What can be said about Testament? They’re one of those bands who can turn an ordinary crowd into a wall-to-wall pit, and an average metalhead into a fan. Every time I’ve seen them live or heard a new release, they have continuously reminded me as to why that is. Although it took nine years to release their prior album The Formation of Damnation (2010) after The Gathering (1999), it proved to be worth the wait and left the bar pretty high for their 2012 release.
29 years since their formation, Testament has released 10 studio albums, several live albums, and a multitude of music videos. As with any band, they have experienced changes in lineup, but as of now have reverted back to the same members that recorded on their first (and arguably best) album, with the exception of drums which are now being handled by Gene Hoglan. As one of the “Bay Area Thrash” bands, Testament has risen to popularity along with the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, but without as much controversy for “changing their sound” or “selling out” the other 3 have faced. Alex Skolnick’s guitar tone and Chuck Billy’s vocals have always been unique and unmistakable, and that tradition is continued into Dark Roots of Earth.
Rise Up and Native Blood dive right into the album by starting strong all at once, rather than building into it. Both songs show that Testament is continuing to release tenacious albums with the right amount of diversity to keep fans interested, while not changing enough to incite an angry horde of fanboys. Sharing the same name as the album, Dark Roots of Earth is the first track thus far to ease into the song, and is slightly more mellow compared to the previous two. True American Hate follows up the rapid pace of the first two songs in a likewise manner, but with more intensity. The song is riddled with solos, and features Chuck’s vocals for only a short period of time to leave the focus of the song on the double bass and guitar work. Greg Christian takes his first solo moment of the album in A Day in the Death, where he opens the song with a catchy bass riff, and continues while the song is formed around it, but is then again outshined by Alex’s finger shredding solos.
The 6th Track Cold Embrace bears a striking resemblance to The Ballad (off of Practice What you Preach  ), which makes the sound of the song pretty explanatory. It takes about 3 minutes to bear a resemblance to the rest of the album, but it still manages to fit in a solo from Alex right on cue. It’s a slow paced reprieve from an average Testament song, but still has a “heavy” feel to it. Man Kills Man reverts to the overall gist of the album, as does the following track Throne of Thorns, which had parts of it that (once again) reminded me of Practice What you Preach. Closing the album, Last Stand for Independence should leave the listener with little to no disappointment.
Although the vocal production and arrangement went along the songs great, I personally wasn’t very fond of a few lines of the lyrics. All of the composition and production is amazing, making the album worth the trip to a record store to buy. I definitely liked Dark Roots of Earth, but if I had to choose one Testament album to be played at my funeral it wouldn’t be this one.
The newest addition to their discography is pretty damn close to their classic albums, which is pretty hard to do when you’ve been making music for so many years. If you were to click through the songs and listen to random parts, you’d hear solos, Chuck’s distinctive voice, and wouldn’t be able to mistaken it for any other band, even if you’re not incredibly familiar with Thrash Metal. Overall, Dark Roots of Earth has the same consistency as Testament’s best albums, and should enter your ears.
1. Rise Up
2. Native Blood
3. Dark Roots of Earth
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