Whenever music fans discuss thrash metal bands, beyond the style’s long established “Big Four” of Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth, the first name that almost inevitably comes up is that of Testament. More so than any other group except (even influential Bay Area colleagues, Exodus), Testament was thrash’s most successful commercial proposition during the genre’s original, 1980s heyday — stalling just shy of the platinum sales benchmark on numerous occasions. Originally formed in 1983, as Legacy, the future Testament honed their talents for several years in the same, bustling, San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area music scene as Metallica, Exodus, and other second wave bands like Death Angel, Forbidden, and Vio-lence, to name but a few. By 1987, Testament members Eric Peterson (rhythm guitar), Alex Skonick (lead guitar), Greg Christian (bass) and Louie Clemente (drums) had replaced original vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza (off to join Exodus) with Chuck Billy, signed to Johnny Zazula’s Megaforce Records, and finished recording their acclaimed debut, The Legacy (named in homage to their old moniker). The album’s reliably aggressive, yet still melodic template, instantly singled out Testament as Metallica’s potential heirs apparent, and provided the blueprint for subsequent albums, The New Order (1988) and Practice What You Preach(1989). But Testament’s inexorable career growth sputtered on 1990’s rush-recorded Souls of Black, and by the release of 1992’s The Ritual and ’94’s Low, the original lineup had begun splintering, with Skolnick first to exit, followed by Clemente and then Christian. 1997’s Demonic and ’99’s The Gathering, though generally well received by critics and loyal fans, found Peterson and Billy fighting to negotiate ever-changing lineups and the period’s very metal-unfriendly, alternative rock-dominated musical environment. But, the duo’s persistence was eventually rewarded in the new millennium, after Chuck’s sobering brush with cancer ironically helped reunite the original Testament lineup (minus Clemente, replaced, first by Paul Bostaph and then Gene Hoglan) for an eventual pair of enthusiastically received new albums: 2008’s The Formation of Damnation and 2012’s Dark Roots of Earth. Both LPs were supported by extensive touring until the 2014 departure of bassist Christian, but there’s every indication that Testament will still be thrashing, in one shape or form, for years to come.

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