Dark Roots of Earth
The Juggernaut that is Testament, is back to thrash n’ crush everything in their path! I still remember, when people, were calling Testament Testallica, to belittle them. Well Metallica, would give their collective balls, if they have any left, to sound like Testament 2012!
Unbelievably heavy, unquestionably technical, both classic enough to appease the fanatics and progressive enough to not be considered stagnant or outdated, Testament deliver their, I’m guessing tenth – studio album – disregarding compilations and all those live albums that came out in between.
With Gene Hoglan, behind the drum kit again, like in the “Demonic” days, the band sounds as killer as ever. After all they were always one of the more technical bands, in the genre, whichever lineup, you might think of. Also, Andy Sneap’s production is as expected, really strong and in your face. He knows better than to mess up, the band’s sound, but coming from both a metal and musical background, he is able to help the band bring their vision, to reality.
“Rise Up” - kicks off the album, in an ultra-heavy, punishing fashion, that sets the blueprint, for much of the album, but, not its entirety, as the band, seems to have many aces up its sleeve and is brimming with inspiration.
“Native Blood” up the ante, and quickens the pace, as the riff, carves its way to the insight of your skull... before it’s crushed by the relentless drum attack! Headbanging comes without any hesitation and I can’t wait to mosh to this thing, live! A big plus for the album is that the band, isn’t just showing off, like a lot of competent extreme bands, but makes sure, that the structure of the songs is correct and that the right amounts of melody imbue the songs, so as to make ‘em accessible enough, but not stupidly commercial. A fine line and a difficult balance to strike, indeed, but Testament, effortlessly manage to walk the fine line.
The title track, is slower and a lot more atmospheric... but also very rhythmical and smartly arranged. Also the lead, in there, is just awesome courtesy of the almighty Alex Skolnick!
“True American Hate” sounds like a title, that would raise a few eyebrows and ‘cause some controversy. The lyrics, are however cleverly enough, directed, I am guessing both towards the “foreign enemies” but also towards the “native ones” too and by native, I’m obviously not implying the Indians, but the “corrupted people” who live their lives “through someone else’s pain”! Needless to say, the band just steamrolls through the track musically speaking!
(Watching the DVD, where Chuck Billy says, it’s an idea, that struck him, after seeing people burning American flags and thinking, about why people hate America so much... I’d think, it’s easy to point fingers, but I guess it has to do with its foreign policy. It causes those “people” to hate it. If someone came to America, trying to “liberate it”, wouldn’t the everyday American feel hate too? Also the way – America interferes is a little “suspect” at times. I love America and have a lot of American friends, but sometimes, some of them seem to preoccupied, with their “American Dream” to give a damn about anything else than consuming. Like any other place and country, America has brilliant people as well as assholes. BTW, We could really export some to you, since right now, we’re swimming in a “sea” of BS artists and crooks over here in the EU!)
“A Day in the Death” is a more treble, and slightly slower tune, with excellent solos and a slightly different groove, altogether, but it fits the flow of the album, rather well, I guess.
“Cold Embrace” is a rather mysterious tune, a story about a female – that could be a vampire – or maybe I’m totally misunderstanding this, I just dunno how to interpret both the lyrics – and the artwork, that starts up like a ballad and then has a very aggressive middle, before it reverts to a more mellow ending! Interesting!
“Man Kills Mankind” paces things up, but also retains enough melody, (a bit like some of the stuff on the “Ritual”), striking a very nice balance between the two.
“Throne of Thorns” is awesome, as it manages to again twist things up, with its vicious, nasty evil tone, that actually sounds very threatening. It brought me to mind, every great thrash band and then I thought, f#$k it, it’s Testament, they’re a great thrash band themselves! Hahaha ! At 7 minutes – it’s a mini epic and its solos are again nothing short of exemplary.
And as the more timid and slower songs may have given you a false sense of “peace”, “Last Stand for Independence” just comes and crashes it all down, with its frantic riffola! The solo, is out of this world and the whole thing, just has you gasping for air!
Now, the limited edition, actually offers, 3 covers and an alternative extended mix.
Choosing to cover Queen’s “Dragon Attack”, a rather “deeper” cut, that only the more in-depth fans might be aware off, struck me as a bit odd, but a) It shows that T’s are ballsy and love good music and trust me, they’ve actually done a good job. The funky original, is here turned into a groovier, heavier, speedier affair! Chuck ain’t exactly Freddie, but his “attack” on the “attack” is interesting to say the least!
Scorpions’ “Animal Magnetism” is a heavy as funk track, that here is made even heavier. It actually sounds like Slayer on crack! Hahaha! Nice one!
And as a final display of adoration towards classic rock n’ metal Testament offer Maiden’s “Powerslave” as a third, cover! Testallized, the song, sounds “different” mainly due to the vocals, but also the somewhat groovies, tighter, thrashier playing. Not bad – it’s actually a lot more claustrophobic, than the original...
The extended version of “Throne of Thorns” is about half a minute longer, and features, somewhat different sections, with the more dramatic outro to the song, being a bit better than the original imho.
The limited edition also features a DVD, with a documentary, (these tend to bore me and this one’s not too different, but it’s nice to see, the band, delving into some specifics about the recordings etc… like Skolnick being again included in the compositional side of things, or Gene Hoglan, being complimented about his amazing drumming etc. or the band explaining how they used a depiction of the Celtic deity Cernunnos for the cover or explaining the title). My main reason for wanting to get this as a limited edition, since I hate the bizarrely “portrait” oriented digis that NB puts out, as they don’t fit well in my bookshelves, next to rest of the band’s catalogues, were the covers and a bunch of live videos, a small portion from a live performance, somewhere in CA, including “Disciples of The Watch”, “Practice What You Preach”, “Over the Wall” and “Souls Of Black”. Honestly, I’d much rather have the whole show, rather than a dull making off – that would best be served as a youtube thing... but, I dunno. If anyone at NB is reading this… take a note!
There’s also a ten minute video with Alex and Eric showing off their gear, but that will be of more interest to guitarists, that want to emulate, their tone.
Overall, Testament, return with another brutally, perfect album. It’s slightly different than “Formation” but equally as gratifying as it, at least to my ears! And since, I gave that album really good marks, back in the day, I cannot but do the same for this one!