The Formation of Damnation
Nuclear Blast Records
An album's artwork says a lot of about the music inside of it, and after one look at the cover Testament's “Formation of Damnation”, it may leave you confused. The dark, brooding landscape and a burning, war-torn White House below an army of flying angels, personally, had me hooked because I couldn't tell if they were anti-Jesus or pro-Jesus. With song titles like, “Dangers of the Faithless”, “The Persecuted Won't Forget”, “Afterlife” and a band name like Testament it was pretty ambiguous.
However, upon listening to the album it becomes increasingly apparent Testament are, in fact, not pro-Jesus. “Dangers of the Faithless” talks about the lost of faith in religion, and there is a biting revengeful rant on “The Persecuted Will Not Forget.”
Strains of Metallica's brand of thrash metal brute can be heard throughout the album, particularly on tracks like “Henchman Ride and the anthemic “More Than Meets the Eye”, which would have been awesome on the Transformers movie soundtrack. However, it must be noted that the simple fact that they are not Metallica makes them cooler by default.
Like Metallica, this band has been together for than two decades with the battlescars to prove their journey has been tumultuous at best. Testament has gone through multiple lineup changes, label switching, and lead singer's Chuck Billy's battle against cancer. It is important to remember they didn't completely sell-out and make a crappy movie and a crappy CD. Armed with four-fifth's of their original line up (with Paul Bostaph of ex-Slayer fame on drums), the group has come back after a nine year hiatus with 2008's Formation of Damnation. Simply put, Testament moved on and have continued to rock out through the hard times.
The lyrical content is probably the major downfall of this album. There are moments when song lyrics read like something out of a Spinal Tap B-side: “I will fight relentlessly/ I stand tall defiantly/ I fulfill my destiny”, and “Smell the blood/ Smell the death/ Smell the stench of demons' breath.” Because of this, songs like, “Dangers of the Faithless” and “Leave Me Forever” are pretty laughable.
Elsewhere, the lyrics deal with topics not typically found in metal, such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (“The Persecuted Will Not Forget”) and the death of a loved one (“Afterlife”). Unfortunately, this does not keep the album from sounding quite linear. Although, the guitar work is outstanding and the drums are driving and brutal, many of the riffs and vocal lines seem like they were cherry-picked from metal albums of yesteryear.
Nonetheless, fans of bands like Slayer, Anthax, and Megadeth will not be able to get enough of the album's thrashing metalcore on songs like "F.E.A.R.", and the album title track as the drums kick into full force with distorted guitar chugs and Billy's hell-bent cookie monster-style vocals. Testament's relentless brute, and face-melting guitar riffs are certainly not for the faint of heart.