Admittedly, I have probably not been a Testament fan as long as Rob and Harley. I didn’t really become a big fan of them until about four years ago, before the Formation of Damnation. The only Testament album I had before 2007 was the Return To The Apocalyptic City Ep, which was more of a live album. I bought that album sometime in the mid 80’s on cassette and for whatever reason, I really didn’t make an effort to discover more from the band. In late 2007 I bought “The Very Best Of Testament”. I was hooked from there and as anticipation for The Formation of Damnation built, I started collecting Testament albums. One of my favorites is Low, simply because the production on that album feels heavier than every previous album and it feels like Testament was starting to change with the times and modernize their sound without selling out. When Formation Of Damnation came out, I was very excited and happy with that album. I caught them on Tour for that album and the place was a packed madhouse. Now, four years later, Dark Roots Of Earth is ready for release. How will it compare?
As Rob stated, the security on this release has been a bit ridiculous. People that pre-ordered the album had it in their hands before most bloggers had a chance to download the promo, which was just released in the U.S. today from Nuclear Blast. Needless to say I haven’t had nearly enough time to really listen to the album more than a few times and I don’t feel that it has quite finished sinking in. Needless to say, my review will be shorter than Rob and Harley’s.
The singles released before the final release were a good preview of what was to come; a relentlessly heavy album that pulls no punches. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson did an amazing job putting together the riffs and solos for a modern thrash album that will stand the test of time. Gene Hoglan speaks for himself. It’s Gene Hoglan. You could probably give this guy a set of trash cans to bang on and it would still sound amazing. Buried among the bottom end mix is Greg Christian, whom never gets enough credit in my opinion. Lastly, the thin I love about Chuck Billy is his ability to change up his vocal styling from song to song, like he has done so many times on so many albums before. His signature sounding thrash voice gives way at times for his much deeper grunting while still holding melody. As usual, Chuck shows his softer side of the vocal range in more ballad-type songs such as on “Cold Embrace”.
Testament have always made a great effort to write reality based lyrics, expressing views of politics and real world issues. Sometimes the political issues can be a bit overdone these days, especially in the United States current state of events; however, Testament does a stellar job of conveying a message of both support and disdain in a mature manner. The cover songs on the digipak are a killer bonus. Covering Queen, Scorpions and the legendary Iron Maiden, Testament make these songs their own, especially seeing how Chuck Billy’s vocal range would not normally be considered suitable to successfully cover these songs. Chuck pulls them off in his own style and they work perfectly. I would love to hear an entire album of cover songs from Testament in the future.
Overall, from only a few listens, I can safely say that Testament has undoubtedly written an great record. The band can still write fresh and modern sounding songs, even after almost 30 years and 9 previous albums. Longtime fans and even not so long time fans like myself will enjoy every minute of Dark Roots of Earth.