Testament Dark Roots of Earth
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1. Rise Up
2. Native Blood
3. Dark Roots of Earch
4. True American Hate
5. A Day In The Death
6. Cold Embrace
7. Man Kills Mankind
8. Throne of Thorns
9. Last Stand for Independence
Testament turned heads with The Formation Of Damnation back in 2008. The band's first album in almost a decade, it was a return to thrash for a band that experimented with extreme metal in the '90s. Excitement began to build again about the band, the likes of which hadn't been heard since the late '80s. Having guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick back in the band was another sign of better days ahead for Testament, which becomes more apparent with Dark Roots Of Earth.
Time only seems to further piss off Testament, with "Rise Up" and "Last Stand For Independence" serving as prime examples. With Paul Bostaph unable to play due to a serious injury, Gene Hoglan was brought in to take over the drum stool. Having recorded with the band in the past on Demonic, Hoglan outdoes his performance on that album with a roaring energy. He even employs blast beats on a few songs, which may overwhelm avid listeners of Testament.
There's little of the wonky death metal worship that was all over their '90s catalog, though vocalist Chuck Billy retains some of the aggressive streak he began to toy around with on Low. He has found the perfect medium between his old-school melodic wails and forceful barks, and usually switches between the two with no awkward transitions. His high points include the emotional outpouring on the otherwise flaccid "Cold Embrace" and the bitter tone he provides on "Man Kills Mankind."
The thrash is strong with Dark Roots Of Earth, yet there is a commendable effort to provide variety that was missing from their previous album. The songs are much lengthier, including some of the longest songs the band has composed to date. This extra room is used for various solos, all of which are excellent displays of virtuosity, and fleshed-out material. The aforementioned "Cold Embrace," a ballad about three minutes too long, falls flat on its face.
"Throne Of Thorns" is a better indication of how well Testament can pull off the open-ended direction. It's a slow start, but when the riffs starting piling up a minute in, the song takes a turn into the kind of areas songs like "Apocalyptic City" and "The Ritual" were immersed in back in the day. "True American Hate" has a latter-day Annihilator vibe that is easy to pick up on for those who have heard of guitarist Jeff Waters. It's not a slight against the album, but an unusual occurrence that seems entirely by accident.
Many thrash bands have reunited over the past few years, some more noteworthy than others, but having Testament back in the scene chugging away is a treat. Dark Roots Of Earth has a heightened sense of danger that was only occasionally explored on their last album. Each member is at the pinnacle of their talent, and adding in Hoglan was a brilliant move. Thrash metal fans don't need to worry that The Formation Of Damnation was a fluke; Dark Roots Of Earth is proof positive that Testament is back where they belong among the top acts in the genre.
Bottom Line: Testament continues to prove their thrash superiority with the excellent Dark Roots Of Earth.
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