Testament has been pretty hit or miss since thrash metal started it’s declined in or around 1991. But hell, it wasn’t just them it was every band in the genre. Well, that is except for Metallica of course. Be it inner turmoil or sickness, band members leaving or not being able to put together what could be defined as a complete album. All that has changed on “Dark Roots of the Earth” because the Testament that fans know and love, Testament from the 80’s, the classic Testament is back.
The album stars off with the absolutely vicious “Rise Up” which we hear Chuck Billy telling us to yell “WAR!” when he yells “RISE UP!” which admittedly I have done a few times while listening to the song. But the song isn’t just that, like so many songs on the albums, the layer of depth, melody, and attitude really lend themselves to eachother. The dual guitar attack of Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick really cement themselves as two of the best guitarists to work together in metal. The songs are fast, brutal, melodic, complex and yet simple. Most importantly they are what draw me to thrash metal the most, they are fun songs. You can sing(scream, growl, etc) a long to them and have a great time.
“Native Blood” was the second single off the album following “True American Hate” and they are both arguably the best songs on the album. Native Blood is very clearly about Chuck Billy’s Native American roots and how proud he is of them. Where True American Hate is more of a political commentary about American and the World, not in an in your face way but just a “Hey this is what we think, so here you go” way. What has really brought out an element in Testament that sets this album apart from the rest for me is Gene Hoglan on drums. Is there anybody in metal that has a sense of brutality and melody as him? “A Day In The Death” is a great example of that. He maintains a nice groove throughout the entire song as it builds and builds and towards the climax he introduces the double kicks with more intricate fills and then the song slows down and he starts building the tempo again.
I can’t stress enough the musical diversity that Testament brings to the table on this album. Skolnick and Peterson again combine fantastic elements of thrash and melody while Hoglan uses blast beats, amazing tempo changes as he speeds up and slows down songs, and Chuck Billy goes from death growls to fantastic clean vocals to his trademark throaty yell that has become one of the most iconic vocals in metal. The last song on the album, “Last Stand for Independence” might be one of the most ferocious Testament songs the band has ever written. From start to finish it fast, heavy, in your face and I feel combines every element in the album into a perfect album closer.
Testament show that they can still make great music during a thrash revival. This is their best album in twenty years and I hope to god they can keep the momentum up on stage and in studio. “Dark Roots of the Earth” is an album that should be required listening for every thrash fan and fan of metal alike. From start to finish it encompasses the best of the band and the genre into one of the best thrash albums of the decade.