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This band is so consistent. Maybe more so than any of the so called 'Big Four'. That's why us fans sometimes refer to them as the 5th member of thrash metals elite. This year has been good for thrash metal fans. Both Anthrax and Megadeth released excellent albums, and Metallica have just released a new single, but that's not so good. Then there's Testament, and I'll be honest, I wasn't familiar with them 'till my buddy gave me his copy of Dark Roots of Earth, and told me to 'try this'. This is where I forgot all about Metallica and looked into, not only this album, but the entire Testament catalogue and band history.
Testament are a seriously formidable thrash metal giant! This album has their 'classic' lineup of singer, Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick. On bass, Greg Christian, and fill in drummer, Gene Hoglan, who for my money, beats most predecessors, and I think that I'm in the majority when I say that. I know my long time Testament friend will agree with me. This awesome lineup spent several months touring and smashing it up before recording their tenth studio album, Dark Roots of Earth, which comes close to the achievements of their '80s glory days.
Thrashers like 'Rise Up', 'True American Hatred', and 'Last Stand for Independence' are a major highlight. They have fast, precise riffs, along with excellent guitar trade-offs, which become the central focus of this album. I think that this formidable duo haven't declined with age, but have got better. This maturity and ability to keep an old format fresh is what makes Testament so good, and it makes me wonder why they weren't as successful as some of their peers. They are certainly as powerful as Exodus, but they are also as versatile as Metallica, and Testament consistently make better albums than the latter.
The important components of Peterson's super charged rhythm playing, accompanied by Skolnick's shredding virtuosity, are all complemented by Billy's unique singing and growling, as well as Christian's inventive playing, and Hoglan's excellent drumming, which has a death metal flavour. Back to the songs themselves, and the melodic title song, along with the thumping 'Cold Embrace', sounds like something that I later heard on the Souls of Black and Practice What You Preach albums, respectively. Both of these songs have a really good blend of melody and heaviness. The riffs, licks and solos are inventive and structured well enough, so that I'm interested in the songs from beginning to end. There's also one of my favourites, 'A Day in the Death', which was co-written by original vocalist Steve Souza, who was a significant contributor to their early work. This begins with a heavy bass riff, shortly followed by more heavy guitar riffs, and the guitar licks and solos remain fresh, without becoming repetitive.
I should mention that the production clearly plays its part here, where the tone and nuance of every instrument is very good. Andy Sneap produced this album, and his process has enhanced all of the vocals, riffs and solos, which I have just mentioned. There's also more experimentation on this album, in the form of 'Throne of Thorns', which is very aggressive and has a great guitar solo. Right now, Dark Roots of Earth surpasses '08s, The Formation of Damnation, and judging by their live performances, perhaps this years album will be even better. I certainly have more confidence in Testament, than I do in any other thrash metal band who are due to release an album this year.
What can I say? My mind was blown with Testament's new 2012 album "Dark Roots of Earth". This album really blows the brains out of The Formation of Damnation which, by the way, I actually liked. It was a good comeback album after not coming out with a studio album since the year 1999. This album is a thrash metal masterpiece and, in my opinion, is the best album that came out in 2012. This album shows that Testament is still kicking tons of ass and they still have tons of energy.
The music is fantastic. It has a lot of variety in every song. The guitar riffs are some of the most original riffs that I have heard from any thrash band in a long time, so full of heaviness and groove throughout the whole album and it is mixed with a unique guitar tone. The solos are the same for originality and it sounds incredibly amazing when Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick do the twin guitar solos. They really go great together. A perfect example is in the song "Cold Embrace". The bass guitar is also well-produced and audible, and if you listen to the song "A Day in the Death", you will hear an amazing bad-ass bass intro by Greg Christian. Testament also did a great job at choosing metal drum legend Gene Hoglan. His drum work is also pretty great and it mixes in with the other instruments just perfectly. Chuck Billy is excellent on vocals and how they fit right in with the atmosphere of the instruments.
Another element that makes this album flawless is how the track listing is set. The first four songs on the album are really energetic get the blood pumping and make you want to bang your head. The perfect opening track being the song rise up war
In closing, Dark Roots of Earth is, in my opinion, the best album of 2012 and I highly recommend getting the CD. This is really another superb Testament album that you will be listening to in the future. Amazing album. Two thumbs up!
Finally! The tenth Testament studio album saw the light of the day. In this case my expectations were growing each single day of waiting. As compared with “The Formation of Damnation” (released four years earlier) which was like a new beginning with Alex Skolnick, this time the line-up is stabilized (excepting the drummer as always…), the band played many successful live shows. Even if their previous album was pretty mediocre with some great moments, I was still hoping the new thrash adventure with the beast from Oakland will be unforgettable musical experience. I didn’t look forward to magical whiles of the eighties, I realized that recording the second “The Legacy” was impossible, but I wanted to get something in the mix of “Low” and “The Gathering”. The first thing coming from the album was the front cover: really good work that absorbed my attention immediately. Quite decent start, I thought. And, as always, I decided not to listen to tracks the band put in the web. Finally “Dark Roots of Earth” started to spin in my deck…
And I have to admit that opening “Rise Up” is a very promising song. Again I can hear ship-shape production by Andy Sneap, maybe this time it is more convincing to the previous album, but this sterility with no signs of any ‘madness’ well-known from the eighties is still perceptible. Ok, in four minutes of “Rise Up” the band serves quite interesting and memorable work of guitars, still in thrashing way, Chuck Billy didn’t change his way of singing, and what is more, it still sounds absolutely superb. He is imperishable! The second element of this band, Alex Skolnick, confirms his top-notch guitar class. As always he shows delicious solo, with passion and metal feeling. So, appetite comes with eating, for sure it’s good description after listening to the first song. And the same feeling is present on the beginning of the second “Native Blood”. But a real disaster comes after one minute, because from 1:03 to 1:23 I can hear… blast beats! In Testament’s music??? Yes, exactly… For me, as a Testament fan since 1991, this fact is simply inacceptable, and what is more, it makes the song… softer! Unfortunately this kind of very questionable enrichment of music appears also at 1:57 and 4:05. And this poor pseudo melody in the background! Is this a newbie Gothenburg melodic crew? I am completely down-hearted even if it consists of superb guitar works of both guitarist and very interesting Chuck singing…
It’s hard to write, but with every second of the album, my anger and impuissance seems to be leaders of the mind. The blasts are also in “True American Hate”, again in three moments but this time they are much shorter (about four seconds). And again the very good song is totally devastated by these needful ideas. Aggressive vocals, almost two minute guitar lead with never heard before kind of melody in Testament career (3:50 – 3:58), all for nothing! Fortunately blasts are gone now, but it doesn’t mean my review will turn into laud. No, it won’t, because of song with number six and name “Cold Embrace”. To put it briefly, it is the worse song ever written by the authors of “The Legacy”. The band decided to record a ballad. And though the idea isn’t bad, not every band member thought it as a good move. But finally the old sentiments won, probably during playing old stuff live with the ballads. That’s true Testament recorded only few such songs and not on every album, but when they did it, I got the songs absolutely great! Just to name “The Legacy”, “Return to Serenity” and “Trail of Tears”. These songs are immortal classics, while “Cold Embrace” is the biggest mistake. What is more, the structure reminds me of “Sentient 6” of Nevermore, but in Testament case, I deal with very poor imitation. The first signs of musical calamity are audible during the opening due to completely banal melody and weak vocals (which is unthinkable!). Nothing is changed when hard guitars enters the stage with very simple yet completely ineffective structures. Moreover, this ‘monster’ has almost eight minutes. Gross exaggeration, guys! The ballad that had to be a splendid variety of the album, came out like a blunt nail ripping my forehead. Musical hideousness!
Well, now it’s good moment to forget about these unpleasant whiles however I’m not going to swallow any antidepressant pills. Namely the track called “Throne of Thorns” makes my blood run really faster. This is absolutely the best song here which I can bravely put next to all-time Testament classics, especially when it comes to the era of “The Ritual”. It starts off with calm yet good-tempered tunes, then after eighteen seconds hard guitars rip the idyl apart. Maybe everything isn’t played in fast tempo, but well-thought-out riffs make this song absolutely massive and burdening the senses. Fine chorus, with discreet melodics, is an introduction to some kind of Chuck’s spoken words, which is very interesting idea here. But the best is yet to come, namely at 3:18 tempo is changed with over one minute Skolnick solo. The track is silenced by the opening motive and gorgeous Eric lead. And I have a question, why this Erick work is silenced little by little here? I tell you, I cannot understand such doing, but when you take a look on the last track of extended version of this album, you see “Throne of Thorns” in longer version. And yes, exactly, this Erick solo is unbroken here and sounds superb! For me, piece of dishonesty…
As the peruser can notice, I didn’t write anything about the remaining four songs. Unfortunately, I’m not going to create any praises and applauses, because these tracks are only good (title “Dark Roots of Earth”), or very, very mediocre. I can hear the absolutely lack of life in song structures (especially “A Day in the Death”, and “Last Stand for Independence” in spite of faster tempos), in addition “Man Killed Mankind” (although I point out on pretty interesting chorus) has awful ending harmonic outro, it completely doesn’t fit to Testament music. But that’s true, both guitarists did a really splendid job on the album, but let’s take “A Day in the Death” once again, when first solo played by Eric lasts only eight (!) seconds (it seems to be incomplete…), unlike the second by Alex which has almost eighty seconds.
Of course, while analyzing the extended album version, there is a need to write something about bonus tracks. One of them is mentioned just above, the rest three ones are just covers. And in this case… I am totally helpless. As far as “Dragon Attack” (by Queen, but I’m not a fan of this band and simply don’t like it) and “Animal Magnetism” by Scorpions (a real sleeping draught, even better than the Polish football team playing with ten milligrams of estazolamum) are unsuccessful and boring adaptations, the real disaster comes with Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave”. It is a fucking desecration! I simply cannot understand, I mean, when the young band worships their long-time musical favorite and record well-known classic tunes, but in this case, when first seen and everything looks just ok, the overall feeling is synonyme of failing. Although I consider Chuck Billy one of the best vocalists on the scene, here he completely felt short of expectations especially in chorus (really terrible effort!), his interpretation of Dickinson lines sounds like a vain attempt of the beginner, who has an own way to show his talent (?) the rest of band guys. This is complete misunderstanding, what is more, musical side didn’t convince me as well, especially when I think about the classic version heard many, many years ago…
My severe criticism of the album proceeds from huge disappointment, so the truth about this album is like a one of the worst nightmares in my life. “Dark Roots of Earth” is the weakest album of the band. After many careful listens, still I ask myself the same questions. How did they do it? How can I rate it in positive way? No, it is impossible this time, when there are only two (TWO!) very good songs. Two long-time guitarists again give me the best breathtaking performance, however I never praise the album due to its guitar leads. Chuck is like a tower of strength, but he failed in two tracks definitely. The rhythm section did the work without any highlights. Unfortunately bad things reign here with no mercy for me, but the most ‘memorable’ is using of blasts. One can say that music doesn’t know boundaries, that’s right, I agree, but Billy & company took a tour through the minefield with the biggest antipersonnel mine called “Cold Embrace”. Did they find the entrance? I will see on the next album! The whole is like a sinusoid, from fine opening, through blasts, emotionless mediocrity and “Cold Embrace”, to crushing “Throne of Thorns” and inexpressive “Last Stand for Independence”. And do I have to mention these covers once again??? “Roots” seems to be too long album, when mediocrity moments turn into dullness, simply it makes me sick (because Testament is my beloved thrashing act)! And another thing, but I do not consider it as a drawback, namely this album isn’t in thrash vein on the whole, there many elements that make the music become even in more heavy metal shade, especially when it comes to the guitar leads and some riffs. But now I can forget about any returns to the magical past, simply due to lack of quality, which is the main blame to the band. After releasing the previous album I was reckoning on something better, exciting and worthy of note. Unfortunately I got very weak, average and polite piece of music with several moments to praise. Too much negative things and feelings from such band as Testament is. Definitely too much…
I have to give Testament credit for their latest release, Dark Roots of Earth, for several reasons. The biggest reason being that they have kept up their reputation, unlike other various bands that were utter disappointments on their "comeback albums" or otherwise sell-out albums. They maintained their level of energy throughout the years, but also kept each of their albums fast-paced and unique and with this new album, they created to be what I believe could have been the best thrash metal album of 2012.
The opener of the album, Rise Up, came into the scene with a vengeance that made my jaw literally drop. As far as speed is concerned, it certainly is one of their faster albums thus far, but the musicality is also a great attribute to this work of art.
A Day In the Death was probably my favorite song on DROE because of the various musical choices from beginning to end. For a lot of people out there who claim to be metalheads, they tend to look more for the heavy, bone-crushing riffs and hardcore lyrics, but they seem to overlook simple choices that an artist makes to make the music flow into the picture that they are trying to paint. In A Day In the Death, just simply starting the song out with the bass and the high hat kept up the intensity that the band was probably looking for to build up the mood of the music. Another song that caught my attention in the same light was Cold Embrace.
The musical theme of the album seemed to shift dramatically from a fast and aggressive tone to a softer, slower-paced feeling. Even though it has a few heavier instrumental themes, what one must look at is the lyrical meaning of the song. It could have the heaviest guitars and the harshest vocals, but what captures my attention is the lyrical content. In this song, the subject matter really impressed me, not only with the word choices and how simple of a style it was, but also the fact that they managed to make the simple language artistic in a way that I personally find it difficult to describe. After listening to Cold Embrace, I felt sort of calmed deep down and it made me think about the real meaning of the story being told. I don't want to get into that right now because of interpretation disagreements, but I encourage others who find pleasure in seeing what their favorite bands have to say, so check out this masterpiece.
Lastly, I wanted to discuss the last song on the list called Dragon Attack. If there is any song that I would consider to be the heaviest, it would be this one. It is fun and up-beat and provided me with that nostalgic feeling everyone must love when they hear a song that reminds them of the golden ages of heavy metal. If you enjoy heavy riffs and fast, melodic instrumental work along with harsh skull-smashing vocals, then this is definitely the album for you. Enough said.
Another band from my seemingly ancient childhood has emerged to drop yet another new album in my lap. Testament, a band that has been criminally undervalued for the likes of Megadeth, Anthrax and countless others I'm too kind to mention, issues Dark Roots of Earth with a thrash metal vengeance that will most likely lay waste to pretty much anything else the medium has to offer.
To say that Testament hasn't had a misstep or two in nearly 30-years of heavy music isn't exactly truthful, but to absolutely claim that the band is still at the top of the game with this release is vastly understated. All of the incidental perfections associated with the artifact known as thrash metal are present and accounted for, especially with the powerful opener, “Rise Up”. Cliches aside, it's the perfect opener for an album by a band that is bent on showing up the youngin's vying for position in this crazy battlefield called heavy metal.
Another element immediately noticeable is the thick production that was literally screaming for a band like Testament to come and puff up the edges while retaining a sickening layer of sound that just covers you like a drenched blanket, immobilizing and enchanting you. Of this supposed “Big Four” Testament is sometimes seen as Oliver from the last season of the Brady Bunch: the cute little add-on at the end to round out the picture, but I'll tell you, in my opinion, Testament is the band out of all four that has the most to say in the tightest fashion in the modern day. This band has never forgotten its roots, never stultified its role in the movement, and has never given in to label pressure like some genre-jumping bands hoping for the momentary mall-metal crowd. When something as tempestuous as “True American Hate” starts burrowing into your brain you know what you're experiencing is the real deal, raw and reckless, not to mention integral and precise.
The music on this latest effort is a fascinating journey into the annals of thrash metal history, complete with disturbingly potent riffs and overpowering vocals the likes of which are often imitated and never accurately reproduced to any discernible degree. Chuck Billy is the whole package when it comes to his singing style; the heated and often elevated effort he issues with each and every song showcases that familiar bellowing we've all come to know and headbang to over all of these years. “A Day in the Death” is probably my favorite track in that it has elements of The New Order and Low that seem to mesh (to an agreeable front) that wondrous past with the modern era we so desperately hope to hang on to for fear of it going the way of the screamo era. I think it's safe to say that Testament won't be doing that anytime soon.
Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson provide the dual attack that is oh-so-familiar and provides us fans with the very template with which we build shrines and imaginary marble homages to these heroes from our past. The guitar tones are easily recognizable as Testament and the fluidity of “Throne of Thorns” is one of the best examples of a chugging, thrashing riff if ever there was one. Even in today's over-populated medium an aging rocker or two can muster up the strength to batter those fretboards so sweetly that its fan base salivates with every chord in ways Pavlov never thought viable.
For any naysayers out there claiming the oldsters are mucking up the works, Dark Roots of Earth defies the expectant rudiments and trappings of a genre lost to unfiltered degeneration and slaps the faces of the hesitant elite that will never understand the true power of this band. For all the years under its belt, Testament provides a swift kick to the face with the steel-toed boot of thrash metal, carrying inside it a long lineage of honor and respect.
We expect and accept nothing less.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)
Ah, the modern thrash metal revival. The resurrection of this most frenetic style of heavy metal has seen many new bands attempt their hand at mixing the great bands of yesteryear with a modern sensibility, while many stalwarts of the genre's golden age in the 1980s and early 90s came back to life or shed their mid-to-late 90s groovy skin to return to what made them famous in the first place. Many good things have come from the thrash revival (the returns of Exodus, Kreator, Destruction, Overkill, and the Big 4 to thrash as well as the emergence of Municipal Waste, Havok, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, and Evile among others), as have many bad things (everything Destruction has made after Antichrist, that stupid yet thankfully brief Gene Hoglan-less Dark Angel reunion, the lack of a reunion of the classic Sepultura lineup thus saving us from any future Derrick Green fronted albums), however one cannot deny that more good has come from modern thrash than bad.
This leads us to Testament, one of the "Little 4" of American thrash metal alongside Exodus, Death Angel, and Dark Angel (although many I know would switch out Dark Angel for Forbidden or Metal Church). Since the death of thrash in the early 90s, Testament have tried their hand at more groove inspired territory throughout the decade with Low and Demonic before returning to the thrash genre with the simply spectacular The Gathering in 1999. After many years of doing practically nothing, they reacquired Alex Skolnick and set forth upon the world The Formation of Damnation in 2008 to something of a lukewarm response. Many called it a glorious return to form, while many called it a boring waste of space. Now four years and one Gene Hoglan later, the band has released Dark Roots of Earth, their tenth record. And yes, it is, for the most part, damn good old school thrash metal.
Right out of the proverbial gate with Rise Up, the band shows that they can still make you bang your head as if up from the dead, pummeling the listener with fast yet thick riffs and face smashing drumming. The band's Metallica influence comes through heavily in both the kind of radio friendly, melodic sound found on a large part of the album as well as the structure of pretty much every song on the record, each following a verse-chorus-verse format that may put off those that prefer their songs to have less of a rigid manner of happening, but for me I've no problem with each song doing this. If anything it means we just get to hear the good riffs many times throughout the song. One thing that did slightly bug me was that almost every song took place at the same tempo, with the exception of the slightly death metal influenced True American Hate. This can make it kind of hard to discern one song from another, although tracks like Rise Up and Native Blood contain enough memorable vocal melodies and riffs to keep them playing in your head for hours on end. As the album wears on though, this becomes a bit harder to do, as the songs kind of bleed together making it hard to tell which one is which unless you actually go back and listen to each song individually. The only genuinely not necessary song on the record Is the nearly 8 minute Cold Embrace, which is both the slowest and most melodic song on the album. It's both kind of out of place in the sea of hard hitting thrashers and not a very interesting listen and I recommend to just skip it on repeated listens of the record as a whole. Lyrically Chuck Billy has incorporated his Native American heritage into the fold, speaking about the hardships his people have endured throughout history. It's an interesting lyrical choice for a band like Testament and I'm surprised it took them this long to use it. Sadly the only song these themes appear on are lead single Native Blood, with the rest of the songs encompassing all too familiar thrash themes such as man's inhumanity to man, the people rebelling against the establishment, etc. They aren't bad lyrics in the slightest, but I personally would have liked to hear more about Chuck's people.
As can be expected for a band like Testament, the instrumentation is superb. 4/5 of the classic Testament lineup appear on the record, with the drum throne being taken this time around by legendary beater of heads Gene Hoglan. Having previously appeared on Demonic, this isn't his first time at the Testament rodeo, and his style of fast paced and aggressive yet creative drumming fits very well with the music found on Dark Roots of Earth, even throwing in some blast beating on Native Blood and True American Hate. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson are, as expected, wonderfully proficient with their guitars, with Skolnick's leads being exactly what you'd expect from the former Trans Siberian Orchestra member. Greg Christian I'm sure is playing his bass with skill, but he's practically inaudible due to the album's loud, compressed to hell production style, although thankfully the album isn't brickwalled or clipping in a desperate attempt to mimic Death Magnetic. Chuck Billy's vocals are just as they've always been, hoarse, gritty, and memorable. His death grunting voice isn't used that much on the record, only really during True American Hate. As a whole, the band performs the music splendidly and only reaffirms that they know exactly what they're doing.
Dark Roots of Earth isn't a masterpiece, nor is it the bowels of the Earth. It's a fast paced, memorable-for-the-first-half-yet-kinda-loses-steam-in-the-second-half thrasher of an album with excellent performances from all who are performing on it. Does it surpass their classic 80s and early 90s work? Not in the slightest. Does it come close? At times, but again it's not gonna be something I think most people will switch off The Legacy or Practice What You Preach for. Is it a damn good album in its own right that is for the most part pretty entertaining on its own? Absolutely. One can only hope that whenever next Testament step into the studio they can see the positives of Dark Roots of Earth and build upon them to give us a barn burner of an album that can meet The Legacy and Practice What You Preach in terms of memorability, enjoyment, and just plain fun factor. Well done, Testament. You have kept my attention and shown you are still relevant in the world of modern thrash metal.
Everybody knows Testament’s legacy. If you realize that I snuck a pun right under your nose then you’d also know that they’ve been around since the birth of this genre and have stuck to the task of delivering quality music ever since. Enter the year 2012 and what was unveiled to us was an album cover of epic proportions. Not that there exists a correlation between artwork and the music, but it certainly builds up expectations for sure. By the time the album was going to be released, we were teased with singles like ‘Native Blood’ and ‘True American Hate’. Those severely shot up my expectations so much so that I felt ‘Dark Roots of the Earth’ would be among the best thrash metal albums in the last ten years. It’s been close to three months since I’ve been regularly spinning the album and to be honest, I am on the fence when it comes to this album – the fence between something ‘really good’ on one side, and ‘above average’ on the other side. I shall elaborate on why I think so.
The album opens with ‘Rise Up’ which is mid-tempo paced with a chorus which employs gang vocals. I wasn't fond of it but I suppose it’ll be better received with a live audience. If I was responsible for the track listing, I wouldn’t have had this as the opening track. So if the first track lets you down then your enthusiasm levels will probably rise with the song that follows. ‘Native Blood’ will grab your attention from the first second with a riff which has both elements of thrash and groove, a combination which luckily doesn’t sound like recycled modern thrash. Something that one won’t usually come across in Testament songs are the blast beats which are present in the chorus. This beautifully complements Chuck Billy’s screams during the chorus of the song. This is by far my favourite song from the album. The title track of the album was a damper after ‘Native Blood’ set the benchmark quite high. As I had mentioned before, apart from ‘Native Blood’, the other track that was released earlier to the public was ‘True American Hate’. This is another of my favourite tracks from the album. It’s faster, aggressive and it actually feels like balls-out-thrash metal. Again, one will hear the signature blast beats which are coming to be more prominent all thanks to Gene Hoglan who has rejoined the band after close to 14 years. The rest of the album meanders towards the end through songs which really didn’t strike large for me. ‘Cold Embrace’ is an attempted ballad, nowhere to close to how the famous ‘Return to Serenity’ has etched itself a place in history. I wouldn’t write off all the tracks completely though. Tracks like ‘Throne of Thorns’ and ‘Last stand for independence’, may not have met my expectations but are definitely better than the current flock of thrash metal songs out there.
When it comes to the instrumentation and the song structures, Testament have really outdone themselves compared to their previous efforts. Skolnick’s solos are wonderfully crafted in each of the songs. For the listener, the solos will not only weave out intuitively but will also catch one’s ear at the various transitions. I also love the fact that Hoglan, former Dark Angel skinsman, was involved in the writing process. In my opinion, he’s one of the best thrash metal drummers in the business and the band has made the right decision to use his services. His drum fills and blast beats fit brilliantly in the mix. I was slightly disappointed with the strength of the lyrical content though. Thematically, most of the songs spring from Chuck Billy’s American Indian heritage. But there could’ve been more substance than just mere words about pure rebellion. For example, ‘Rise up – War’ and song titles like ‘A Day in the Death’ and ‘Man kills Mankind’ left me with a bland feeling if you can catch my drift. That’s one aspect which could’ve been improved upon.
At the end of listening to the album in its entirety I feel that Testament have no doubt delivered one of the better albums of 2012. But that’s only because it’s in context with the other new releases in metal which failed to deliver. For me, the success of this album is hinging on the two stand-out songs I mentioned, Hoglan’s drumming and Skolnick’s solos. To sum up, those aspects have made the whole album listenable for all these months and that’s where I stand as far as ‘Dark Roots of the Earth’ goes, on the aforementioned fence.
The reaction to Testament's recent albums has been really divisive. It was hard for me to decide if I should even pick this one up because though some people think this could be the best album they have recorded yet, others were disappointed. The angry metal guy blog listed this as the album of the month for July 2012, others say it is boring, has no riffs, and goes nowhere. I think part of this difference of opinion is down to the era of Testaments work that each person finds the most appealing, and Testament has gone through some rather different phases. To put this review in perspective my favorite Testament tracks are 'Trial by Fire' and 'Practice What You Preach', I think 'The New Order' is their best album and I didn't think that either 'Low' or 'The Gathering' were particularly impressive.
There seems to be a bit of a thrash metal revival going on now, so there are some recent releases to compare this one against. Testament's previous album 'The Formation of Damnation' also divided opinion and was compared to Metallica's 'Death Magnetic' because of the release date. This time we have Kreator's 'Phantom Antichrist' to go up against. I picked up 'Phantom Antichrist' and in my opinion Kreator have a more focused and solid album than 'Dark Roots of Earth'. When 'Phantom Antichrist' is at its best (such as on the title track) it out classes the current Testament offering. I also re-listened to 'Formation of Damnation' a few times and find it less varied and less interesting than DRoE. It had more barking tunless vocals from Chuck Billy. The arrangements on DRoE are reminiscent of 'The Ritual', and though I was not a fan of that album some of that atmosphere works here when combined with the extra heavy production.
Ah yes, Andy Sneap's production is very good. A bit too clean perhaps, but really heavy and dark. Billy's vocals are front and center, we can actually hear the bass unlike the previous album, and of course the guitars sound great. The drum production is actually quite nuanced in places but does not stand out. This album was not just slapped together.
The fifth band of the big four, Testament never really lived up to their potential, they are composed of some of the best musicians in the genre and yet they consistently fail to produce a great album. Even their classic albums have a lot of filler and too many tracks sound similar. Alex Skolnick is one of my favorite guitarists, his leads are incredible. Both he and Kirk Hammet were students of Joe Satriani and there's a reason that people say that Skolnick is the one who did his homework. Peterson has come up with some incredible riffs, at best his work is catchy, complex, and heavy. He can even produce some good solos on top of it. I think Chuck Billy is one of the best vocalists in metal, he can do so much and do it convincingly. From actual melodic singing to death growls and everything in between. Greg Christian is a skilled bass player that rarely disappoints and Testament have managed to recruit only fantastic A-list drummers since Clemente's departure.
So what's missing? Somehow things rarely gel to make Testament more than the sum of it's parts. It doesn't help that the lyrics are usually pretty bad. The themes for Testament songs are pretty generic for thrash and never provide any profound insight into their subjects. This album has a couple of song titles that are just one step away from being on a Dethklok album, such as 'Man Kills Mankind' and 'A Day in the Death'. To be fair 'Phantom Antichrist' also has some terrible song titles and lyrics, but Kreator at least have the excuse that they ar enot native english speakers.
This album pushes Testament's boundaries much more that the previous one. 'Formation' had songs that were styled from easily identifiable previous albums, on DRoE things are more coherent and focused even while some new elements are brought into the mix. There are even some blast beats on here, perhaps an influence from Petersons black metal side project. Also the best track 'Throne of Thorns' is almost like a pagan or viking metal track, this is not classic Testament but it is a very cool song.
Most agree that having (almost all) the original band back together is fantastic. That Louis Clemente is not part of the Testament reunion is a plus. I was never a fan of his drumming though most people considered his abilities to be adequate. I recall reading an interview with Peterson and Skolnick where they mention that the high hats at the beginning of 'The Ballad' had to be reverbed out because Clemente was playing so out of time and they were recording live off the floor and wanted to keep that take because of the guitar work.
Gene Hoglan is a great drummer and sets a solid foundation for DRoE. Actually so is Bostaph so Testament should have a solid foundation for their next albums whichever drummer they record with.
It's been said that the best tracks on DRoE are the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, unfortunately I have to agree. The bonus version of 'Throne of Thorns' is the one to listen to, the version on the vanilla album has this ham fisted fade at the end which totally does not work. I know there was a lot of arguing among the band members during recording and mixing and it seems that this fade was one of the points of contention. The guitar solo on this track is killer, the best one on the album in my opinion and there are some great solos on this thing.
The deluxe edition cover songs vary in quality. 'Dragon Attack' (Queen) sounds too much like the more recent Metallica cover album, glossy production and no intensity. Their version of 'Animal Magnetism' (Scorpions) is a very dark and atmospheric take on the song and it works. The Iron Maiden cover starts off sounding wrong to my ears because I'm so familiar with the Maiden original. What throws me off is Billy's vocals, but after a minute into the song the elements start to work together and this is a very cool cover song. I know that Skolnick likes Maiden and he totally nails the solos, in fact all the guitar work is great on this track.
How about the other songs? The first track starts well and settles into a pretty catchy riff (I had it in my head the other day) and Billy's vocals are aggressive but he's still singing and not just barking. So far so good. The call and response chorus is a bit odd but actually not too bad and will probably be useful when they play live. The first solo on the album is classic fast Skolnick. Can't complain.
I also really like the title track, but maybe that's because I have a thing for arpeggiated chords. It begins with a slow doomy riff, I have no problem with slow as long as it is HEAVY and this delivers. Another interesting and long solo here as well.
The ballad (no not 'The Ballad') 'Cold Embrace' is overlong and doesn't really go anywhere. The lyrics are pretty cringe-worthy. I know some fans of 'The Ritual' consider this their favorite track on the album and think it builds and works perfectly, I'm not one of those people but do appreciate Testament providing some variety and showing their range.
Some of the other songs sound a bit too generic and don't hold my interest. I always considered Testament to have more of a European metal sensibility, at least when they are at their best. Maybe it's because some passages have sounded a bit like a national anthem for some little germanic country. A few songs here have a very American metal band feel kind of like Slayer's less interesting 90s work. Though most of my favorite bands are American (such as Slayer themselves) I'm not sure the style works with the precise and tight guitars of Testament. Maybe it's just the groove and metalcore elements coming through but I'm not so into tracks like 'True American Hate' or 'Native Blood' though they are well executed.
In sum I think this is a pretty good album and in fact probably one of Testament's most consistent. Compared to other recent thrash releases it can hold its head up high. But it suffers from most of the old Testament pitfalls and so is still rather disappointing. On the positive side it is markedly better than the last one and if they can continue to build on their strengths the next album might be killer.
Testament's last full-length The Formation of Damnation had an incredibly divisive response from the band's audience and critics, some lauding it for its muscular, modern reconstruction of the band's 80s atmosphere and riffing aesthetics, others despising it for...well, basically the same reasons. I happened to really enjoy the album, and it still earns an occasional rotation in my these several years later, in particular the more memorable ragers like "Henchman Ride". This time out, however, the band has admittedly offered up a more varied selection of material that might quell some of the naysayers, along with one of the better cover image furnishings they've used to date, and lyrical themes that embrace the plight of Chuck Billy's Native American heritage.
Frankly, I'm surprised that this wasn't used as the central concept for an earlier album, so Dark Roots of Earth seems like an idea whose time almost overdue. Thankfully, Billy does a pretty knockout job of it without overstepping anyone's sensitivity. Though the lyrics are often too simplistic and cliche ridden, one can tell there's a serious personal investment in a piece like "Native Blood", and most of the songs cover a more broad spectrum of sociopolitical unrest that most of us can probably relate to, regardless of our color and history, par for the course when one glimpses back through even the earlier Testament records like The New Order, Souls of Black and The Ritual. I've read a number of the usual ignorant flailings about how this album is the 'true return to form of their 80s work' or whatnot, but these are laughable, as anyone having listened to the prior full-length would have recognized the various cues and riffing progressions that hearken straight back to the band's 1987-1992 period. In fact, despite the broth of familiar note formations that this is boiled in, I found Dark Roots of Earth mildly more experimental, to distance itself a little further.
Which is both a boon and a curse in this case, because while most of the vocal lines are pure Billy, the requisite haughtier Hetfield timbre the guy's always been known for, I found some of the call and response vocals, like the chorus of "Rise Up", or the almost rapped, tough guy inflection during the bridge of "Native Blood" itself too feel silly among the gravitas of the music's message. Dark Roots of Earth doesn't exactly start out on a strong foot, since "Rise Up" feels so decidedly average, and the power ballad "Cold Embrace", molded in the vein of something like "The Ballad", felt redundant. Otherwise, most of the core cuts are quite solid, pieces like "True American Hate" and "Man Kills Mankind" offering some exhilarating passages of menace that often hinge on melodic death metal, while not abandoning the more guttural inflection Billy had begun to adopt more heartily on albums like Low and Demonic; and "Throne of Thorns" is simply majestic with its gallant, surgical melodies. There's no unified sense throughout this disc that Testament are just resting on their laurels (which, to a degree, the prior album was somewhat guilty of). You get hints of the past, but also that they incorporate anything they feel will service the song.
It helps a lot that this album sounds so damn huge, with a meaty, polished rhythm guitar tone which faithfully emulates the band's 'legacy' without constraint. Greg Christian's bass is fat and lumbering, especially when he's alone as with the intro to "A Day in the Death", but you can always hear him rupturing along beneath Peterson and Skolnick's chugging butchery. Gene Hoglan has returned to Testament for this record, and his presence is likewise felt, obviously restraining his limitless ferocity to what matches the writing, but he's got plenty of great fills and sounds just as strong in this child's play as his more incendiary performances. Best of all, though, would be the leads, which are without exception well-structured and interesting, branching out from the excess Skolnick has employed in the past to showcase his jazz chops. They're not always the most complex of passages considering the talent involved, but they add to each track, rather than the seemingly useless fretboard exercises that plague a lot of thrash (past and present).
I'm probably in the minority that will enjoy this record less than its predecessor (just like I was in the minority who didn't think Overkill's Ironbound was the second coming of thrash-Jesus), but I've already found that after a dozen listens its charms have begun to wear thin. The musicianship is spot on, and I appreciate that they went for a broader approach to the writing, but there are honestly only 3-4 songs here I feel repeatedly compelled to visit. I found the bonus covers a mixed bag, with Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" adhering more closely to the band's pummeling prowess than the sillier takes on Queen's "Dragon Attack" or the Scorpions' "Animal Magnetism". That said, as proof of Testament's sustained viability in the modern thrash market, Dark Roots of Earth is more than adequate. Anyone would be lucky to be writing at this level 30 years into their career, and Bay Area purists who enjoy bands like Warbringer, or the newer Exodus records will break their necks off and feast their hearts out to its swarthy sounds.
Where to start? This album is full of -killer- tracks. I could not be happier for the guys in Testament, this record has already made #9 on the world charts, and they totally deserve it.
A lot of thrash fans seem to think this is their best effort since The Legacy. But while I love Apocalyptic City, Alone In The Dark, and others off The Legacy, my personal favourite is either Souls Of Black or The Gathering, and would consider this to be Testament's best effort since those days. I'm not saying it's better, it's just as awesome in it's own unique way. For me, Testament is a band you can always rely on to put out a solid as fuck release, even though Demonic had a slightly cold reception.
This album is no different. It features rip-roaring riffery on countless tracks, including True American Hate, Rise Up, Man Kills Mankind, Throne Of Thorns, and Last Stand For Independence. It also features several groovier, down-tempo tracks like the title track and A Day In The Death, which are still heavy as balls. If you think this is going to be a weak album, you have another thing coming.
It also features covers of Iron Maiden and Scorpions, which are also really cool adaptations. This is such a nice, all-rounder of an album. It has neck-breaking tempos, as well as slow yet incredibly heavy breaks, and even a clean/acousticy song, Cold Embrace.
One thing I can't get over about Testament is how Chuck has gone through cancer, and still sounds so fucking brilliant. He sounds powerful when he needs to, but also retains his clean voice from their earlier albums. Gene Hoglan also does a perfect job filling in on drums on this album. You'll hear many a blast beat, as well as some more complex fills, but most importantly, it suits the music. The musicianship is fantastic on this album, not one member disappoints. As usual, the shredding Testament leads are still in place, and the bass fits perfectly as well. Nothing disappoints me more than a bass which has been redundant in the mixing. This is not the case with Dark Roots.
All-in-all, Dark Roots Of Earth is a great all-rounder, and judging from the other Thrash releases so far this year, I'm going to predict it will be my release of the year. This is a must-have for not only die-hard thrash fans, but also fans of groove metal, and speed metal. This is one album you will not regret listening to.
When it comes to thrash metal, bands tend to lose their intensity as they continue to release albums. The first album is always a "serial riff-ist", if you will - a badass album that has shining moments throughout. Take Kill 'Em All, Show No Mercy, The Ultra-Violence, Feel The Fire, We Have Arrived, Possessed by Fire & The Legacy for example. The band may release 2-3 more really good tasting records, but usually by the fifth they have completely burned out their thrash bonfire. When it comes to Testament, however, they generally keep kicking all of our asses throughout their career [with the exception of Demonic; it seems a lot of people dislike that album]. They may toss a curveball at you, but it always seems to be deadly heavy metal.
Their last record, "The Formation of Damnation", combined their two styles of metal fairly well. This album [Dark Roots] is more of the same - a tasty mixture of The Ritual and Low. There are many melodic solos and groovy thrash riffs thrown in all over the place. The album flows consistently well, always giving you a hard thrashing but leaving you wanting more, as any good metal band does. Songs like True American Hate, A Day In The Death, and the title track are there to assist your brain in melting at boiling temperatures. There are also more death-rooted songs like Native Blood and Throne of Thorns that sound like they were written during the Low/Demonic/The Gathering period.
In all honesty though, the album can't be generalized like this. There is so much variety on here it's insane. Both guitarists lay down immense, elephant-sized riffs but also mind-blowing & face-melting solos. This could almost be classified in with Gothenburg-styled metal, but it sounds completely Bay-Area. If that makes any sense. What makes the album even better? It's mixed almost perfectly. Every instrument gets its spotlight in each and every song, none of the tracks get old, its loud as fuck but not to the point of 'Death Magnetizing' it and to put the cherry on top? It makes your ears bleed.
If most of the thrash metal releases this year have got you down in the dumps, thinking that no one can play the old school way - Remember Testament. I'm sure your ass will be kicked quite swiftly with this release. This might as well be The Legacy 2, because it rolls just as smoothly.
Thrash metal has been one of the prominent sub-genres of metal since the 80s. From the powerful double bass, the face melting shred solos to the riffs that blend heaviness with punk and snarl vocals, thrash metal was the music that anyone could mosh to. Over the years, this genre has evolved and yet stayed stagnant in its own ways. On one hand, there are bands that blend melody or more heaviness with the genre and on the other hand, there are bands that stick to old school. Yet, one wouldn’t disagree to the fact that many of the bands from this genre sound repetitive, with those stereotyped thrash metal riffs and monotonous double bass blatantly chipped in with a random shred solo. Amidst this amalgamated state of the genre, there sprouts the rise of yet another legendary band’s masterpiece! Yes, Testament, the American thrash giants have come up with yet another spell bounding album, namely, “Dark Roots Of Earth”.
This ripper of a record starts with the first track, “Rise Up”. It is one of those thrash metal songs that make you sing along. Not only does Testament go back to their old school style in this song, but they will also make you scream, “Rise up! War!” quite literally like you’re responding to Chuck Billy himself. Just when you reach the moment of screaming your lungs out and headbanging, Alex Skolnick, the unsung hero in the world of metal presents you with his benchmark melodic, long, and yet very fast guitar solo. Sounds great already? Well fasten your seat belts, because the album gets better. Just when you feel this couldn’t get any better, in “Native Blood”, the next track, Testament treats you with an energy packed, dynamite of a song. The song is intrinsically well synchronized with Gene Hoglan’s powerful double bass drumming and Alex’s two magical solos.
This skillfully tailored album goes on to amaze you with something that sets apart Testament from every other thrash metal band. Variety. Songs like “Cold Embrace” are slow, with Chuck sounding less harsh and cradles you into the mood of a progressive track. The song gets heavier, while maintaining its slow pace and then descends into Alex’s beautiful solo while Eric Peterson plays a beautiful acoustic passage in the background. Tracks like “Man Kills Mankind” boasts of grim, but true lyrics. Greg Christian on the bass shows his bass slapping skills with some really commendable bass lines in “Last Stand For Independence” and a great intro in “A Day In The Death”. The track also features Chris Adler (Lamb Of God) on the drums. The album boasts of four bonus tracks which includes three covers. The first one is of the great classic rock band, Queen’s track namely, “Dragon Attack”. Just the fact that the band transformed this classic rock piece to a totally heavy, thrash metal song, shows their sheer class. Right from the drum solo by Gene, to the bass solo by Greg and that triple bonanza of solos by Alex marks this, as one of the best covers ever. The next cover was of another great rock band, the Scorpions’ track, “Animal Magnetism”. In my opinion, this was the only black spot in the album. The way they covered the song doesn't really suit the band as it is awkwardly heavy, and yet tries to sound classy and soft, basically failing in all terms. Lastly, their cover of the Iron Maiden masterpiece, "Powerslave", is just mind blowing. Other than sounding heavier, Alex gives his own tiny detailed touch to the solos which serves as pretty much, an icing on the cake.
So this was pretty much what thrash metal needed this year. Dark Roots of Earth has not only managed to excel musically but it will also please the fans of both, that prefer, “The Legacy” and also the ones that prefer, “The Ritual”. Both the albums being very different, this one bridges a way in between them and balances it quite perfectly. My top three tracks in this album would be the one that was released first, the fast and brutal “True American Hate” that boasts of Alex’s mammoth sized solo, the progressive “Throne Of Thorns” which has some overtly technical riffs with another long solo by Skolnick, eventually descending into a beautiful outro, and to end with, "Cold Embrace" is like a tad bit heavier than the other well known slow song by them, namely, "Return To Serenity". Both the songs are similar and indicates shades of sorrow in them. Did I forget to mention Alex Skolnick’s great solo? Oh well, his sheer epitome of mastery is portrayed perfectly throughout the album, so needless to say, he was the stand out gem in this record. With so much to offer, I don’t think there is a valid reason for you not to buy the album. So go ahead, and fetch this mind blowing revival of a mind blowing band!
Originally written by me on - http://www.metalwani.com/2012/07/review-testament-dark-roots-of-earth.html
Shared by Testament - http://www.facebook.com/testamentlegions/posts/248132718623248
Finally, a 2012 release that isn't the pits. Testament belts out some intrinsically amazing melodic guitar here with a solid production sound, awesome leads/rhythms, deep vocals, and overall a must have to all thrash metal followers. Clocking in at a little over 51 minutes in length, this album is filled with so much diversity. I was appalled when I heard it. I'm glad that I invested my money in this release and you should too!
The rhythms are filled with so much variety. A lot of melodic riffs to the core, bar chord frenzies, tremolo picked overtures, and overall a very diverse album. Every musician on here exhibits enormous talent and deserves praise. Chuck Billy is going on strong on the vocal department and his voice suits the music just perfectly. Even on songs that have clean tone/acoustic guitar he still meshes his voice in to suit it just right.
Eric Peterson used to play just rhythm guitar way back when Testament just started years ago. Now he's among the ranks with Alex Skolnick on leads too. It's difficult to tell the difference between the 2 because both of them have enormous talent. It's good to hear an album that's a progression from the last one Formation of Damnation. I think that this one tops that one by far! Not enough good to say about Dark Roots of Earth!
Greg Christian is still in the lineup also after all of these years and I was surprised that Gene Hoglan filled in the drum department. Amazing musicians, all of them. Dark Roots of Earth's music is the most notorious that I've heard from Testament in a long time. Just so much melodies and I can't stress that enough. I'm a melodic death freak and it's weird to hear Testament amassing so many melodies on here.
Again, the production/mixing was just perfect. Everything meshed in well. The vocals didn't overpower the music by any means. The rhythm/lead guitars are well heard. The bass is audible too! The drums fit the music perfectly too. I think a lot of work went into recording this album. Not too much technology to make the album sound too "perfect". Just enough to get everything in sync as I've stated.
Thrash metal listeners had better hear me well about this Testament album. It is sheer notorious back to old school roots with original riffs, aggressive vocals, lead guitar frenzies, and overall a superb recording. You can check out a sound sample on Testament's website. Native Blood is the song to listen to. If you aren't convinced, then that's your loss because Testament does everything right in this whole album! Pick it up ASAP!