Many Metal fans will recognize Testament as one of the original founding Bay Area Thrash Metal bands. Their storied history and exceptional resume of albums speak for themselves. Testament has also been one of the most volatile Thrash bands, having gone through numerous line-up changes and various medical issues with band members. Nevertheless, Testament always manages to create some of the heaviest and most potent music ever made.
Testament’s tenth studio album, Dark Roots Of Earth, exemplifies the livelihood of the band in grand fashion. Unlike their 2008 predecessor, The Formation Of Damnation, which featured many Death Metal style riffs and vocals, this album is certainly much more melodic. It is most reminiscent of their earlier works from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when their career was at its peak. However, the sound is definitively much heavier and modern, which makes Dark Roots Of Earth a potential timeless classic.
Chuck Billy delivers absolutely pristine and emotionally aggressive vocals. The assertive opening track “Rise Up” is a veritable kick in the ass right from the start -- fast-paced and confident throughout. The melody and vocal line itself are very suggestive of Dave Padden’s recent work in Annihilator. There are actually a couple of other tracks on the album; including "True American Hate" and "Last Stand For Independence", where the evocative Annihilator, Padden-like themes really stand out.
Dark Roots Of Earth also once again features the classic guitar styling’s of Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick. This duo appeared on the bands first five albums and created the definitive Thrash sound of Testament that many fans grew to love. Once again, their distinctive partnership shines through. Not only do they recreate the characteristic sound, but add that heavier and modern element, which certainly puts this album over the top.
With the great band chemistry in place, the ultimate key to the success of this album is the outstanding compositions featured. The songwriting on Dark Roots Of Earth take a very similar approach to their 1987 album The Ritual. The bulk of the tracks are written by the team of Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, and Del James (famed journalist and songwriter). This songwriting team seems to be vital to the great achievements on this album. Epic tracks like “Throne Of Thorns”, “Cold Embrace”, and the title track “Dark Roots Of Earth” are extraordinary and passionate compositions.
The Deluxe Edition features three very special bonus tracks. They are cover songs from popular Hard Rock and Metal bands; “Dragon Attack” by Queen, “Animal Magnetism” by Scorpions, and “Powerslave” by Iron Maiden. The most unique item of note regarding these songs is the way Billy performs them. The original vocalists of these covers of course sang in a much higher vocal range than Billy. Therefore he twists them around into a much darker melody than the original version and essentially turns them into Testament songs. So many bands try to recreate the original sound of a cover song, but leave it to Testament to make established songs like these into their own, a truly amazing feat.
Dark Roots Of Earth is arguably Testament’s finest hour. All the elements have been put into place to make this album a highly commendable effort. The brilliant musicianship and songwriting from such a legendary band make this very close to being a masterpiece.
Official Testament Website
Nuclear Blast Records