Testament, Exodus & Death Angel
The Bay strikes back!
Testament is an American thrash metal band from Berkeley, California, formed in 1983. They are often credited as one of the most popular bands of the 1980s thrash metal scene and have been labeled as the "Big Five" of that genre along with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. In the 29 years since its inception, Testament has had numerous lineup changes, and guitarist Eric Peterson has been the only constant member, although the band currently also features two of its original members, Alex Skolnick (guitarist) and Greg Christian (bass). Chuck Billy replaced former singer Steve Souza in 1986, prior to the recording of their first studio album, The Legacy, and has been a member of the band since.
To date, Testament has released ten studio albums, four live albums, six compilation albums, and six singles. After signing a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1986, they released their debut album The Legacy in 1987 to critical acclaim. Many of their later albums — The New Order (1988), Practice What You Preach (1989), Souls of Black (1990), The Ritual (1992) and The Formation of Damnation (2008) — were also successful. Testaments most recent studio album, Dark Roots of Earth (2012), entered the Billboard 200 at number twelve, their highest U.S. chart position so far.
Testament was formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1983 by guitarist Eric Peterson and his cousin, vocalist Derrick Ramirez, also a guitarist, originally using the name Legacy. The band soon recruited bassist Greg Christian and drummer Mike Ronchette. Ramirez was subsequently replaced on lead guitar by Alex Skolnick, who had studied under SF Bay Area guitarist Joe Satriani. Ramirez eventually departed and was replaced on vocals by Steve Souza before the band released one self-titled 4 song demo in 1985. Ronchette left shortly after the recording and was replaced by Louie Clemente. Steve Souza subsequently left the band to join Exodus, and suggested that Chuck Billy should replace him on lead vocals. While recording their first album, the band was forced to change their name to Testament (which, according to Maria Ferrero in the May 2007 issue of Revolver, was suggested by Billy Milano of S.O.D.) because "The Legacy" was already trademarked by a jazz band.
Testaments first album, The Legacy, was released in 1987 on Megaforce Records. Testament received instant fame within thrash circles and were often compared with fellow Bay Area thrash pioneers Metallica. The band quickly managed to increase their exposure by heading out on a successful tour of America and Europe with Anthrax, who were then touring in support of their Among the Living album. On this tour the Live at Eindhoven EP was recorded.
The next album, The New Order, was released in 1988, and found the band continuing in a similar vein. After another successful world tour the band headed back into the studio to record Practice What You Preach. Released in 1989, the album minimized the occult and gothic themes found in the lyrical content of their first two albums, instead focusing on real-life issues such as politics and corruption. The album was the bands most popular to date and even MTV took notice, giving the title track extensive airplay on Headbangers Ball.
In 1990, Testament released Souls of Black. Although reviews were mixed, the album managed to sell respectably, in no doubt largely off the strength of the single title track. Attempting to reconnect with an audience distracted by the growing grunge movement, Testament released The Ritual in 1992. The Ritual saw a stylistic move away from thrash to a slower, slightly more traditional heavy metal sound. The Ritual peaked at 55 on the Billboard Hot 100, the bands highest chart to date, and the ballad "Return to Serenity" managed to receive respectable radio airplay - peaking at number 22. However, the success of the album did not put an end to the tensions within the band.
The next decade was marked by a series of changes in the formation of the band, followed by a change of pace in its musical style. Lead guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente left. Skolnick wanted to incorporate his more melodic style of playing, but this did not fare well with Peterson, Billy, and Christians traditional "thrashy" preferences, who agreed Skolnicks playing had become "too melodic." As a result of this clash, Skolnick left soon after The Rituals release. Skolnick would temporarily join Savatage, and later, would become involved with an acoustic jazz band. Drummer Louie Clemente, in the meantime, moved toward a more stable career outside of music, selling modern art and furniture.
In 1993, Skolnick and Clemente were temporarily replaced by Forbidden members Glen Alvelais and Paul Bostaph, respectively. This lineup released the 1993 live EP, Return to Apocalyptic City. Soon after, Alvelais quit the band and Paul Bostaph departed to join Slayer. 1994s Low, featured John Tempesta on drums and death metal guitarist James Murphy, formerly of Death, Cancer, and Obituary. Low was a diverse album, featuring various influences such as death metal, groove metal, and as well as a ballad: "Trail of Tears". The bands remaining fans reacted favorably to Low although it did little to expand Testaments fanbase. Some fans, however, viewed Testaments move away from the mainstream as a liberation that allowed them to expand artistically, not being pressured by sales and success as they once were. Tempesta left after the recording of the album, being replaced by Jon Dette for the following tour. In 1995, Jon Dette departed the band, during their 1994-1996 tour.
Dette departed temporarily to join Slayer to replace Bostaph, also a former member of Testament. Dettes temporary replacement was Chris Kontos, who had formerly been part of Machine Head. This lineup is featured on the Judas Priest cover Rapid Fire. After the 1996 club tour, Greg Christian, James Murphy and Chris Kontos departed the band. During the time Kontos was in Testament he suggested the band drop the name altogether and call the band "Dog Faced Gods". This idea was turned down by Billy and Peterson who wanted to continue with the Testament name. The two later temporarily disbanded Testament.
The bands follow-up album, Demonic, released in 1997, took a new approach, and found Testament experimenting with death metal more. The album featured Eric Peterson on both lead and rhythm guitar (although Glen Alvelais made a guest appearance, and played on the subsequent tour), early member Derrick Ramirez on bass guitar, and former Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan. Hoglan left before the Demonic tour to join Strapping Young Lad, with Steve Jacobs doing the South American leg of the tour and Jon Dette returning later. Hoglans loyalty to Strapping Young Lad and his desire to not remain a member of Testament actually came to realization during a published interview the band conducted with Metal Maniacs Magazine.
By 1998, Ramirez, Alvelais and Dette had departed and James Murphy had returned for the release of The Gathering. The rhythm section on The Gathering was highly respected, consisting of metal fretless bass pioneer Steve DiGiorgio (formerly of Death and Sadus) and original Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. The sound of the album was largely a combination of death metal, thrash metal, and a minor black metal influence from Eric Petersons side project, Dragonlord.
Soon after the release of The Gathering, lead guitarist James Murphy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Through various fundraisers, Murphy was able to afford surgery and eventually made a full recovery. Nevertheless, he now cannot recall anything from the recording of The Gathering. In 2001, Chuck Billy was also diagnosed with a type of cancer called germ cell seminoma. This kind of cancer is a rare form of testicular cancer, but it only affected Billys lungs and heart. His cancer was also treated successfully. In August 2001, friends of Billy organized the Thrash of the Titans benefit concert, featuring seminal Bay Area thrash bands Vio-Lence, Death Angel, Exodus, Heathen, and others. The show was headlined by a Legacy reunion, featuring Steve Souza on vocals, and former guitarist Alex Skolnick, who had not played with the band since 1992 and Greg Christian. Late in 2001, Testament released First Strike Still Deadly, a collection of re-recordings (with modern studio technology) of songs from their first two albums. The album featured the lineup of Billy, Peterson, DiGiorgio, the return of Alex Skolnick on guitar and John Tempesta on drums.
By 2003 Chuck Billy had completely recovered, and the band began performing live again with a new drummer, Jon Allen of Sadus. In 2004, the band changed their lineup once again for their summer festival live appearances, and Jon Allen was replaced by Paul Bostaph, returning to the band for a second stint after a decades absence. Lead guitarist Steve Smyth also departed to join Nevermore, and was replaced by ex-Halford guitarist "Metal" Mike Chlasciak. Shortly after Steve Smyths departure, Eric Peterson fell down a flight of stairs, breaking his leg, and was unavailable for some dates. He was temporarily replaced by Steve Smyth.
In May 2005, it was announced that Testament would be doing a brief Europe-only reunion tour - known as the "10 Days in May Tour" - featuring the original lineup of Billy, Peterson, Skolnick and Christian, with drum duties shared between John Tempesta and Louie Clemente. After the success of the initial tour dates, Testament announced more dates in the U.S., Europe and Japan with the classic lineup. Alex has also been touring the East Coast with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The band went on to release a live DVD and CD from the tour entitled "Live in London". In interviews on the DVD Eric Peterson expressed his desire to record the follow-up to "The Gathering" with the classic Testament lineup. He also stated that Alex Skolnick had begun writing songs for the new album. Chuck Billy was very vocal about how happy he was to have Alex, Greg, Louie and John Tempesta in the band once again and hoped to maintain a stable lineup going forward.
Testament played for the first time in the Middle East at the Dubai Desert Rock festival in March 2006. Other notable bands that performed for the Desert Rock Festival were Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Reel Big Fish and 3 Doors Down.
In July 2007, the band played a show at Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, Virginia, with Paul Bostaph filling in on drum duties. It was later confirmed that Bostaph would be officially returning to the band to record the new album. The band debuted a new song at that show, currently entitled "The Afterlife", which they also played again at Earthshaker Fest.
In February 2008, the band released the song "More Than Meets the Eye" from the new album on their MySpace page.
In April 2008, Testament was confirmed for Ozzy Osbournes Monsters of Rock festival to take place on July 26, 2008 in Calgary, Canada.
Testament released its new album, titled The Formation of Damnation, on April 29, 2008 through Nuclear Blast Records. Their first studio album in nine years, it is the first Testament album to feature Alex Skolnick on guitar since 1992s The Ritual, also the first to feature bassist Greg Christian since 1994s Low. Also, the band was confirmed to be the main event on the first day of the "Gillmanfest," a rock festival to be held on May 24, 2008, in Valencia, Venezuela. Testament will also be visiting Colombia for the second time in the bands extensive career. In June 2008 Testament headlined the 3rd stage at Download Festival, held at Donington Park, UK. Testament also toured the U.S., as a supporting act for Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell, and Motörhead on the "Metal Masters Tour". On the 22 Oct 2008 Testament announced that they have recruited guitarist Glen Drover ex Megadeth and King Diamond to fill in on their upcoming Mexican tour dates with Judas Priest, Due to Alex Skolnicks prior commitment to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
In late September 2008, it was announced that Testament would embark on the "Priest Feast" European tour with headliners Judas Priest and Megadeth in February and March 2009. On March 25, 2009, Testament played a special One Night Only show at the O2 Islington Academy in London, where they played the first two albums (The Legacy and The New Order) back to back with thrashcore band Sylosis in support. Also in 2009, Testament set out on a 6 week tour across the U.S. to promote The Formation of Damnation, touring with Unearth and Lazarus A.D.. In early 2010, Testament toured the United States with Megadeth and Exodus; Alex Skolnick did not participate in that tour, due to previous obligations (Glen Drover filled in for him). In August, Testament toured Australia. Testament also headlined for the first time in the Philippines for the annual PULP Summer Slam on April 17, 2010 with heavy metal band Lamb of God.
As early as 2009, Testament commenced writing new material for their tenth album. In an interview with Metalheadz, guitarist Eric Peterson stated that there were about four songs written and that "theres other guys in the band who like to play the more rock melodic style but the next one is gonna be a bit heavier." In a January 2011 interview during the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise, frontman Chuck Billy revealed that Testament has been working on six new songs and four or five "maybe left to write" and then begin recording their new album by the end of February or early March. On May 18, 2011, guitarist Alex Skolnick posted an update on his Twitter, saying "Another tune done! My riffs from last week [plus] some of [fellow Testament guitarist Eric Petersons plus] new ones we wrote today. Planning one more, then weve got more than we need."
Testament began recording their new album on June 20, 2011. Paul Bostaph was unable to take part in the recording due to a "serious injury"; however, he was expected to rejoin when the band tours to support the album. Gene Hoglan, who played drums on the bands 1997 album Demonic, filled in for Paul on the drum tracks. It was also reported that Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler will make a special guest appearance on a couple of bonus tracks.
Testament appeared at the California dates of the summer 2011 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, replacing In Flames.
On July 14, 2011, it was announced that the tenth Testament studio album would be called Dark Roots of Earth, which, after many delays, was released on July 27, 2012. Prior to the albums release, the band toured in the fall of 2011 with Anthrax and Death Angel. Overkill was invited to the tour, but due to the pre-production of their next album, they did not participate. It was announced on December 1, 2011 that Paul Bostaph left Testament. Gene Hoglan recorded the drum tracks for Dark Roots of Earth and continues to play live with the band. In interviews, Testament have expressed pleasure in Hoglans playing, and a hope that he will continue with the band for the foreseeable future.
Source and authors: Wikipedia / list of authors