Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth
Dark Roots Of Earth
So, 2008’s The Formation Of Damnation wasn’t a fluke! After their 1987 debut, The Legacy, Testament’s output for the next 20 years was more or less crap. They had almost no idea what they wanted to do, and released half a dozen wildly inconsistent albums. Their 2008 comeback harkened back to the second wave of 80s thrash, along the lines of Heathen’s Victims Of Deception and Metallica’s …And Justice For All as a great quasi-progressive thrash album.
Dark Roots Of Earth fires on 8 cylinders of metal thrashing madness, starting with the opener “Rise Up.” Ok, so the “When I say ‘Rise Up,’ you say ‘WAR!’” part is wicked cheesy on an album, but I’m looking forward to that part the next time I see them in concert! “Native Blood” follows up with some great harmonized riffing and some serious drumming from guest Gene Hoglan (who may or may not be my favorite metal drummer ever). Chuck Billy is in top vocal form, provided you consider his melodic barking to be “vocals” (it’s thrash, damnit!). Greg Christian’s bass is buried in the mix, but again, it’s thrash, who needs bass?
The only negative I have is that there isn’t a lot of variety in the songs. It’s not that there’s anything bad, it’s just that the entire middle of the album is virtually indistinguishable between the songs. “Dark Roots Of Earth” is a bit more down-tempo, but it’s not the kind of soul-crushing down-tempo one expects from metal (see Black Sabbath’s “Into The Void” on how to crush one’s soul with just a single riff). The second half kicks it up a bit for Skolnick’s awesome solo, but it’s a good fast riff shoehorned into a vanilla slow song.
The epic “Throne Of Thorns” is much better in that regard. It has a slow buildup that goes into a phenomenal harmony thrash riff (Skolnick and Eric Peterson are one of the better guitar tandems out there), and weaves in a few crushing riffs here and there. “Last Stand For Independence” closes the album out as the best song with more killer riffs and drumming.
All in all, it’s a great album, with most songs being to the point with minimal noodling-for-the-sake-of-noodling that late 80s thrash begot. Gene Hoglan’s Dark Angel is about the only band that could legitimately put out a 9 song, 67 minute, TWHOHUNDREDFORTYSIX RIFF album (1991’s Time Does Not Heal has that on a promo sticker) and not have it sound forced…but that’s because Dark Angel was the king of riff-morphing. Testament doesn’t really go out of their way to do as much as humanly possible in one song the way some bands try to, and it works out quite well. Despite lacking a whole lot of variety, each song is at least distinguishable among the riffs and solos. Only a few songs qualify as “catchy,” but this is thrash, not power metal! It’s not quite as good as the predecessor, but it’s not a bad introduction to the band, either.
Kylie’s rating: 4.0 out of 5