Testament - _Dark Roots of Earth_
(Nuclear Blast, 2012)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (
Over the twenty five years since the release of _The Legacy_, Testament has seen numerous top notch musicians rub shoulders with the band's core of Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy. During the temporary exclusion of Alex Skolnick and Greg Christian, Testament persevered through the '90s and, as far as I'm concerned, put out their best record to date, _The Gathering_, in 1999 with James Murphy on second guitar, Steve DiGiorgio on bass and the godfather of metal drumming Dave Lombardo. Having any one of these masters of their trade leave a band is indeed a considerable blow, yet the Peterson/Billy duo carried on with an unending passion for metal.The 'classic' line-up was mostly restored for 2008's _The Formation of Damnation_, except for Paul Bostaph pounding the drums instead of Louie Clemente. That was an impressive album with lots of energy, and it proved once and for all that Testament are back. Four years later, long-player number ten arrives, with the much welcomed re-addition of the one and only Gene Hoglan on drums. _Dark Roots of Earth_ tallies up to fifty-one minutes, without the bonus tracks mind you. This makes it Testament's second longest full-length after 1992's _Ritual_, which struck yours truly as questionable at best. But don't worry, they're nothing alike.Gene Hoglan's drumming technicality is at its usual superb level. His incorporation of various cymbals in unconventional places and crafty use of various toms with millimeter precision are some of the various elements that lift _Dark Roots of Earth_ a few cuts above the hordes of new thrashers roaming around these days. Now there's a drummer who is getting better with age. I usually don't think blast beats when I think Testament, but there's Gene Hoglan for you. Check out the forceful blasts on "Native Blood" and "True American Hate", which are cleverly integrated with melodies into the former's chorus and the end of the latter's verse. Also, the panned breaks on the last piece "Last Stand for Independence" offer even more drumming coolness thanks to a simple production trick.The technical analysis continues with the guitars. Eric Peterson's riffing mastery is, as usual, in command of the album. "Throne of Thorns" is a lesson in chugging triplets and boasts a pre-solo melody that's based on the same pattern used on the formidable "Fall of Sipledome" from _The Gathering_. This is a good thing! Despite all that praised heaped on the drums, guitar solos are actually the album's strongest point. There are so many of them on _Dark Roots of Earth_, but those worthy of a special hail are the ones on "A Day in the Death", "Dark Roots of Earth" and the aforementioned "True American Hate" -- a track on which Chuck Billy sounds monstrous, by the way.In all honesty, my first listen wasn't all that enjoyable, mostly because I was a little put off by the slightly cliché lyrics of the opening piece "Rise Up" and the couple of weaker tracks "Cold Embrace" and "Man Kills Mankind". They're placed in a rather strategic yet expected juncture on the album, which is a very obvious old man's trick. "Man Kills Mankind" is also quite simplistic and predictable, but thankfully, "Throne of Thorns" comes right after it and erases its effect. Repeated listens have shown this record's higher moments, and that's a positive thing indeed. So the year isn't over yet and we have awesome new records from Kreator and Testament. Does anyone else have something to offer? Hmm? Slayer?
||Testament / Stuck Mojo / Strapping Young Lad
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