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Testament: Dark Roots Of Earth

The rejuvenation of Testament occurred a few albums back on The Gathering and the relentless thrash assault has seen no slowing down since. With the return of guitarist Alex Skolnick for their last album The Formation of Damnation ensured Testament would once again be a force to be reckoned with. Dark Roots Of Earth picks up pretty much where Formation left off with the Bay Area Bruisers going right for the jugular from the start with album opener 'Rise Up'. Man Mountain Chuck Billy preaches from his metal pulpit while the twin attack of Peterson and Skolnick rip up their fret boards with blistering pace. This is powerful thrash played to the very edge of neck snapping parameters, 'Pure American Hate' is a venom spitting beast and really puts to rest the notion that Formation was a one off. The guitar work will see many fret monkeys rejoice in six string homage as it establishes both men as true masters of their instruments, 'Throne Of Thrones' the perfect example. Producer Andy Sneap ensures that his magic touch and influence delivers that 6th member element with his sprinkling of Magic Metal Dust producing some speaker rumbling results. The omission of Testament from the Big 4 was seen by many as a travesty, this album should surly put that right and expand their fanbase while welcoming back the faithful. If fact another certain Bay Area band may want to take note, this is how Metal is played and this is how Metal fans love their music, Testament understand exactly what the fans want and deliver with interest. Then there's the album artwork, which I would not usually mention but man what a statement, it's so Metal you'll need a truck to take the album home!

Testament have arrived at the party with a keg under each arm and kicked the door off its hinges. Dark Roots Of Earth is a lesson in reinvention and longevity, a powerful fist of Metal to the face that will see you kissing circle pit dust for months to come....Chuck and the boys, I salute you.

Track List
01. Rise Up
02. Native Blood
03. Dark Roots Of Earth
04. True American Hate
05. A Day In The Death
06. Cold Embrace
07. Man Kills Mankind
08. Throne Of Thorns
09. Last Stand For Independence

Added: July 30th 2012
Reviewer: Mark Davies
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3877
Language: english

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Testament: Dark Roots Of Earth
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-07-30 16:07:29
My Score:

It's been four years since Testament's comeback album The Formation of Damnation. If you enjoyed that one for whatever reasons, be prepared to be blown away by Dark Roots of Earth.

The new album finds the band crafting a sonic thrash metal masterpiece, putting more emphasis on extended melodic guitar solos, intricate arrangements, powerful rhythm work, and excellent vocals. The songs are complex yet very easy to enjoy at the same time because the band has amassed so many immortal melodies this time around. The songs are also more homogenous but varied, involving plenty of complex passages laced with melodic twin guitar harmonies, fiery lead riffs, and stomping rhythmic anchors. Chuck Billy utilizes his full spectrum of vocal talents here. He goes for the clean singing as well as his instantly recognizable throaty delivery that borders on roaring and screaming.

The rhythmic tandem on the album is amazing. Gene Hoglan returns to the band after 1997's Demonic and puts in an awesome performance. His drum tone is full and organic. His style is quite different from Paul Bostaph's; he engages in more intricate fills and even adds some twisted blast beats to the mix on songs like "Native Blood" and "True American Hate," two of the album's most aggressive numbers. Hoglan grooves and thrashes with ease, and the addition of blast beats certainly lends the pieces an extra dimension. Greg Christian's bass tone is perhaps just about the best tone he has ever had (thanks to Andy Sneap's meticulous production). The song "A Day in the Death" might be the album's highpoint from a compositional standpoint. It is written around a gritty bass figure that opens the piece and drives it to its ultimate climax, thanks to the vaguely Egyptian-themed solo by Skolnick and thought-provoking lyrics.

Guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick are possibly the genre's most powerful duo. Peterson is responsible for churning out his trademark riffs; they are sharp and snappy, and have a lasting impact. There probably is not another rhythm guitarist that shapes the sound of the songs so profoundly. That noted, Peterson also proves he is equally adept at soloing and lays down several lead solos to contrast and complement his partner.

Alex Skolnick is one of a kind. Even during the blisteringly fast tempos alternating between Hoglan's dazzling fills and attacks and Peterson's bruising riffing, Skolnick retains his unique style. His arpeggios remain surprisingly musical and articulate, and his soloing sends shivers down the spine. At times, his crystal clean tone and legato riffs carry a Van Halen flavour to them; they are so precise and well integrated into the songs. It is this feat that sets the man apart from just about any guitarist in thrash metal. He is the best.

At times, parts of the album sound like a cross between the previous album and The Ritual due to Skonick's unique harmonic minor solos. The inclusion of a seven-plus-minute quasi-ballad, "Cold Embrace," may be a turn-off for some fans in that they may feel it is too long and breaks up the flow of the otherwise relentlessly heavy disc. However, the way the song builds from the blues-tinged acoustic guitars to a soaring number is staggering. It is one of the album's standout pieces to these ears.

Andy Sneap's production is sharp and threatening. His mix is so punchy it moves air, and it does not hide a single note, which results in Skolnick's solos coming through more effectively and sounding more organic.

The deluxe edition of the CD contains a number of cover tunes. Scorpions' "Animal Magnetism" is turned into a sinister piece with the whole focus being on creating an evil atmosphere. Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" features a killer solo and amazing drumming, but I'm not really too keen on the vocals here. Queen's "Dragon Attack" finds the band really jamming it out; it has a cool live vibe to it. I don't see the point of the bonus version of "Throne of Thrones," as it seems to be the same song with a 30-second solo attached to the end. The album version is more compact and would work better in a live setting.

This is probably the best thrash metal disc I've heard this year.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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