Testament began as Legacy back in 1984 in the town of Alameda, California. Drummer Louie Clemente met up with Derrick Ramirez looking to start a band. Unfortunately, Derrick had to work during the day and had no time to play, so Derrick hooked Louie up with his cousin, Eric. This turned out for the better as Eric became the Testament guitarist.
The band soon found out that the name Legacy was already in use by another band that had broken up. They had no money to buy the rights to the name, so they ended up using the name Testament, which was offered to them by none other than Billy Milano of S.O.D. and M.O.D. fame. Steve Souza, the original vocalist, was contracted to work with Exodus. Steve contacted a friend of his, Chuck Billy, asking him if he wanted to join the band. He tried out, and he was accepted as the Testament vocalist. During this time, the band was in the process of signing a record deal with MegaForce. With Chuck on vocals, Testament recorded their first full-length album, The Legacy, a brutal demonstration of classic thrash metal. Chuck, Eric, Greg, Alex, and Louie went on to record four more successful studio albums. (See Discography)
After the 5th album it became clear that Alex and Louie were having creative differences with the rest of the band. Since the release of The New Order in 1988, the band had become increasingly over-produced and simplistic. This was due to Alex writing many of the songs, as well as compromise within the band. He and Louie wanted to be more mainstream and for the band to have radio and MTV accessibility. Chuck and Eric, however, wanted to keep it brutal and stick to their thrashier roots. Alex announced to the band after the tour for The Ritual that it would be his last. Chuck and Eric were surprised at first, but soon realized that they now had the freedom to do what they wanted and make heavier music. Later in the tour, Louie also left the band.
In 1994, Testament released a groundbreaking album, Low. With newly acquired guitarist James Murphy and drummer John Tempesta, Testament recorded their heaviest album ever. Like a return to form of the early days, the album was fast, dark, and heavy. It also featured an emotional ballad as well as two instrumentals. Many of the fans considered it their best album, however, it was not promoted by Atlantic, their record company at the time. John Tempesta soon left the band to join White Zombie, and Testament acquired former Evil Dead drummer Jon Dette. At around the same time, the band left the Atlantic label, mainly because the guys thought the label had done a less than adequate job managing and promoting the band (not to mention asking them to record an 'alternative' album). With Dette, the band released Live at The Fillmore in 1995 on their own Burnt Offerings label with help from producer Johnny Z. It shows that both Murphy and Dette had no trouble learning Alex and Louie's parts. Unfortunately, the band's future was in jeopardy after the release of the ...Fillmore album. James Murphy wanted to concentrate on a solo album, Greg and Jon had arguments with the band, and all three guys split. In order to continue writing, Chuck and Eric acquired Chris Kontos, who had recently left Machine Head. Chris suggested they change their name to Dog Faced Gods and start over. However, it was clear that his idea would not work out. Testament officially broke up in the middle of 1996.
In late 1996, Chuck and Eric got back together to write new material. Eric brought his cousin Derrick into the band to play bass. Former Death and Dark Angel drum god Gene Hoglan was called in to perform the drum tracks for the album. Glen Alvalais, who was previously in the band in 1993 on Return To The Apocalyptic City, was acquired to play on tour for the live material. Chuck and Eric along with Derrick and Gene recorded Demonic, the heaviest Testament album to date. Chuck and Eric broke down all of the boundaries and made no compromises in recording some of the year's most powerful material. Soon after the album was released, Gene announced his commitment to Strapping Young Lad, who Testament was scheduled to tour with later in the summer. Testament needed a new drummer for the upcoming tour. It was decided that Jon Dette would be contracted to fill the part. He toured with the band until early 1998, when he announced that he would be leaving once again.
At around the same time Jon Dette left the band, Testament was in the process of writing new material for a projected 1999 release. Chuck and Eric were again the major creative forces in writing the material. It was said from the beginning that the album would be a combination of sorts between the variety found on the Low record and the brutality found on Demonic. Things started to get better and better for the band, as it was announced that James Murphy had returned to play guitar for the band, and Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer, Grip Inc.) was going to perform the drum tracks for the upcoming album. Later down the line, bassist Steve DiGiorgio (ex-Death and Sadus) was announced as another addition to Testament's lineup. With Murphy, Lombardo, and DiGiorgio, Testament had a lineup consisting of some of the most talented players in the rock/metal scene today in addition to the creative and musical talents of Chuck and Eric. With the above mentioned lineup, Testament released The Gathering on June 8th, 1999, and it has yet to disappoint.
Information on former Testament members:
Alex Skolnick (Lead Guitar, 1987-92) - has a jazz band called The Skol-Patrol. Participated in a project called Attention Deficit with bassist Michael Manring and drummer Tim Alexander. He is currently finishing up his music degree in New York. Returned to record First Strike Is Deadly.
Louie Clemente (Drums, 1987-92) - no longer in the music business.
Greg Christian (Bass, 1987-96) - played in an alternative band in 1996 called Flange. Now plays with Jon Dette in Pushed
Paul Bostaph (Drums, 1993) - recently left Slayer, has a new band called Systematic.
John Tempesta (Drums, 1994) - now with Rob Zombie. Returned to record First Strike Is Deadly.
Chris Kontos (Drums, 1996) - performed with James Murphy on Konkhra's Weed Out The Weak, has been quiet in the music business lately.
Gene Hoglan (Drums, 1997) - performs with Strapping Young Lad as well as Devin Townsend's Infinity and Terria projects. Performed drum tracks on Old Man's Child's Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion, but he is committed to working with Devin Townsend. Session member on Daemon's Eye For An Eye as well as Just Cause's Finger It Out.
Jon Dette (Drums, 1994-95, 1997-98, 1999) - has a new band called Pushed with Greg Christian.
James Murphy (Lead Guitar, 1993-1996, 1999) - completed his second solo album, Feeding The Machine, and he continues to be active as a producer and studio musician. Rumored to be working on a new Disincarnate album. Recovering from cancer.
Dave Lombardo (Drums, 1999) - continues to play with Fantômas, and has recently returned to tour and record a new album with Slayer.
Member Side Projects:
Eric Peterson - guitarist/vocalist for Dragonlord alongside Steve DiGiorgio (Bass), Jon Allen (Drums), Lyle Livingston (Keyboards), and Steve Smyth (Guitar).
Steve Smyth - guitarist in Dragonlord.
Steve DiGiorgio - member of Control Denied. Recorded Iced Earth's Horror Show as a guest/studio musician. Participates in other projects as well.