Label: Nuclear Blast / Release date: 27th July 2012
Testament – The Dark Roots of Earth - 75%
Long gone are the times when Testament used to release albums less than once a year apart. It has been more than four years since the release of band’s previous album The Formation of Damnation an album which marked a victorious return to the scene after longer hiatus.
The new album from the Testament is again characterized by the core of the classic line-up. Unfortunately drummer Paul Bostaph (ex-Slayer, ex-Exodus), who joined the band for the last album is absent due to serous injury. The Dark Roots of Earth picks up where the previous album left off, which is quite logical, taking into consideration the critical and commercial success of The Formation of Damnation.
The sound on both albums is quite similar, which means that it’s clean and powerful with somewhat too compressed, but not so much that they stick out from the final mix.
“Rise Up” opens the record in mid-tempo with a typical Testament riff and a chorus that is sure to work well live. Fist single “Native Blood” follows and throughout the whole songs it filled with melodic hooks and even some blast-beats. This songs also marks first of in all six songs co-written with Del Jones. Title track is epic in its form and one of the highlights of the album, which is followed with another highlight “True American Hate” – a very potent and flawlessly bolted song. “A Day in the Death” features Lamb Of God’s Chris Adler on the drums and “Cold Embrace” comes way too close to “The Legacy”, a ballad from their 1990 Souls of Black album. But at least they didn’t repeat the mistake they made with “The Legacy”, when they used a completely different production on that one song, in order to make it more appealing for broader masses.
The rest of the album simply drops the quality – not much more to be said there.
Alex Skolnick delivers great lead guitar performance and in many ways he overshadows everyone else with his unique sound and impeccable balance between melodic and technically challenging playing. At the same time his leads support the song, but also often take it to a different direction, all without feeling misplaced. He is truly one of the fines lead guitarist in trash metal genre.
Gene Hoglan who replaced Bostaph on the drums does a job professionally and one look at his CV (Fear Factory, Death, Strapping Young Lad as well as Testament’s 1997 album Demonic) speaks more than enough of hos technical abilities. However I find Bostaph to be the drummer who fitted the band best from the endless line of good Testament drummers, nonetheless live.
The limited edition of this album includes four extra songs. Three covers including good covers of Queen’s “Dragon Attack” and Scorpions’ “Animal Magnetism” on which Skolnick and Peterson deliver some very well played and arranged guitar work. Third cover is title track from Iron Maiden’s 1984 Poweslave. The cover is particularly uninteresting because it’s a carbon copy of the original. Sure Chuck Billy is no Bruce Dickinson, but his twist on the chorus melody is actually the only really positive thing about this cover.
The last of the four bonus tracks is slightly extended version of the album track “Throne of Thorns”. This track’s resemblance with “Powerslave” makes the choice to cover that very song even less logical. The Formation of Damnation marked a brilliant return of the band and it turned out to be on of their strongest releases ever.
The Dark Roots of Earth is a good album, but the songwriting is weaker and some of the songs feel like space-fillers despite the fact that there are only nine songs on the album. Also the edged and hunger of the previous album is certainly not as present on this release. Still if you are fan of good ol’ trash metal than you should defiantly grab this record first chance you get.