Dark Roots of Earth by Testament (Nuclear Blast Records)
For their tenth album, Bay Area thrashers Testament welcome drummer Gene Hoglan back into the fold to help create yet another metal masterpiece. Once again produced by Andy Sneap, Dark Roots of Earth vibrates with energy from start to finish. Testament bust down the gates at the get go with opening track Rise Up. The band is locked into a precision groove with Chuck Berry yelling “When I say rise up, you say WAR!” painting a picture of death and destruction with visceral splashes of villians’ blood. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson create an air of barely contained chaos and glory with stunning solos here and throughout. Native Blood is played with passion and pride for Billy’s heritage, about standing up for your beliefs and making your voice heard, backed by more blazing solos.
Testament don’t let up for a minute, as they build an epic air on the title track, Billy telling a story of the death and rebirth of the earth punctuated by melodic and slow solos leading to a triumphant middle instrumental passage and then segueing into an even heavier finale. Hoglan’s drums burst out of the speakers on True American Hate as the rest of the band joins in for a neck-breaking number sure to become a live favorite. Skolnick and Peterson build upon a slightly-offputting tapped melody as Billy growls “Fear nothing, Say nothing, Pledge allegiance to what’s right, Revolution overnight” inciting action against injustice and evil or to just get in the pit and sweat. Dazzling solo after solo drive it all home, causing you to hit repeat again and again. A Day in the Death begins with Greg Christian’s metallic bass rumble, leading to a song with a lighter touch featuring tense and finger shredding solos and lightening-quick rhythm changes.
Testament slow things down for a few songs on Dark Roots of Earth, as heard on the darkly dramatic Cold Embrace. The song opens with acoustic guitar strums and memorable melodic melodies, the band stirs the soul with their beautiful performances, Billy’s singing anguished, offering hope to a person hiding from the world.
Dark Roots of Earth comes to a massive conclusion with Last Stand for Independence, a tightly wound tempo, clearly growled vocals, mesmerizing guitar circles & solos will leave you invigorated and ready for another go at the album, showing Testament at the top of their powers 25 years into their careers. There is no preparation for the devastating listening experience that is Testament, all you can do is limber up, grab your friends and dive into the mosh pit that is Dark Roots of Earth.