By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
"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."