Best Testament Albums

The thrash metal movement of the early '80s was one of the most influential eras in metal history. So many legendary bands exploded from that period from all across the globe, but the Bay Area thrash movement remains the most significant. Outside of the Big Four, the scene soared with the likes of Exodus, Hirax and Testament.

Testament were formed in 1983 as Legacy by guitarist Eric Peterson. They were originally fronted by Steve Souza who would later go on to work with Exodus. When Souza left he recommended his replacement, the larger than life Chuck Billy. Billy has proven over the years to possess one of the best voices in all of thrash. He is able to create the most melodic melodies and also perform some of the most guttural vocals in all of metal.

The band has had an almost flawless 30-year career. Guitar prodigy Alex Skolnick is a versatile guitarist as he combines jazz, fusion and shred to his leads. Testament deserved to have an even bigger career as they have released some of the most vital thrash metal albums in its history. These are their best.

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'The New Order' (1988)

Testament - 'The New Order'
Testament - 'The New Order'.

With the release of their sophomore album The New Order, Testament firmly rooted themselves alongside the other successful thrash bands. This is the first record that Chuck Billy was involved in with the songwriting and the results are extraordinary. The melodies and lyrics are greatly improved. Even from the beginning Billy was taking a more hard-edged approach to his vocals and was a breath of fresh air when the record was released.

Six of the ten songs are Testament classics and are still performed live by the band. The hard hitting “Into the Pit,” “Trial by Fire” and the title track are three of their best songs. The growth the band achieved musically was also outstanding. Guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson were playing leads and writing riffs equal to or superior than Metallica and Slayer. The New Order is a true thrash classic that is one of the best thrash releases ever produced.

Recommended Track: "Trial by Fire"

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'Practice What You Preach' (1989)

Testament - 'Practice What You Preach'
Testament - 'Practice What You Preach'.

The band quickly followed up their groundbreaking 1988 release a little over a year later with a more mature sound. Practice What You Preach has the band slowing down some and vocalist Chuck Billy take a more melodic approach to his vocals. The change worked great for the band, as they didn’t release a carbon copy album but showed different strengths to their songwriting.

Guitarists Skolnick and Petersen are as strong as ever by combining hard driving thick riffs with some of the most technical leads ever played in thrash metal. The title track features a gigantic groove that is impossible not to headbang along with. “Perilous Nation” and “The Ballad” are major steps in the development of their sound. “Nightmare (Coming Back To You)” is one of the most overlooked songs in their catalog, a barn burner that never lets up.

Recommended Track: "Practice What You Preach"

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'The Legacy' (1987)

Testament - 'The Legacy'
Testament - 'The Legacy'.

Testament’s debut is their most frenetic of their career. The Legacy finds the band still developing their sound, but the energy they utilized will never be experienced again in their career. Most of the material was written with original vocalist Steve Souza before he left to join Exodus and the melodies completely reflect that. Souza’s unique stamp is all over tracks like “Alone in the Dark,” “Over the Wall” and “First Strike is Deadly.”

Even on their debut the band shows so much depth and maturity in their songwriting. “Apocalyptic City” shows the signs of a band that has been doing it for years with its combination of memorable vocal melodies, ripping solos and complex riffs. It still stands up as one of the best songs of their career. "C.O.T.L.O.D." is a punch to the mouth with its blasting speed and relentless pace. The Legacy is still regarded a fan favorite because of its aggressiveness and overall speed.

Recommended Track: "Apocalyptic City"

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'Low' (1994)

Testament - 'Low'
Testament - 'Low'.

Low featured the first member changes since the band changed their name to Testament. Guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Louis Clemente exited the band and were replaced with death metal guitarist James Murphy and former Exodus drummer John Tempesta, who was a huge improvement behind the kit. The loss of Skolnick was big, but guitarist Eric Peterson put the band on his back and his songwriting drove Testament into a heavier direction.

Low is the record that Testament would build their foundation on going forward, Billy started to experiment with death metal vocals and the music became more complex. This is a deep record as the second half is just as strong as the first. While still retaining the style of their earlier records, Testament was growing as a band. Some of the most underrated songs of their career are featured like “Chasing Fear,” “All I Could Bleed” and the title track, which is a classic.

Recommended Track: "Low"

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'Dark Roots of Earth' (2012)

Testament - 'Dark Roots of Earth'
Testament - 'Dark Roots of Earth'.

With the return of Alex Skolnick to the band for 2008's The Formation of Damnation, Testament quickly reestablished themselves as one of the best thrash bands. Four years later they released the follow up, Dark Roots of Earth. The band refined the success of their comeback album and upped the ante. The songs are faster and even catchier. Chuck Billy had survived a cancer scare and sounds possessed throughout his performance.

The album opens with “Rise Up,” which is the ultimate live song. It has such an anthemic quality that you can’t help to raise your fist in the air and sing along. The album also saw the return of drum legend Gene Hoglan, who permanently takes over the drum duties. His performance does not disappoint as it elevates the songwriting to a whole other level. He incorporates blast beats on the ferocious “Native Blood,” a first for Testament. The band executes a nice amount of diversity as the title track and “Cold Embrace” are infectiously melodic and “True American Hate” and “Native Blood” are some of the most aggressive tracks of their career.

Recommended Track: "Rise Up"

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'The Gathering' (1997)

Testament - 'The Gathering'
Testament - 'The Gathering'.

With 1997's Demonic the band utilized a lot of their death metal influences and vocalist Billy sang guttural for the entire release. On their next release The Gathering, the band got even more hard-hitting musically, but Billy was employing his melodic vocals with his aggressive side, used periodically for stunning results. Ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo takes over the drum stool and gives a great performance.

The first six songs play out like a best of. The band is on fire and may never have been tighter. Opener “D.N.R.” could be the best song of their career as it is filled with inhuman double bass drumming, slamming complex guitar riffs and Billy sounds like he is possessed. The Gathering is worlds better than their previous release and along with Low are two of the best thrash records in the '90s. Along with Slayer, in the mid '90s Testament was one of the few thrash bands still executing at a peak level.

Recommended Track: "D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)"