The Formation of Damnation is the ninth studio album by Testament, which was released on April 29, 2008. It is the first album Testament has released of new material since 1999's The Gathering, although the band re-recorded some of their early material for 2001's First Strike Still Deadly. It is also Testament's first release with original guitarist Alex Skolnick since 1992's The Ritual and bassist Greg Christian since 1994's Low.
The follow-up to The Gathering was first mentioned in 2002 and was originally due for release in early 2004, but was not yet completed. Due to the band's touring schedule and many line-up changes, the album was set aside for a number of years before finally being completed in 2007/2008.
The album debuted at no. 59 on the Billboard 200 Chart, selling 11,900 copies in its first week. It won the "Best Album" award at Metal Hammer's Golden Gods Awards ceremony on 16 June 2008, beating albums by Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold, Children of Bodom and Down. They later named it the 4th best album of 2008 in their end-of year top 50 albums list. In addition, Metal-Rules.com voted it the best metal album of 2008.
Testament first mentioned their follow-up to The Gathering in May 2002, stating that guitarist Eric Peterson was "busy writing new material" for the album that would take "little more time since The Gathering" and be "a challenging act to follow". It was also confirmed that the album would be brutal "with a lot of dual lead trade-offs between guitarists Peterson and Skolnick."
On February 15, 2004, it was announced that former Forbidden/Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph would join the band to record the album. It was also announced that the band was planning on entering the studio in April/May, with an intended release date of late 2004.
On October 12, 2004, Testament posted a long update about the album:
“Eric Peterson has been given the green light to drive again by his doctor following his long recovery from a triple-fracture leg surgery. On tour in June, he fell down a flight of stairs resulting in the fracture that put him in the hospital in Vienna for 12 days. He spent the rest of the summer and part of the fall recuperating and in physical therapy.
Now that he is mobile, he can drive the hour+ to the Testament recording studio, Driftwood Studios, and get back to working on the recording. He is in the studio two to three days a week with Chuck Billy and Paul Bostaph jamming on the songs as Chuck continues to work up more melody and lyric ideas.
In preparation for their follow up CD to the #1 Chart topper, The Gathering, Eric and Chuck upgraded their hideaway studio to include a state-of-the-art Digi-Design Pro Tools HD hard disk recording system. Chuck is quoted as saying, 'We wanted to [and did] get all the bells and whistles plug-ins and hardware necessary to deliver a killer album.' No doubt it will be deafening — as usual.
Currently, longtime friend and acclaimed recording engineer and ProTools pro Vinnie Wojno is helping Testament test-drive their newly installed system. Last week they added a newly constructed raised platform for the drum kit to better anchor a biting edge on the drum tones. Wojno set up the drum mic-ing for Lombardo on 'The Gathering' and likes the new upgraded set up.
Recording legend has it that in order to get drum ideas out of Eric Peterson's head and onto the tracks, Dave Lombardo had to duct tape his sticks into his hands for one of the more blistering outings on The Gathering. Paul Bostaph, a metal drum legend in his own right, endorsed by Tama, steps 'into the pit' for this new record and brings his own formidable double-kick talents to the mix.”
In February 2005, Testament manager Phil Arnold of Thrill Entertainment issued the following update on the band's then-current and upcoming activities:
“In prepping for the next studio album, Testament re-opened its Driftwood Studios at a new location. They had shut down the Oakland industrial-area site when Chuck Billy [vocals] was going through his eventually-successful cancer treatments. With state-of-the-art HD ProTools upgrades installed, Driftwood continues an aggressive cutting edge approach that Testament embarked upon in Oakland with Demonic, its 1997 #1 Metal Album. The prior Oakland location was also the recording home of their 1999 #1 Metal Album, The Gathering.
The new site, in downtown Pittsburg, CA, is an older cement-brick & mortar building with previous recording-studio history, a fact unknown until recently to Peterson and Billy. The new installation has an eerie-inhabitant vibe, because the deep-in-the-catacombs control-room motion detectors frequently go off at late-night/pre-dawn hours — while no access to the building interior is possible without triggering the perimeter security systems, which remain silent. Oddly, the interior motion detectors never go off in daytime hours; and each time the late-night activity is investigated, no evidence of entry is detected and nothing is disturbed. No mice droppings — no nothing.
Frank, both friendly and curious, had a disarming demeanor and elicited some cordial dialogue about Driftwood being a private recording studio. The location looks like a no-name warehouse and except for the now-obvious security gates, you'd think it was vacant. Perfect for a private studio and the lair for the next spawning from Testament.
His eyes lit up when Billy mentioned 'recording studio'. He said that previously this location had been occupied by the prestigious, yet underground, Norman Abercrombie Studios, a noted Bay Area jazz and blues recording spot for many years. It closed in the early '80s when Abercrombie retired. Billy laughed, and said it looked and felt like it had been vacant since the '80s, too.”
— Phil Arnold
In a March 2005 interview with Peterson, a question was asked if the band would write and record new material with the then-reunited "classic line-up". Peterson replied;
“I don't know! I know that I've got some good material and I know that at least half of it is killer. I mean, I like all of it, but Chuck's always kind of picky about stuff. One day he'll say it's killer and the next day he says he hates it. I'm just like, 'OK, we'll see what happens!
It would be nice though...I would definitely love writing with Alex again. Me and Alex, we're kind of basically the birth of the sound of Testament. I have the kind of crunchy riffs and he has the Egyptian scales and the harmonies. Put those together and you have Testament! So, I don't know if that's where he's at now. Probably not, since he's more into jazz and all that stuff. I know I've matured a lot as a writer and I'm sure he'd appreciate it.
— Eric Peterson
In September 2006, Skolnick stated that the band would return to the studio in early 2007 to resume work on the new album. He explains:
“As fall approaches, there is a lot going on, starting with the AST 'pre-production' tour. We've got our material sketched out for our next album and invite you to join us as we road test and develop the new songs before jumping into the studio in early October. We're especially looking forward to our tour of Florida (assuming the weather gets better) and the Earthdance Cultural Event hosted by our friends in Sarasota, which promotes political and environmental awareness.”
— Alex Skolnick
In a February 2007 interview with singer Chuck Billy, a question was asked when the band would get into the studio to record the album. Billy replied:
“The plan is to, hopefully, get in there in April. Nick's gonna be here up through there working with Eric. We've got probably four really great songs pretty much in the can and with a few months of writing we'll hopefully have it ready to go. Alex [Skolnick] has been out here working with the guys too, so the ball has started rolling. And as soon as they give me the music, I'll be listening to it in my car all the time until the words and melodies appear.”
— Chuck Billy
In March 2007, Peterson announced that the band was "working hard with Nick on some new ideas and some cool old-school styles and it's coming together really killer! Six songs already in the can so far!" and would "get into the studio to track the drums in June". Billy also described the album as "a good wine, you throw in the grapes and 'CRUSH'".
In a June 2007 interview, a question was asked how many songs Testament was working on. Billy replied:
“ We have eight or nine. Alex [Skolnick, guitar] has a few himself. The hardest thing is none of us live near each other. Alex lives in New York, Nick [Barker, drums] lives in England, Eric [Peterson, guitar] lives about two and a half hours from me. Whenever we get together it's like this big, orchestrated plan. It's been working out really good. We've been rehearsing at my house. Everybody's been flying in and staying for the weekend. We live and write and breathe the songs all weekend long.”
— Chuck Billy
Also in June 2007, it was announced that Testament had parted ways with Spitfire Records after an eight year relationship and signed with their current label Nuclear Blast. A March 2008 release date for the album was also announced.
In November 2007, it was announced that the album would be called The Formation of Damnation. A month later, Blabbermouth.net reported that an April 29, 2008 release date has been set.