TESTAMENT – DARK ROOTS OF EARTH
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: July 27, 2012/July 31, 2012
Thrash metal has been one of the prominent sub-genres of metal since the 80s. From the powerful double bass, the face melting shred solos to the riffs that blend heaviness with punk and snarl vocals, thrash metal was the music that anyone could mosh to. Over the years, this genre has evolved and yet become stagnant in many ways.
On one hand, there are bands that blend melody or more heaviness, and then there are bands that stick to old school. Yet, one wouldn’t disagree with the fact that many of the bands from this genre sound repetitive with those stereotyped thrash metal riffs and monotonous double bass thumps blatantly chipped in with a random shred solo.
Amidst this amalgamated state of the genre there sprouts the rise of yet another legendary band’s masterpiece! Yes, Testament, the American thrash giants have come up with yet another spellbinding album, namely, Dark Roots of Earth.
This ripper of a record starts with the first track, “Rise Up”. It is one of those thrash metal songs that make you sing along. Not only does Testament go back to their old school style in this song, but they will also make you scream, “Rise up! War!” quite literally like you’re responding to Chuck Billy himself. Just when you reach the moment of screaming your lungs out and headbanging, Alex Skolnick, the unsung hero in the world of metal presents you with his benchmark melodic, long, and yet very fast guitar solo. Sounds great already? Well fasten your seat belts, because the album gets better. Just when you feel this couldn’t get any better, in “Native Blood”, the next track, Testament treats you with an energy packed, dynamite of a song. The song is intrinsically well synchronized with Gene Hoglan’s powerful double bass drumming and Alex’s two magical solos.
This skillfully tailored album goes on to amaze you with something that sets apart Testament from every other thrash metal band. Variety. Songs like “Cold Embrace” are slow, with Chuck sounding less harsh and cradles you into the mood of a progressive track. The song gets heavier, while maintaining its slow pace and then descends into Alex’s beautiful solo while Eric Peterson plays a beautiful acoustic passage in the background. Tracks like “Man Kills Mankind” boasts of grim, but true lyrics. Greg Christian shows off his slapping skills with some really commendable bass lines in “Last Stand for Independence” and a great intro in “A Day In The Death”. The track also features Chris Adler (Lamb Of God) on the drums.
The album boasts of four bonus tracks which includes three covers. The first one is of the great classic rock band, Queen’s track namely, “Dragon Attack”. You have to appreciate the way they have transformed this classic rock piece to a totally heavy, thrash metal song, shows their sheer class. Right from the drum solo by Gene, to the bass solo by Greg and that triple bonanza of solos by Alex marks this, as one of the best covers ever. The next cover was of another great rock band, the Scorpions’ track, “Animal Magnetism”. In my opinion, this was the only black spot in the album. The way they covered the song doesn’t really suit the band as it is awkwardly heavy, and yet tries to sound classy and soft, basically failing in all terms. Lastly, their cover of the Iron Maiden masterpiece, “Powerslave”, is just mind blowing. Other than sounding heavier, Alex gives his own tiny detailed touch to the solos which serves as pretty much, an icing on the cake.
So this was pretty much what thrash metal needed this year. Dark Roots of Earth has not only managed to excel musically but it will also please the fans of those that prefer, The Legacy and also the ones that prefer, The Ritual. Both the albums being very different, this one bridges a way in between them and balances it quite perfectly. My top three tracks in this album would be the one that was released first, the fast and brutal “True American Hate” that boasts of Alex’s mammoth-sized solo, the progressive “Throne Of Thorns”, which has some overtly technical riffs with another long solo by Skolnick, eventually descending into a beautiful outro, and to end with. “Cold Embrace” is like a tad bit heavier than the other well known slow song by them, namely, “Return To Serenity”. Both the songs are similar and indicate shades of sorrow in them. Did I forget to mention Alex Skolnick’s great solo? Oh well, his sheer epitome of mastery is portrayed perfectly throughout the album, so needless to say, he was the stand out gem in this record. With so much to offer, I don’t think there is a valid reason for you not to buy the album. So go ahead, and fetch this mind-blowing revival of a mind-blowing band!