Early career and The Legacy (1982–1987)
Testament was formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1982 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 lead 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. 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. and M.O.D.), because the "Legacy" name was already trademarked by a hotel R&B cover 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 supporting their Among the Living album. On this tour, the Live at Eindhoven EP was recorded. Testament also opened for Slayer as well as 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, but 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 Overkill, Voivod, Death Angel, Vio-Lence, Nuclear Assault, Sanctuary, Raven, Forbidden and Heathen. They also made a number of festival appearances in the summer of 1988, such as Metalfest in Milwaukee, Aardschokdag in The Netherlands, and replaced Megadeth for some dates on the European Monsters of Rock tour, also featuring Iron Maiden, Kiss, David Lee Roth, Great White and Anthrax.
After touring in support of The New Order, 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 almost a year behind Practice What You Preach with several bands, including Overkill, Annihilator, Wrathchild America, Mortal Sin, Xentrix, Nuclear Assault, Savatage, Flotsam and Jetsam, Mordred, Dark Angel and a then-relatively unknown Primus. Despite selling over 450,000 copies, the album has never been certified gold by the RIAA.
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, and saw the band perform on arena tours, including the European Clash of the Titans tour with Megadeth, Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies. Testament supported Souls of Black with two North American tours, opening for Judas Priest on their Painkiller tour from October to December 1990, and Slayer on their Seasons in the Abyss tour from January to March 1991. They also toured Japan, and played shows with Anthrax and Sepultura. Shortly after completing the Souls of Black tour, the band released their first VHS documentary Seen Between the Lines, containing live clips recorded during the Souls of Black world tour, four promotional music videos and video interview segments.
Attempting to reconnect with an audience distracted by the growing grunge movement, Testament released The Ritual in 1992. It 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 power ballad "Return to Serenity" managed to receive radio airplay, peaking at number 22. Despite selling more than 485,000 copies in the United States, the album has never received gold certification. In support of The Ritual, Testament toured Europe and North America, headlining their own tours, as well as opening for Iron Maiden on their Fear of the Dark tour, and Black Sabbath on their Dehumanizer tour. However, the success of the album did not put an end to the tensions within the band.
Member changes; Low, Demonic and The Gathering (1992–2000)
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 left shortly after a concert on Halloween 1992, and three months later, drummer Louie Clemente left. Skolnick wanted to branch off to different styles of music such as jazz and he has stated that the band at that time did not know what they wanted to be, suffering from arguments on which direction the band should go is the main reason.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.
Skolnick has also stated, that contrary to popular belief, it was not because he wanted more melody. As a result of this clash, Skolnick left soon after
In 1993, Skolnick and Clemente were temporarily replaced by Forbidden members Glen Alvelais and Paul Bostaph. This lineup released the 1993 live EP, Return to the 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's 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 Di Giorgio (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.
Health issues and First Strike Still Deadly (2001–2004)
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, Di Giorgio, the return of Alex Skolnick on guitar, and John Tempesta on drums.
By 2003, Chuck Billy had made a full recovery, 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.
Reunion and The Formation of Damnation (2005–2010)
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. Also in 2005, Testament's long-out of print documentary Seen Between the Lines was released on DVD for the first time.
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.
In April 2008, Testament was confirmed for Ozzy Osbourne's Monsters of Rock festival to take place on July 26, 2008, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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 October 22, 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 started writing new material for their tenth album. In an interview with Metalheadz, 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, 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 May 18, 2011, 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. Paul Bostaph was unable to take part in the recording due to a "serious injury", although 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 bonus track of the album.
Testament appeared at the California dates of the summer 2011 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, replacing In Flames.
On July 14, 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 the 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. John Tempesta filled in for Bostaph on the tour. It was announced on December 1, 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 (2013–2017)
In August 2012, 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 September 13, 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 October 15, 2013. The release documents the band's sold-out headlining performance at the Paramount in Huntington, New York, in February 2013.
On January 13, 2014, it was announced that bassist Greg Christian had left Testament again, and Steve Di Giorgio returned to the band as his replacement; it was also announced that he 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 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 (Pestilence, Vicious Rumors, Paradox, Thraw) and Bay Area drummer Alex Bent (Arkaik, Dragonlord, Decrepit Birth, Battlecross) filled in for Di Giorgio and Hoglan in August at the prestigious Canadian open air festival Heavy Montreal, attended by more than 70,000 spectators.
In May 2016, Billy confirmed the 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 received generally positive reviews from critics, and scored Testament their second-highest chart position on the Billboard 200, peaking at number twenty. Shortly after its release, Testament embarked on an international tour with Amon Amarth, and toured North America in April–May 2017 with Sepultura, Prong, Infernal Tenebra and Dying Gorgeous Lies. The band also toured Europe with Annihilator and Death Angel in November and December 2017, and again in March and April 2018, with Annihilator and Vader supporting. Along with Anthrax, Lamb of God, Behemoth and Napalm Death, Testament opened for Slayer on their final North American tour, which took place in the spring and summer of 2018.
Upcoming thirteenth studio album (2017–present)
In a March 2017 interview with Japan's Roppongi Rocks, frontman Chuck Billy revealed that Testament had begun working on new material for their thirteenth studio album, and planned to continue writing in the summer after their U.S. and European tours. Billy also expressed hope that the album would be released in 2018, stating, "We thought we'd have a record out after two years; it just ended up being four, because the process just... I don't know what happened, but it took forever. So this time, like, you know what? I don't wanna do that again. I told Eric exactly when we were done recording. I said, 'You know what? It's a great record now, but I don't wanna go through what I had to go through to do this again. So why don't we start writing now?' So we decided that when we're not on the road, let's get together and just jam and maybe come up and at least get to that point where we were with this record — a bunch of ideas and riffs and lyrics." In a December 2017 interview with Metal Messiah Radio, Billy stated that Testament would start working on their new album after they finish touring in support of Brotherhood of the Snake in August 2018, hoping not to repeat the four year gaps between their last three albums. He explained, "If we can get a head start on riffs and ideas, and then hopefully after that, you know, really dig in to put out a record in 2019, sometime."
Peterson confirmed in a February 2018 interview with RockSverige that he has begun the songwriting process of the album, and added, "Our plan was to end in August 2018 and maybe get into the studio by the end of 2018 and put the record out in 2019. But, you know, Slayer's announced their farewell tour and they want us to be a part of it. I would imagine, if that stuff happens, then things will get pushed back a little bit, but the initial plan is to have it out in 2019. [We're] ready for summer to do all the A markets for festivals and stuff. This summer we're not doing a lot of festivals; we're actually talking about bowing out of a couple to make other things happen with the Slayer farewell thing." Billy stated in a May 2018 interview that opening for Slayer on their farewell tour would be "the final lap for [them] touring" in support of Brotherhood of the Snake, and added, "We want our focus, during this and after this, to dive back into the songwriting process. We want to release a new album in 2019, so we need to get started soon."
In June 2018, Billy stated on Full Metal Jackie that, "the goal is to get in the studio hopefully by January and have a record out hopefully by April." A month later, Billy stated to Metal Heads Forever Magazine that, "Me and Eric, we'll start really just creating and working, trying to get the next record out as soon as possible, because we have plans and hopes of setting a deadline on ourselves to have it out by summer 2019. We've got a lot of work ahead of us." In an August 2018 interview on the Talking Metal podcast, Billy said that the band would start work on the new album after their tour with Slayer, and added, "Our hopes and dreams would be to get in the studio by January and have an album out by the summer." He also said that they will work with Andy Sneap as the album's mixer.
In a January 2019 interview with Jimmy Kay of Canada's The Metal Voice, Billy confirmed that Testament has begun writing songs for their new album, and added, "We should have it out hopefully by July. Hopefully we'll get into the studio by April. That's the goal." A month later, Billy announced on social media that work on the new album had started, and pre-production began in May. Drummer Gene Hoglan revealed in a June 2019 interview on the "Talk Toomey" podcast that the band had finished recording the album for a 2019 or early 2020 release. Peterson announced later that month that it will be released in January 2020. During their performance at Summer Breeze Open Air on August 13, 2019, Petersen announced their return to Germany in 2020. In support of the new album, Testament (along with Exodus and Death Angel) will take part in the European tour The Bay Strikes Back in February and March 2020; there has been reported talk of a North American leg of this tour.
Along with several acts, such as Anthrax, Corrosion of Conformity, Armored Saint, DevilDriver, John 5, Doro and Metal Church, Testament performed at Megadeth's first-ever cruise called Megacruise in October 2019.