Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review: Testament, "The Formation of Damnation"

I'd like to call this a comeback record, but the truth of the matter is, Testament never went anywhere. Sure, it's been quite a while since they've put out a new album, but unlike many of their contemporaries, their 1990s output -- records like "Low" and "The Gathering" -- were every bit as solid as the early works. Of course, I guess it could be termed a comeback since it's a reunion of four of the five original members of the band (drummer Louie Clemente bowed out for health reasons.)

Though often overshadowed on the 1980s thrash scene by the bands referred to as "the big four" -- Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax -- Testament produced some high-quality music that matched, and at times surpassed the bands that grabbed the spotlight. They continue that trend here. It's almost as if no time has passed since guitarist Alex Skolnick left the band in 1992, and they pick things up with a lineup of songs that sound like a cross between their early work on records like the (IMO) classic "The New Order" and later albums like "Low."

After the expected instrumental intro "For the Glory of...," the band launches into the first true song, "More Than Meets the Eye," which will take fans back to Testament's glory days -- and it's actually not one of the strongest moments here. There's a nice range from very melodic pieces like "Dangers of the Faithless," which features the most memorable hook on the record, to full-on assaults with even a little touch of death metal, like the title track.

Check out "Henchmen Ride" for an all-out old school thrasher with a great squealing riff, or "Killing Season" for a great thrash groove.

Get "The Formation of Damnation."

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