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Testament - The formation of damnation 4/5

Reviewed: 5-30-08


1. For the glory of
2. More than meets the eye
3. The evil has landed
4. Formation of damnation
5. Dangers of the faithless
6. The persecuted won't forget
7. Henchman ride
8. Killing season
9. Afterlife
10. F.E.A.R.
11. Leave me forever

One of the true monsters of thrash return with their best CD in a long time, sweet snarls that are reminiscent of the band’s strength from 'Practice what you preach' and 'Souls of black'.

For quite a while, it seemed like classic thrash, despite the profligation of heavy metal and power metal after their own dark age, was abandoned, with tendencies veering off into those more melodic genres, and what was left of thrash embracing a more downtuned, industrial, and unpleasantly “modern” side. But lately we’ve seen strong releases from Exodus, Slayer, Megadeth and Agent Steel bearing the flag admirably (with only Metallica notably absent from at least respectability). Testament now steps into that returning fray with their heads held high, so keep a tight grip on your own noggin as the band does its best to rip it clean off. The classic (and remarkably stable) line-up from their first 5 CDs mostly returns with Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick, and Greg Christian, missing only drummer Clemente who is ably replaced by Paul Bostaph of Forbidden fame.

The CD opens with 2 of its very best tracks; epic, powerful beasts in “More than meets the eye” and “The evil has Llanded”, which combine huge, grand songwriting with excoriating leads and relentless rhythm, featuring Billy in his classic vocal presence, savage melody galore. These very much conjure up the presence of the heavy majesty of 'Practice what you preach', and it won’t take but a few listens before these offer crunchy captivation of your spirit.

Moving onto the title track, he lapses back into his “death” vocals from 'Demonic' for the entire song, and while they are not really harsh, or incomprehensible, he backs off the melodic humanity of his normal vocals, while the music ups the tempo and dashes into a more aggressive frenetic assault musically; definitely not as catchy as the other songs, but that change-up and speed is not unwelcome. The next track, “Dangers of the faithless”, starts with a bit of the subdued death vocals as well, but it quickly backs into Billy’s more typical vocals, and a bit more of undulating crunch. “Persecution of the faithless” then rips out with unrelenting speed, and “Ride of the henchmen” conveys a lot of that tempo as well, but with Billy remaining outside of the death range, even when he raps into some speedier sections. “Killing season” conveys some of the catchier range of 'The ritual' and 'Souls of black', with Billy doing a great job conveying just enough of an edge to his strong melodic chops. The CD is satisfying throughout with variations between these various moods.

About the worst criticism you could say is that the CD peaks with the first 2 tracks, but the rest of it is still darn good, and those looking for a fast, aggressive, and welcome return to the roots of the apocalyptic city will not be disappointed.




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