Album Review: Testament – Dark Roots of Earth
Posted by Reggie
Testament’s 10th studio album, Dark Roots of Earth, shows a return to the late 80’s early 90’s era Testament. Chuck Billy’s deep growls have subsided for the more melodic singing we were once accustomed to on Practice What You Preach and The Ritual era albums. Dark Roots of Earth, however, is not a complete return to that particular style. There is definitely a balanced approach to the vocals on this album which boasts the best of both Billy’s growling and signing. After four years between studio albums, Testament has released probably the most well-balanced and meticulous album of their career.
I didn’t take much liberty to absorb the very few YouTube leaks of new Testament music. I heard it, liked it, and then stored that information as “buy this the day it’s released.” On my initial listen of Dark Roots of Earth, the first thing that came to mind was that Testament wasn’t just trying to heavy as I thought they were on their previous three albums, The Formation of Damnation, The Gathering, and Demonic. With those albums, I felt Testament was trying to prove they still had the ability to be as heavy as possible; probably to make up for the more accessible The Ritual and Souls of Black albums. I am not sure that’s a fact, just an observation on my part. One thing that I thought gave Testament an edge over other Thrash bands was their ability string together killer melodies with Peterson’s rhythmic riffs and Skolnick’s solos. I felt the melodic side was lacking on those three heavy as hell aforementioned albums. There are gems on all those albums, but I never liked them as much as their early melody-infused works. What I thought was lacking previously has returned in full force on Dark Roots of Earth.
The other thing that stuck out for me was that there appears to be an equal amount of musical input between all members. If you take the time to listen to the album carefully, you hear everything; the killer riffs, awesome solos, varied drumming tempo, and prominent bass. No one in particular is overly dominant. Billy’s signing ability is as top-notch as it was on 1989’s Practice What You Preach. This is what I meant before when I said the album was well-balanced. With the exception of Skolnick’s guitar solos, everything stands out appropriately and evenly. It is evident Testament used the last four years to really take their time and put together a quality Thrash album that doesn’t try to prove anything except that their musical capability has improved over the years.
The songs are catchy. They are of varying speeds and tempos which prevents the listener from getting bored or receiving a heavy dose of repetitive sounds. I am not going to get into detail on each song for this review, but overall, they are basic Thrash songs easily recognizable as Testament; no reinventing wheel here. They just streamlined the wheel. They even recorded a ballad of sorts, reminiscent of Return to Serenity off The Ritual…which I think was the last time they did a song like that. It’s nice to see Testament re-engage with some styles they used years ago. Dark Roots of Earth is, in short, an album influenced by everything Testament has done so far. It’s like a best of collection, but the songs are new. And to throw a cool bonus, Testament covered Iron Maiden’s Powerslave. So, you can add another stellar Maiden cover to your CD mix of Maiden cover songs.
Dark Roots of Earth is a quality release nothing short of brilliant Thrash metal. This is an example of what happens when the guys work together and have what seems to be equal input in making music. They have definitely matured well and showcase their increasing instrumentation with this 10th glorious studio album. For those looking to hear Testament of many moons ago, this is your ticket. For those that liked the most recent Testament best, you may have to go in with an open mind. Either way, I don’t think any metal fan could be disappointed with this output from the old school Bay Area bashers.
Release Date: 31 July 2012
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Nationality: United States
About ReggieJust a dude writing a heavy metal blog and always on the prowl for a cool metal show. I am also a family man...first and foremost!
Posted on August 7, 2012, in Album Reviews and tagged Alex Skolnick, Chuck Billy, Dark Roots of Earth, Eric Peterson, Gene Hoglan, Greg Christian, metal, Testament, Thrash. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.