The new guy is cool but the old guy is really special. How many times have you thought this in your life and how much more times have you seen it coming towards or around you? Such is the case with Testament, who come after 52 months to give a lesson to the new bands how thrash metal should be played. Also, their new album ”Dark Roots Of Earth” is a very gigantic dose of fresh breath for the whole thrash metal genre, which always wants to revive its old glory and many try, but the outcome seems to stuck to a limit. Yes, there are many good new bands who try and give 100% of theirselves to play like their idols, but never achieve something special and unique. Considering myself a thrash lover, I rarely remember albums that have made the genre go forward (last time was with ”The Evolution Of Chaos” by Heathen) and that’s something sad for the genre who kept metal alive on its whole on the mid ’80s and the early ’90s.
Testament have passed from glory to dispute and to recognition again. What you can’t blame them for, is that they always were an honest band (even when some were calling them Testallica for the known reasons). Many fans came to know them with ”The Gathering” in 1999. So when there were no news from the band, all were wondering what might happen. Then came nine years of silence until the previous album ”The Formation Of Damnation”, where almost all the old line-up was present with the help of Paul Bostaph on drums. This time, behind the kit we have Gene Hoglan and this makes ”Dark Roots Of Earth” a very special album, as the atomic clockwork returns to his place fifteen years after his presence on the ”Demonic” album in 1997. How does the new album sound? Is it better or worse than the previous one?
First of all, I consider the guitar work on the album the best they have done ever. Alex Skolnick plays stuff that some others wouldn’t even dream of, the rhythm guitars of Eric Peterson are the basis of the compositions, with a great and vast sound and they know where to rage a lot and where to keep the rhythm steady. Next to the atomic clockwork, bassist Greg Christian proves why he’s been considered as one of the best bassists in thrashing history and if you add the colossal, untouched, unreached, unbroken Chuck Billy with his amazing performance on the album (he surely passes a second youth after his cancer recovery) and the way he spits every lyric, then the first clear thing is that the whole team is in unbelievable shape and they had a lot of motive and mood to make this album sound modern, fast and filled with variety.
”Rise Up” which starts the album and the single ”Native Blood” will easily convince you we’re dealing with a very mature release that was done very carefully. ”True American Hate” delivers thrash lessons to all new bands. Sit and listen to the structure of this track and stop adding hardcore and crossover stuff to your music, we’re talking about speed and merciless attack here. Except the opening track and the closing ”Last Stand For Independence”, all other seven tracks exceed five minutes in duration, showing that maybe the band was happy enough with the material composed, so they kept the riffs going on and on. ”A Day In The Death” is surely one of my favourite tracks on the album, up-tempo and filled with rhythm guitars as I always like listening them, heavy and clean. Skolnick continues his miracles with solos or riffs and it’s a blessing for the band that he’s part of this new old form of Testament.
”Cold Embrace” may remind you of ”The Ballad”, ”The Legacy” or ”Return To Serenity”, old glorious Testament mellow smashers that still give people the creeps. ”Man Kills Mankind” and ”Throne Of Thorns” are a great duo that give the album an extra boost, which makes me consider it the least equal to the previous album, if not better (it’s different to have a nine year gap and a four year one, everything counts in a review). The limited edition includes covers from Queen (”Dragon Attack”, quite good effort), Scorpions (”Animal Magnetism”, the best out of the three included) and Iron Maiden (”Powerslave”, good but the vocals don’t fit) plus an extended version of ”Throne Of Thorns” (better than the original one). It’s up to you to decide if you want 51 or 76 minutes of Testament this time, the outcome doesn’t change and Testament did it much better than other bands from which I had expectations this year (Kreator for example).