It’s been four years since 2008’s phenomenal ‘The Formation of Damnation’ and by this point expectations are incredibly high for the Bay Area thrashers to follow up to such a standard. So now in 2012 we are greeted with Testament’s 10th studio album but does it live up to the hype?
Musically, this album is a stone cold stunner. Dark Roots of Earth really does nail in the coffin the typical components that makes a successful thrash metal band, not that Testament need it, they have established the sound over their 29 year career. The opening track, Rise Up, opens with a bang and whilst some could argue it could have utilised a instrumental opening it effectively sets the tone for the nature of this album. That nature is heavy, fast and hard hitting thrash metal with a nice combination of sweep solos throughout. And on that point Testament deliver ferociously. The two single tracks that we released in the build up to this album, Native Blood and True American Hate, are prime examples of the ferocity behind Testament’s music; note hard hitting riffs and mind blowing guitar solos. Yet its not just speed and aggression behind this album, title track Dark Roots of Earth slowly chuggs its course with a chorus that screams anthem insignia all over it. Also, the same can be seen with Cold Embrace which resembles that of a ballad. The diversity in speed effectively keeps the listener hooked to countless repeats. What also is a stand out point to this new offering is the inclusion of several cover songs towards the album’s closure; Dragon Attack – Queen, Animal Magnetism – Scorpions, Powerslave – Iron Maiden and an extended rendition of Throne of Thorns is on offer here and it effectively shows Testament’s flexibility beyond the typical thrash formula.
It’s clear from listening to Dark Roots of Earth that every member of Testament have given their maximum effort into the music here. Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick deliver mind blowing guitar work through heavy shredding and countless solos which one can not help but marvel at. Greg Christian’s bass is solid throughout the course of the album maintaining the immersion, especially in A Day In The Death, and Gene Hoglan’s drumming is fantastic! However the real star of the show here is frontman Chuck Billy and the vocal work he contributed to this album. The vocals on this album are nothing but world class, his roaring voice displays both aggression but with a subtle hint of melody. This combination ultimately showcases why Testament are regarded as one of the thrash metal giants.
So does Dark Roots of Earth live up to the expectations it faces? By this point in a 29 year career you are either a fan of Testament or not, and this latest album does not break the mould at all. Yet for fans of Testament this album delivers a knock out blow to the expectations it faces, it shows that the thrash formula working effectively at full potential. It displays top class musicianship and production making Dark Roots of Earth a top contender for one of the best metal releases this year.
Stand out Tracks: Man Kills Mankind, True American Hate, Rise Up