Old school thrash titans, Testament, will release their follow-up to 2008’s The Formation of Damnation on Tuesday, July 31st for North American fans. Everyone else will hear Dark Roots of Earth today.
As you may have seen in my review of the first two singles off this highly anticipated release, this record sounds very old school with a small modern taste. The album title accurately portrays the music found within its case. Testament brought back a lot of their old school thrash roots. Formation was heavier and had a much more modern sound. It could have even been called a death metal record and put alongside their 90’s catalog. On the other hand, Dark Roots is a straight-up, old school thrash shred-fest.
This new album actually has a tribal vibe, for which Chuck Billy’s Native American heritage can be thanked. With this sound, Chuck returns to his old school thrash singing and veers more away from his death metal growls. However, his growls can still be found at points on the record.
A slightly surprising aspect of this new album is the use of muffled commentary during songs as if it were a Megadeth song.
Overall, this is a fantastic record. It will definitely give Overkill’s The Electric Age and Kreator’s Phantom Antichrist a run for their money for the best thrash record of 2012. Arguably, the best part of Dark Roots of Earth is Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson’s guitar work in each and every song. They are both so precise and while a lot of it is solid shredding, there is still more than enough melody involved in each solo.
While every song on this record is solid, my favorites, so far, include “Rise Up” (a heavy thrash anthem-type song), “A Day in the Death” (extremely reminiscent of old school Testament with phenomenal guitar work), and their cover of Queen’s “Dragon Attack” (featured on the deluxe edition), in addition to the rest of the record. If you typically enjoy Testament’s ballads, check out “Cold Embrace.” It has an extremely melodic intro and is pretty mellow throughout, at least in terms of the rest of the album. If you prefer the heavy thrash metal Testament always delivers, listen to the entirety of Dark Roots of Earth!
It should be noted that Gene Hoglan (Death, Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad, etc.) filled in on drums in the studio for this release as Paul Bostaph had previously left Testament. A casual listener probably would not know the difference, except that Hoglan’s drums tore everything up on this record. The whole band sounds tight throughout Dark Roots, raising the surprise that Hoglan had not previously been a regular member. With that said, however, Hoglan had also filled in on drums for Testament’s 1997 release, Demonic.