Testament @ Starland Ballroom

SAYREVILLE, NJ-More than four years removed from their celebrated reunion and the release of their latest record, The Formation Of Damnation, Testament have proved to skeptics that even more than 25 years into their career they can still write great new music and put on an exciting show. Friday night at the Starland Ballroom was no different.

Having seen Testament both indoors and out in the past year there was no question that, as their thrash metal roots would suggest, they are still a club band at heart. Touring this time around with always entertaining pseudo-thrashers Unearth, Testament made it clear that even playing their fourth show in the New Jersey/New York area in the last year they were still energetic and hungry when it comes to performing.

To my surprise the crowd seemed to be mostly made up of people under 25 years old with the exception of the usual leather-clad, patch-wearing throwbacks who are sure to be found at any “old school” show. Even more impressive was the fact that a great deal of those young fans in attendance knew the words to Testament classics like “The Preacher” and “Practice What You Preach,” which opened the set in addition to new songs like “More Than Meets The Eye” and “The Persecuted Won’t Forget.” The band even included ballad “The Legacy” and fan-favorite “Souls Of Black” to their set and although they played for over an hour and a half I never felt like I had seen all there was to see.

Vocalist Chuck Billy hit every note in his cleanly sung parts but the highlights, as always, were his deep growls for which it seems his gargantuan frame was made for. The band was tight as one would expect from veterans of Testament’s caliber and I couldn’t help but get a kick out of the contrasting performances of lead guitarist Alex Skolnick and the rest of the group.

Skolnick, who left the band in 1992 to pursue a career with his jazz trio and other projects, went from smiling and bobbing his head during rhythm sections as if he were playing jazz only to turn up the gain and contort his facial expressions and his body under the spotlight while playing his solos like any true metal guitar god.

Billy repeatedly thanked the crowd for supporting them on their tour and professed how much they love to play in Jersey. Whether or not this is what he says in every town Testament hits is a moot point because I’m ready to welcome them back next time for sure.