Devil’s Review: Testament – Dark Roots of Earth (Harley’s Version)

I have had this album for a very short period of time, so these are really just my initial impressions, and I suspect may change as I have a better opportunity to truly listen and evaluate the album.

The last couple of Testament releases (The Gathering and The Formation of Damnation) have become my favorites in their body of work – and I have been a fan since The New Order, so I am not a newbie with Testament.  There is nothing in their catalog that I don’t like – to include the extremes of The Ritual to Demonic and everything in between – style-wise.  I certainly have high expectations for Dark Roots of Earth.

Rise Up is a killer start to the whole affair and is undeniably Testament.  I could just feel it in the riffing, solo, vocals and song construction.  Sort of cheesy lyrics in places (like “When I say rise up, you say war”), but no doubt that it is a great thrashy song.  Native Blood, previously release so you may have heard it, is mid-paced and heavy.  Outstanding riffs and solo from Alex Skolnick.  The title track sounds to me to be more in the style of something from The Ritual, slower paced and less thrash.  Chuck Billy is a little more melodic on this one, still with his gruffness apparent though.

True American Hate was the first release from the album and is widely known in the metal community already, so if you haven’t heard it, go find it.  Great thrashy track.  Next up is A Day in the Death, a punishing, mid-tempo track, groove-laden, with tasty lead work throughout.  Another song that makes me think of The Ritual period of the band, but a bit heavier here.  Cold Embrace is Testament’s ballad on this album.  It has the hallmark sound and musical construct of the typical Testament ballad.  Acoustic guitars, emotionally charged lyrics, clean singing from Billy.  Sort of reminiscent of the Practice What You Preach era stuff to me.

Up next is Man Kills Mankind, kicking things back into gear, again mid-tempo, but heavy and speedy in some places.  Tremendous leads again from Skolnick and cool riffing in the bridge especially.  Throne of Thorns is a true headbanger of a song, cruising along nicely.  Fantastic riffing, very aggressive staccato vocals, and awesome leads once again.  This tune is my favorite so far.  The proper album ends with Last Stand for Independence.  This one reminds me somewhat of Henchmen Ride, speedy and heavy.  Nice riffing.

the album concludes with three cover songs from Queen, Scorpions and Iron Maiden.  Powerslave is the best of the 3, probably because it is the one with which I am most familiar.

I have got to comment on some other aspects.  Gene Hoglan’s drumming is superb, Greg Christian’s bass is clearly present throughout and the overall production is top notch.

For a video, see Rob’s posting below.

This is a solid album from a veteran band.  Is it their best?  I don’t know.  I do know that it is a really good slab of metal, and is whetting my appetite for Testament.  We will see how it stacks up at the end of the year.

I hear the sound in a METAL way.

-Harley

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