Testament performing at the Elbriot Festival on August 19, 2016
|Also known as||Legacy (1983–1986)|
|Origin||Berkeley, California, U.S.|
|Past members||Mike Ronchette
Testament is an American thrash metal band from Berkeley, California. Formed in 1983 under the name Legacy, the band consists of vocalist Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, bassist Steve DiGiorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan. In the 33 years since its inception, Testament has had numerous lineup changes, and Peterson has been the only constant member. 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. Billy and Peterson are the only band members to appear on every album.
Testament is often credited as one of the most popular bands of the thrash metal scene, having sold over 1.4 million albums in the United States since the beginning of the SoundScan era and 14 million albums worldwide. To date, the band has released eleven studio albums, four live albums, six compilation albums, and six singles. After signing a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1986, Testament's first five studio albums — The Legacy (1987), The New Order (1988), Practice What You Preach (1989), Souls of Black (1990) and The Ritual (1992) — were released to widespread critical acclaim. Shortly after the release of The Ritual, Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente left the band and were replaced by James Murphy and John Tempesta on guitar and drums respectively. After one album with Murphy and Tempesta, and the departure of original bassist Greg Christian in 1996, Testament endured many lineup changes in the late 1990s and mid-2000s, leaving Peterson as the only remaining original member left. Since Skolnick's return to the band in 2005, Testament has undergone a resurgence in popularity, with their last two studio albums, Dark Roots of Earth (2012) and Brotherhood of the Snake (2016), peaking at higher chart positions in the United States.
During their major label years, Testament secured opening slots on major tours, including opening for notable acts such as Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Anthrax, Megadeth, Overkill, Judas Priest and Slayer. They also gained critical recognition for embarking on the European Clash of the Titans tour with Slayer, Megadeth and Suicidal Tendencies. To this day, the band continues to tour and perform live.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early career and The Legacy (1983–1987)
- 1.2 Increasing popularity (1988–1992)
- 1.3 Changes in formation and health issues (1993–2003)
- 1.4 Recovery of Billy, reunion and The Formation of Damnation (2003–2010)
- 1.5 Dark Roots of Earth (2010–2013)
- 1.6 Dark Roots of Thrash and Brotherhood of the Snake (2013–present)
- 2 Members
- 3 Discography
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Early career and The Legacy (1983–1987)
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 subsequently passed lead guitar duties to Alex Skolnick, who had studied under Bay Area guitarist Joe Satriani. Ramirez eventually departed and was replaced on vocals by Steve Souza before the band released one self-titled four-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 Chuck Billy to 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" name was already trademarked by a jazz band.
Testament's first album, The Legacy, was released in April 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 successful American and European tours with Anthrax, who were then supporting their Among the Living album. On this tour, the Live at Eindhoven EP was recorded. Testament also opened for their labelmates Overkill, and Megadeth on their Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? tour.
Increasing popularity (1988–1992)
Testament's second album, The New Order, was released in May 1988, and found the band continuing in a similar vein. The album was a minor success, peaking at number 136 on the Billboard 200, and managed to sell over 250,000 copies. In support of The New Order, Testament opened for Megadeth on their So Far, So Good... So What! tour in Europe, and toured the United States with the likes of Death Angel, Vio-Lence and Raven.
After touring in support of The New Order tour, the band headed back into the studio to record their third studio album Practice What You Preach. Released in August 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. Practice What You Preach performed better on the charts than The New Order, reaching at number 77 on the Billboard 200, and included the hit single, the title track, which saw extensive airplay on Headbangers Ball. Testament toured for nearly a year behind Practice What You Preach with several bands, including Annihilator, Wrathchild America, Mortal Sin, Nuclear Assault and Savatage. By 1990, the album had managed to sell over over 450,000 copies.
In October 1990, Testament released their fourth studio album 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 band's highest chart position at the time, and the ballad "Return to Serenity" managed to receive radio airplay, peaking at number 22. However, the success of the album did not put an end to the tensions within the band.
Changes in formation and health issues (1993–2003)
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 Christian's traditional "thrashy" preferences, who agreed Skolnick's playing had become "too melodic." As a result of this clash, Skolnick left soon after The Ritual's 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. October 1994's 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 band's remaining fans reacted favorably to Low although it did little to expand Testament's fanbase. Some fans, however, viewed Testament's 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. Jon Dette departed the band in 1995, during the 1994-1996 tour.
Dette departed temporarily to join Slayer to replace Bostaph, also a former member of Testament. Dette's 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 band's follow-up album, Demonic, released June 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. Hoglan's 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 June 1999 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 and thrash metal, with a minor black metal influence from Eric Peterson's 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, but was unable to recall anything from the recording of The Gathering. In 2001, Chuck Billy was also diagnosed with germ cell seminoma, a rare form of testicular cancer, but it only affected Billy's 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.
Recovery of Billy, reunion and The Formation of Damnation (2003–2010)
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 appearances. Jon Allen was replaced by Paul Bostaph, returning to the band for a second stint after a decade's absence. Lead guitarist Steve Smyth departed to join Nevermore and was replaced by ex-Halford guitarist "Metal" Mike Chlasciak. Shortly after Steve Smyth's 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. Later that year, Skolnick also toured the East Coast with 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 titled "The Afterlife", which they also played at Earthshaker Fest.
In February 2008, the band released the song "More Than Meets the Eye" from the new album on their MySpace page.
Testament released their first studio album in nine years, The Formation of Damnation, on April 29, 2008, through Nuclear Blast Records. It is the first Testament album to feature Alex Skolnick on guitar since 1992's The Ritual, and the first to feature bassist Greg Christian since 1994's Low. 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, visiting Colombia for the second time in the band's extensive career. In June 2008, Testament headlined the 3rd stage at Download Festival, held at Donington Park, UK. The band also toured the US as a supporting act for Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell, and Motörhead on the "Metal Masters Tour". On 22 Oct 2008, Testament announced that they had recruited guitarist Glen Drover (ex-Megadeth and King Diamond) to fill in on their upcoming Mexican tour dates with Judas Priest, due to Alex Skolnick's 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-off show at the O2 Islington Academy in London, where they performed their first two albums (The Legacy and The New Order) back-to-back, with British thrash band Sylosis in support. Also in 2009, Testament set out on a 6-week tour across the US 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 the 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.
Dark Roots of Earth (2010–2013)
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 "there's 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 had been working on six new songs, with four or five "maybe left to write," and would begin recording their new album by early March. On 18 May 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 Peterson's plus] new ones we wrote today. Planning one more, then we've got more than we need."
Testament began recording their tenth studio album on June 20, 2011. Drummer 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 band's 1997 album Demonic, filled in for Bostaph. It was also reported that Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler would make a special guest appearance on a couple of bonus tracks.
On 14 July 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. Dark Roots of Earth debuted at No. 12 on Billboard 200, the band's highest chart position to date. Prior to the album's 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 sixteenth studio album The Electric Age, they did not participate. It was announced on 1 December 2011 that Paul Bostaph had 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 Hoglan's playing, and hope that he would continue playing with the band for the foreseeable future.
Dark Roots of Thrash and Brotherhood of the Snake (2013–present)
In August 2012, guitarist Eric Peterson stated that Testament would record an eleventh studio album if Dark Roots of Earth did well. A week prior to the release of Dark Roots of Earth, Billy promised that Testament would not take "huge gaps" between albums anymore, and would "work hard and tour for two years or so," and try to release another album when they could. Hoglan has also said that he would "absolutely dig" to be a part of the writing of the next Testament album.
On 13 September 2013, Billy told Rock Overdose that from January to April 2014, Testament would be writing and recording their eleventh studio album for a 2014 release. Testament released a live DVD/double album Dark Roots of Thrash on 15 October 2013. The release documents the band's sold-out headlining performance at the Paramount in Huntington, New York, in February 2013.
On 13 January 2014, it was announced that bassist Greg Christian had left Testament again. Steve DiGiorgio returned to the band as his replacement and would be involved in the making of the band's next album. Christian has explained that the reasons he had left Testament for the second time were because of money disputes and differences with the band.
Asked about in an April 2015 interview about Testament's plans to begin recording their new album, Peterson said that his "main goal" was to "get home [from tour] in June, finish it up and get in the studio by September." Billy also said that the band's goal was to have the album finished by Thanksgiving. Slovenian bassist Tilen Hudrap (Vicious Rumors, Paradox, Thraw) and Bay Area drummer Alex Bent (Arkaik, Dragonlord, Decrepit Birth, Battlecross) filled in for DiGiorgio and Hoglan in August at the prestigious Canadian open air festival Heavy Montreal.
In May 2016, Billy confirmed the band's forthcoming album would be entitled Brotherhood of the Snake. Of the album's lyrical content, he commented, "The Brotherhood of the Snake was actually a society about 6,000 years ago that debarred all religions. It was just a fascinating topic that caught our eye and attention and spawned a lot of songs. We're going with that vibe. There will be some songs that deviate, but the majority will be around that and aliens and religion. Then I'll probably tap into my native heritage and write some songs about that. It's not just going to be one concept, but there is some interesting stuff that we're finding to write about." Brotherhood of the Snake was released on October 28, 2016, and shortly after its release, Testament embarked on an international tour with Amon Amarth, and will tour North America in April–May 2017 with Sepultura and Prong. Brotherhood of the Snake received generally positive reviews from critics, and scored Testament their second-highest chart position on the Billboard 200, reaching at number twenty.
- 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)
- The Formation of Damnation (2008)
- Dark Roots of Earth (2012)
- Brotherhood of the Snake (2016)
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