of the best songs are the ones that just slow down and crush, like the brutal war march of "Killing Season."

Not only is the music shred-tastic, but there's the added bonus of lyrics that are decidedly less goofy than most metal songs. While there is a lot of railing against our government and its engagements overseas, songs like "Afterlife," a surprising ode to a father passed away, add a welcome diversion. "Leave me Forever" is one of the coolest relationship Screw Yous this side of "This Love." Hell, even a 9/11 tune called "The Evil Has Landed" isn't nearly as cringe-inducing as it sounds.

Every element of the Testament machine, from songwriting to musicianship, is top notch on "The Formation of Damnation." Vocalist Chuck Billy growls away like a more dynamic hybrid of Tom Araya and Randy Blythe, while Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson rifle through solos that sound old school without sounding dated. (Do you hear that, Metallica? DO YOU?!?) Testament have a bit of a reputation for having a revolving door policy when it comes to band membership, so it's no surprise that this is their first album of original material since 1999. Hopefully, this lineup of old pros will stick it out and continue to make albums, cause we sure aren't getting anything this good from any of the other elder statesmen of thrash.

A-

buy it!