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Staunch campaigners of the Thrash cause and an act that came tantalisingly close to achieving major success, TESTAMENT was founded as LEGACY in the infamous Bay Area melting pot of Thrash Metal in 1983. As LEGACY, the Oakland-based band comprised high-school-student guitarists Eric Peterson and his cousin Derrick Ramirez, bassist Greg Christian and drummer Louis Clemente. A 1984 four-song demo saw Ramirez handling lead vocals, after which Steve 'Zetro' Souza was recruited as frontman. Recruiting guitarist Alex Skolnick, tutored by none other than JOE SATRIANI, a second demo session arrived in 1985, the track 'Reign Of Terror' gaining exposure from being featured on the Eastern Front Vol. 2 compilation album. These tracks were produced by Doug Piercy, a noted scene guitarist with credentials stretching through CONTROL, COBRA, ANVIL CHORUS and DELTA. However, Souza then bailed out to join another local up-and-coming thrash outfit, EXODUS.

Jonny Zazula's Megaforce label took the band on, this arrangement securing major distribution through Atlantic Records. To avoid legal clashes with another band also titled LEGACY, the band switched names to TESTAMENT, the intended title of their first album. The valuable acquisition of former GUILT and RAMPAGE vocalist Chuck Billy was drafted in as new recruits for the Alex Perialas-produced debut 'The Legacy'. Chuck Billy would go on to become the central lynchpin and focal point of the band. Such was the undisputed quality of 'The Legacy', recorded at Pyramid Sound Studio, Ithaca in New York, that many predicted TESTAMENT were to join Thrash's front runners METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX. The group capitalised on the favourable press and fan reaction by touring across the USA and Europe as direct support to ANTHRAX.

Megaforce maintained the momentum by combining a studio outtake, 'Reign Of Terror', with live tracks culled from the band's showing at the famed 'Dynamo' festival in Holland as the December 1987 European release 'Live In Eindhoven', oddly not released in the band's homeland until 1990. The studio follow up, May 1988's 'The New Order' maintained, and indeed boosted, the quality levels. Cut at Pyramid Sound and produced once again by Perialas, engineering credits went to RAVEN drummer Rob 'Wacko' Hunter. Bravely the record, which landed the band in at no. 136 on the Billboard album charts, included a take on AEROSMITH's 'Nobody's Fault' amongst the expected riffage.

The band's fortunes rose with 1989's 'Practice What You Preach'. Employing Perialas yet again, this album, which cracked the Billboard top 100, saw TESTAMENT shifting their lyrical focus onto more reality based concerns such as politics and the environment. During 1990 TESTAMENT, promoting the 'Souls Of Black' album, their first to break tradition with Perialas and pulling in Michael Rosen for desk duties, found themselves grabbing the opening spot on the mammoth 'Clash Of The Titans' European touring package with MEGADETH, ANTHRAX and SLAYER. Despite this increased global exposure TESTAMENT appeared to have plateaued on a commercial footing, the album only gaining slightly in sales on its predecessor.

Following 1992's Tony Platt produced 'The Ritual' album, which gave TESTAMENT their highest US chart position to date, Skolnick opted out to join SAVATAGE. By 1995 he had received a better offer to join OZZY OSBOURNE. However, the guitarist only lasted for one gig, a secret bash at Nottingham's Rock City. Skolnick followed his passion and founded the Jazz-Rock ATTENTION DEFICIT with PRIMUS drummer Tim Alexander for a 1998 album.

TESTAMENT meanwhile failed to maintain a stable line up for 1993's 'Return To Apocalyptic City', a six track stop gap mini album. New man on the drum stool was the highly respected ex-FORBIDDEN and SLAYER drummer Paul Bostaph whilst also coming onboard would be ex-FORBIDDEN guitarist Glen Alvelais.

1994's 'Low' featured Death metal journeyman guitarist JAMES MURPHY whose credits include AGENT STEEL, DEATH, OBITUARY, DISINCARNATE and CANCER and EXODUS drummer John Tempesta. The album, recorded at A&M studios in Los Angeles, was issued in the full gale force of a Rock revolution and TESTAMENT, in spite of cannily employing noted Alt-Rock producer Garth Richardson in union with the mixing skills of Metal veteran Michael Wagener, duly struggled to get noticed. Although fans and critics were unanimous in their praise for 'Low' and its return to form the record was swamped by Grunge. Shortly after recording Tempesta teamed up with WHITE ZOMBIE and Atlantic Records, a staunch ally since the debut, let the band go.

The line-up for the 'Live At The Fillmore' album, recorded at a sell out show at the notorious Haight-Ashbury venue, comprised of Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and James Murphy, bassist Greg Christian and former EVIL DEAD drummer John Dette. Down to a duo of Billy and Peterson TESTAMENT actually folded for a short period as the original pairing announced a new band DOG FACED GOD. These sessions would ultimately emerge as the new TESTAMENT album. 1997's Doug Hall produced and exceptionally dark 'Demonic' offering, the band's first for new label Spitfire Records, saw Billy, Alvelais and Peterson fronting a quintet completed by Ramirez on bass and ex-DEATH drummer Gene Hoglan. Prior to recording Dette had vacated his position making a high profile career move to SLAYER. Bass was now in the hands of erstwhile DEATH and SADUS man Steve DiGiorgio. Sadly, 'Demonic's profile suffered heavily when their distribution company went into bankruptcy. Fortunately, 1997 also found the newly formed Mayhem Records issuing a compilation album, 'Signs Of Chaos: The Best Of Testament', of the group's finest moments.

Another quick change ensued on the drum stool after 'Demonic's release as Hoglan took up an offer to fulfill live work with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, leaving a gap for the reinstatement of Dette whose brief tenure in SLAYER had lasted a matter of weeks. Chuck Billy meantime put in an appearance on Murphy's 1999 solo album 'Feeding The Machine'.

The band meanwhile underwent a dramatic line up change with guitarist Glen Alvelais being given his marching orders again. Filling the absent spot was guitarist James Murphy once more and former SLAYER drummer DAVE LOMBARDO on the drum stool for 1999's 'The Gathering'. As it transpired though Dette regained his position although this was predictably brief.

Late 1999 found further ructions within the band as Murphy and Dette were ousted in favour of Steve Jacobs and VICIOUS RUMOURS guitarist Steve Smyth. Murphy's removal signalled the beginnings of a run of health generated bad luck for the band. Apparently the guitarist had been acting out of character for some time prompting his dismissal. Only later, after extensive surgery to remove a brain tumour, was the cause of Murphy's behavioural problems revealed.

Smyth, DiGiorgio and Peterson have a Black Thrash side project named DRAGONHEART with SADUS drummer Jon Allen. DiGiorgio later joined ICED EARTH. This band later switched titles to DRAGONLORD. Smyth also doubles duties appearing as 'Randy Zakk Iommi' in the BLACK SABBATH tribute band SWEET LEAF in union with SKITZO frontman Lance Ozanix. Smyth would also contribute guitar to the SKITZO 2000 album 'Got Sick'. By 2000 Alvelais was fronting LD/50, a band including bassist Oddie McLaughlin, drummer Jeremy Colson and ex-GEEZER vocalist Clark Brown.

On the TESTAMENT front news emerged in early 2001 that Chuck Billy had been diagnosed with cancer. The singer got stuck straight into a regime of treatment to defeat the disease and was aided in spirit by the announcement of a benefit concert in his name dubbed 'Thrash Of The Titans'. The highly anticipated concert, held August 11th at the San Francisco Maritime Hall, pulled together many of the most notorious Thrash names such as HEATHEN, FLOTSAM & JETSAM, STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH, ANTHRAX, FORBIDDEN EVIL reformations of EXODUS, VIO-LENCE and DEATH ANGEL and even a reformation of LEGACY. A retrospective studio album of TESTAMENT classics was also began in earnest, 'First Strike Still Deadly', with former vocalist Steve Souza committed to guest on tracks.

Derrick Ramirez would be the latest TESTAMENT member to join DRAGONLORD in March of 2002. Guitarist Glen Alvelais, besides his activities with BIZARRO and LD/50, also involved himself with F-BOMB, a union with EXODUS frontman Steve 'Zetro' Souza, guitarist Jason Brown, bassist Kevin Moore and LD/50 drummer Jeremy Colson. Meantime, other ex-TESTAMENT members drummer John Dette and bassist Greg Christian debuted their new band PUSHED in July.

Yet another band endeavour with strong TESTAMENT connections was unveiled during the summer of 2002 with the SADUS pairing of frontman Darren Travis and bassist Steve DiGiorgio embarking on an all star union billed as SUICIDE SHIFT. The project included TESTAMENT vocalist Chuck Billy as well as drummer Per Moller Jensen of THE HAUNTED with guest guitar from the much travelled ex-TESTAMENT man JAMES MURPHY. Meantime ex drummer Chris Kontos would be busy preparing an album for his new act THE SERVANTS.

TESTAMENT put in a one off show in Las Vegas supporting HALFORD and a short burst of December 2002 dates packaged with support acts EXODUS and VIO-LENCE. ROB ZOMBIE drummer Johnny Tempesta would be tapped by TESTAMENT to fill in for the group's West Coast tour after regular drummer Jon Allen was forced to bow due to a family emergency. SPIRAL ARCHITECT and BORKNAGER drummer Asgeir Mickelson stepped in as a temporary stand in for Allen.

April of 2003 found TESTAMENT on the road in Europe as part of the roving 'No Mercy' festivals. Returning to the USA the group partnered with HALFORD and IMMORTAL for the ill fated 'Metal Gods' tour, this trek unfortunately collapsing within a few dates. DiGeorgio then took time out to lay down bass on PAINMUSEUM's 'Metal Forever' album before TESTAMENT engaged his services once again for European festival gigs including 'the 'Wacken Open Air' and 'Earthshaker' events in Germany.

Steve Smyth temporarily joined the ranks of Seattle's NEVERMORE for their European and US gig schedule from September of 2003 onwards. The band spend the latter months of the year and into the new year recording a new studio album. Summer 2004 dates had TESTAMENT touring across Europe including appearances at the Budapest 'Summer Rocks' festival and Dutch 'Waldrock' event. During early 2004 both Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson donated their services to a tribute album 'Within The Mind' assembled by guitarist JAMES MURPHY in honour of the late DEATH mentor Chuck Schuldiner.

Former WHIPLASH, SLAYER and SYSTEMATIC drummer Paul Bostaph joined TESTAMENT in February 2004, his second tenure with the band having previously played several live dates with the group in 1992 and appeared on the band's 1993 live outing 'Return To The Apocalyptic City'. Guitarist Steve Smyth left the band on April 1st 2004, duly joining NEVERMORE on a full time basis, confirming this appointment with an appearance in the promotional video for the track 'I, Voyager' that same month.

The rumour mill soon had former HALFORD and current PAINMUSEUM guitarist 'Metal' Mike Chlasciak as the leading candidate to fill the vacancy, this conjecture soon confirmed. Throughout June TESTAMENT hit the continental festival circuit, putting in appearances at the 'Gods Of Metal' in Italy, 'Sweden Rock', 'Summer Rock' in Budapest, Hungary, 'Provinssirock' in Finland, 'Fury Fest' in France, 'Bang Your Head' in Germany and 'Graspop' in Belgium.

These European dates were struck by bad luck though when guitarist Eric Peterson fractured his leg falling down a flight of stairs at the Kozel Pub Club venue in Martin, Slovakia. Hospitalised in Vienna, Peterson learned he had sustained three separate breaks, putting him out of contention for the tour. Chlasciak covered until former guitarist Steve Smyth flew in to complete the dates.

Meantime, the erstwhile TESTAMENT rhythm section of bass player Greg Christian and drummer John Dette were back in the news, enrolling into the ranks of New York's HAVOCHATE.

The band was set to ally themselves with DEATH ANGEL, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM and OVERKILL for a 'Thrash Domination 04' Japanese tour in September. However, the group pulled out due to Peterson's injury. Chuck Billy briefly fronted EXODUS for their October San Francisco Warfield Theatre date, standing in for frontman Steev Esquivel, whose eyes had been contaminated with "unknown chemicals" the previous gig.

Chuck Billy, and founding guitarist Eric Peterson announced that original guitar player Alex Skolnick, original bassist Greg Christian and drummer John Tempesta would reunite for a brief burst of European gigs in May 2005. In this formation, TESTAMENT scheduled an appearance at the 'Dynamo Open Air' festival on 7th May 2005 in Hellendoorn, the Netherlands, by coincidence sharing the stage with reformed 80s era line-ups for both ANTHRAX and LÄÄZ ROCKIT. Further European dates saw Austrian Thrash act DEMOLITION as direct support.

The band's profile on the North American gig circuit rose considerably throughout the year, commencing with a 2nd July support to JUDAS PRIEST at the Mountain View Shoreline Amphitheatre. On 9th July TESTAMENT lined up at The Pound outdoor amphitheatre in San Francisco alongside VICIOUS RUMORS, LÄÄZ R?CKIT, HIRAX, AGENT STEEL, DEKAPITATOR, MUDFACE, NEIL TURBIN, BROCAS HELM, DREAMS OF DAMNATION and IMAGIKA for the 'Thrash Against Cancer' benefit. US shows in August witnessed a road partnership with NUCLEAR ASSAULT prior to Japanese gigs in September. South American festival dates in October, appearing in Mexico, Brazil and Chile, saw an unavailable Alex Skolnick being substituted by a returning "Metal" Mike Chlasciak.

Gigs in March 2006 saw Jon Allen of SADUS and DRAGONLORD manning the drums. Louie Clemente was forced out of July shows too, citing "medical reasons", necessitating the recruitment of EXODUS, SLAYER, FORBIDDEN and SYSTEMATIC adept Paul Bostaph.

In mid 2006 the world of Thrash Metal received a pleasant surprise with the announcement of a new San Francisco based collective project billed DUBLIN DEATH PATROL. (Dublin is a San Francisco suburb). This unit was assembled by a seasoned cast of veterans comprising Chuck Billy, former EXODUS and LEGACY vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza, MACHINE HEAD, DEATH PENALTY, METAL WARRIOR and VIO-LENCE man Phil Demmel on guitar, bassist Willy Langenhuizen, of RAMPAGE and LÄÄZ ROCKIT repute, guitarist Andy Billy of SACRED DOG, RAMPAGE and GUILT, RAMPAGE guitarist Greg Bustamante, OUT OF CONTROL guitarist Steve Robello, bassist John Souza and drummer Danny Cunningham.

TESTAMENT announced the addition of new Nick Barker in January 2007, formerly of DIMMU BORGIR and CRADLE OF FILTH. Live dates witnessed dates in Hungary and Poland in March followed by a campaign across North America including an appearance at the 'California Metal Fest'. The group then hit Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Argentina in April upfront of album recordings in June. European summer festival dates included July shows at 'Bloodstock' in Derby, UK, the 'Evolution Fest', in Brescia, Italy and August dates at the 'Jalo Metalli Fest' in Oulu, Finland, the 'Metal Heart Fest' in Notodden, Norway and 'Up From The Ground Fest' in Gemunden, Germany.

The band recorded their next effort, entitled 'The Formation Of Damnation' in part with producer Andy Sneap at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. This opus would trigger a quite startling change of fortune for TESTAMENT. Released in May 2008, 'The Formation Of Damnation' registered impressive first week chart positions around the globe scoring a no. 15 position in Germany, no. 23 in Austria, 29 in Norway, 32 in Sweden, 33 in Switzerland, 59 on the US Billboard charts, 90 in Denmark, 94 in Canada and 186 in the UK.

In what was undoubtedly the strongest Heavy Metal touring package in many years, the band teamed up with JUDAS PRIEST, HEAVEN AND HELL, and MOTÖRHEAD for a 16 date 'Metal Masters' US tour kicking off on August 6th 2008. Headlining shows in the USA in early October saw the band supported by SOILENT GREEN. Due to Alex Skolnick's prior commitment to the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, TESTAMENT recruited guitarist Glen Drover, ex-MEGADETH and KING DIAMOND, to fill in for Alex Skolnick on late October Mexican tour dates, in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Puebla and Mexico City, with JUDAS PRIEST.

TESTAMENT were also joined guitarist Glen Drover for their New Year's Eve appearance at Fat City in San Francisco, California, appearing alongside LÄÄZ ROCKIT, DUBLIN DEATH PATROL and DRAGONLORD.

TESTAMENT opened for JUDAS PRIEST and MEGADETH's 'Priest Feast' February 2009 UK dates. The group headlined the 'Mezcal Metal' festival taking place 13th September at Vive Cuervo Salon in Mexico sharing the stage with ALCATRAZZ, DEATH ANGEL, DEICIDE, GRAVE DIGGER, BELLADONNA, MALIGNO, MISERY INDEX, MORTUARY, SACRED REICH, THE AGONIST, TRANSMETAL and VOIVOD.

MEGADETH, SLAYER and TESTAMENT pulled resources together for a US tour commencing 18th January 2010. Canadian guitarist Glen Drover, ex-MEGADETH, KING DIAMOND and EIDOLON, filled in for Alex Skolnick on these dates.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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