The 5 Essential TESTAMENT Albums
These Bay Area titans of thrash need no introduction and with 13 exemplary studio albums to choose from, we had a hard time whittling ’em down to – what we believe to be – Testament‘s 5 essential albums!
Presented in order of release as opposed to any kind of ranking….
The Legacy (1987)
Testament‘s debut, The Legacy, announced their arrival in an already crowded scene with an immediate attention-grabbing potency.
It was already clear that Testament had the necessary skill to challenge the big boys of thrash with an eerie, ominous atmosphere thankfully making amends for a thin, tinny production. Most noticeably, the band had musicians in their ranks who could really play and a vocalist who could scream, wail, growl and (whisper it) actually sing!
The guitar pairing of Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick was also inspired, Petersen’s solid, chugging rhythm work perfectly complimenting Skolnick’s jazz influenced shredding skills.
Official challengers to The Big 4 had arrived!
The New Order (1988)
We maintain that The New Order is Testament‘s greatest album (Practice What You Preach runs it a very close second); a full-bodied statement of intent from a band who knew they had an opportunity to not only compete with The Big 4 but surpass even their accomplishments!
History tells us that Testament would never quite break through to the same level as Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer but their recorded output defies that fact, and The New Order remains one of the most potent and consistently thrilling thrash albums in existence.
When an album reads like a greatest hits set you know you’re on to a winner and with the title track, “Trial by Fire,” “Disciples of the Watch and the iconic “Into the Pit” making up the core of this legendary album, The New Order‘s credentials speak for themselves.
Practice What You Preach (1989)
Practice What You Preach, the third studio album from American thrash metal royalty Testament, took these Californians to the next level as Chuck Billy and the boys attempted to crack the stranglehold The Big 4 held on late 80’s thrash!
This was the album that should have done it as well, with the likes of the title track, “Greenhouse Effect” and “The Ballad” showcasing a more mature band; one who were turning their attention away from occult themes to socio / political / environmental concerns instead.
Mediative they may have been but this hardly dampened the fiery thrash spirit that burned inside, and with a flurry of thrash anthems that bristled with raw energy and aggression, it’s unsurprising that Practice What You Preach has gone down in thrash history as one of Testament’s greatest ever achievements (and there’s been a few)!
The Gathering (1999)
Proof that thrash was truly going to be a dominant force once again can be layed at the feet of one of the greatest thrash bands in existence; the mighty Testament!
Recruiting three legendary elder statesman in the considerable form of Dave Lombardo (Slayer), James Murphy (Death, Obituary, Disincarnate) and Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death), Testament’s core duo of Chuck Billy and Eric Petersen laid down the ultimate challenge to thrash metals’ revivalists; keep up with this they demanded, unsurprisingly most couldn’t.
From the virtually unparalleled ferocity of album opener “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” and the thrashy grooves of “Down For Life” to the demolition job death/thrash of “Legions Of The Dead” and the fiendish melodies of “Riding The Snake“, this supergroup signalled thrash’s rebirth in a manner that marks The Gathering out as an album that still sounds nothing less than magnificent well over 20 years later.
With this release it was clear thrash had well and truly returned and within just a few short years the likes of Destruction, Death Angel, Exodus, Kreator and Heathen would release monumental modern thrash albums in the shape of The Antichrist, The Art Of Dying, Tempo Of The Damned, Enemy Of God and The Evolution Of Chaos respectively; thrash was back and it’s still as relevant as ever!
The Formation Of Damnation (2008)
Testament are proof positive that sticking to your guns and never giving up will pay off in the end.
The Formation of Damnation is testament (pun completely intended) to the skills and talent that this classic thrash band have in abundance. With pure energy, belying their years, focused into 11 fearsome tracks their relevance in 2008’s thrash scene could not have been made more apparent. Deftly balancing Testament’s thrash past with their dalliances in death metal during the 1990’s (a necessity as thrash metal’s popularity had nose-dived considerably), this album is sonically heavy rather than an all out thrash-fest but as modern metal goes…. you’d be hard pressed to find anything better!
The punishing “More Than Meets The Eye”, the emotionally provocative “The Evil Has Landed” and the skull-crushing death/thrash title track all featured the crushing riffs and exhilarating leads you’d expect from a Testament record but their jewel in the crown was still Chuck Billy’s uniquely versatile vocals. Ranging from a throaty, thrashy rasp to a concrete-gargling growl, The Formation Of Damnation showcased the big man’s talents for extreme yet audible vocals, and this album was an astonishing return to form from a band who could so easily have thrown in the towel during the virtually thrash-less ’90s.
The Legacy (1987) / The New Order (1988) / Practice What You Preach (1989) / Souls Of Black (1990) / The Ritual (1992) / Low (1994) / Demonic (1997) / The Gathering (1999) / First Strike Still Deadly (2001) / The Formation Of Damnation (2008) / Dark Roots Of Earth (2012) / Brotherhood Of The Snake (2016) / Titans Of Creation (2020)
These lists are always contentious, so if we’ve left out your favourite Testament album, pop it in the comments below….
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