Testament – “The Legacy”


The making of Testament’s “The Legacy”

released: 1987

label: Megaforce


News flash: Thrash metal didn’t begin or end with the release of Testament’s The Legacy, but just because the band’s 1987 debut didn’t defiantly construct genre bookends, it is still very much worthy of entry into Decibel’s hallowed hall. The nine-song behemoth may have hit the metal world with the impact of a close-range thunderclap upon its release, causing those outside of San Francisco’s Bay Area to further believe that if there wasn’t something in the water, then a coterie of thrash metal lovin’ mad scientists was likely performing successful genetic experiments in a secret bunker underneath the University of California-Berkeley. But chances are the album’s initial impression as a Hall of Fame contender is clouded by the fact that The Legacy was another in a long line of absolute gems that found their genesis in the ’80s Bay Area scene. The story surrounding the creation of what is arguably Testament’s best top-to-bottom recording isn’t awash in band drama, tragic circumstance, abject poverty or hardship of any description—although they did return to California after recording at Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca, NY during one of the worst winters of the decade with a different moniker—as it’s simply the tale of a bunch of goofy, metal-obsessed kids from the suburbs of San Francisco and Oakland coming of age and dodging alcoholism while sculpting their Priest, Maiden, Mercyful Fate and local thrash influences into the music they wanted to hear and play, and creating a killer album in the process. The Legacy is not only significant because it’s a storming combination of brash and class, combining polished and refined traditional metal with the raw, pimply-faced energy of the then-new-school sounds of thrash in an album that quickly found the band nipping at the heels of the so-called “Big Four” (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth), but it also opened the door to a 21-year, nine-album—give or take a live collection, re-recording or unsanctioned “best-of” collection—career. Now that Testament have reunited with the lineup of rhythm guitarist Eric Peterson, bassist Greg Christian, vocalist Chuck Billy, lead guitarist Alex Skolnik and drummer Paul Bostaph (who played with the band in a live capacity during the mid ’90s as one of the many replacements for Louie Clemente, their original skin-slapper who performed on The Legacy and the three albums that followed) and have returned to classic form with the recently-released The Formation of Damnation, we decided to gather the boys for a look back at their landmark debut.

—Kevin Stewart-Panko

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