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Native Bloody Thrash - 72%

Star_Fox, November 21st, 2020

I would say that this is my favourite Testament album of the modern era; it kind of reminds me of The New Order, but minus that albums pointless interludes and clean intro sections. There are none of those soft moments to hinder the effectiveness of a song on this album and that makes it more focused. The politically charged themes never come across as preachy, either – it never falls into Havoc's terrible Conformicide territory.

The lyrical content here is simplistic, but the passion displayed for some of the songs do carry them a significant way – and this is paired with a strong vocal assault. The opening salvo of 'Rise Up' and 'Native Blood' go hand-in-hand as they represent some of the faster cuts; they're also very catchy. In this case I prefer 'Native Blood' because the chorus progresses more smoothly. 'Dark Roots of Earth' opts for a slower approach, but with an indelible chorus. 'True American Hate' continues the fast assault. And my favourite, 'A Day in the Death,' fuses fast riffs, change-ups, more melody and Alex Skolnick's skilful leads.

They manage to sabotage the good work though by throwing into the mix one of their obligatory ballads and they always fail to impress in this department. A metal ballad can be a dangerous idea; you have to get it right, otherwise it can sound really out-of-place and that's putting it nicely. If done properly you get Metallica's 'Fade to Black'; done badly and you get corny cuts like 'The Ballad' and this albums 'Cold Embrace.' I'd also expect for an album with only nine songs not to have much in the way of filler, but this one seems to run out of quality cuts by the last third, making parts of the album far more interchangeable.

The material is also elevated by Andy Sneap's recording process and overall production. He gets a really clear, but still gritty guitar tone from Eric Peterson's rhythms. Skolnick's leads jump in at the right times to add more melody or more punch. The other musicians are bassist Gregg Christian who rumbles along nicely – but it's Gene Hoglan who really stands out. His drum tracks are very prominent, even though he's not being asked to do anything too elaborate; he just keeps it relatively simple, (for him) but there's so much accurate drive and energy that it can make an otherwise average song more enduring.

I think that overall this is a pretty good effort by them; the writing partnership of Billy and Peterson clearly had a strong focus and direction; they're few noticeably bad moments. The musicianship is top-notch and the production is excellent. There's nothing that screams 'amazing,' but it's still a good dose of modern thrash from one of the Bay Area's old guard.