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"Right then, the beer cans hit the ground," recalls Billy. "It was like a movie. I woke my wife up and said, 'I don't have cancer any more.' I went to the doctor that week, and the doctor said the tumor wasn't cancerous any more."
After two more spiritual trips to healers and a nine-hour operation, the shrunken tumor was gone, and doctors said Billy was cancer-free.
"I believe 100 percent that [Native American medicine] cured me," says Billy, who was moved to rediscover his roots. "That's what got me through. It was definitely a very spiritual, enlightening time of my life."
The sickness helped heal his band. Friends held a benefit concert to offset a mountain of medical bills. Souza and Skolnick rejoined their old bandmates, performing as Legacy. Billy performed a song at the end, and the vibes were good. Skolnick rejoined in 2001, to rerecord classic songs with modern production on the First Strike Still Deadly album. A European promoter lured the remaining Legacy-era players back into the fold for one show in 2005, which turned into a tour. Momentum carried into talks of a new record. In 2006, drummer Louie Clemente's arthritis forced him to bow out. Testament ultimately recruited another ex-Slayer drummer, Paul Bostaph.
The strong new Formation of Damnation doesn't sound like Testament's death-metal days, and while it still doesn't have the headbanging groove of The Legacy, the recognizable crunch of Skolnick and never-departed guitarist Eric Peterson plays like a worthy sequel to The New Order.
"As long as Alex wants to do it and we're having fun, I think we'll be doing this for a while," says Billy. "The music is keeping me younger. I haven't grayed. I figure, one day, I'm going to turn that corner. But I look at my heroes like [metal singers] Dio and Halford and say, 'They're still rocking.' And hopefully, I can follow in their shoes."