Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth

Testament

Nuclear Blast

Reviewer: Rick Ossian

The boys come screaming out of the gate on their latest since 2008’s The Formation of Damnation with a killer track dubbed Rise Up. Rising from the primordial ashes indeed, what with the recovery of Chuck Billy, the veritable revolving drum seat, and what many have seen as the decline of thrash in general. The latest drummer, a gent named Gene Hoglan, was evidently merely ‘sitting in’ for Paul Bostaph while he recovered from ‘a serious injury’. Good for us, unless of course you’re a big Bostaph fan, as Hoglan’s drumwork throughout Dark Roots Of Earth is excellent.( Bostaph has since quit the band.) Fits the band like a glove, you might say. The refrain of Rise Up itself seems to be designed for the crowd participation part of a show: When I say rise up/you say war. It does sort of make one feel as if they could mop the floor with, oh, say, another thrash metal band, perhaps?

Most of the tracks to follow are along the same lines, short and sweet. The title track, in particular, boast supercool lead/riffwork, as do Native Blood and Day In The Death. True American Hate has an absolutely sublime instrumental/solo section in the middle. There are a couple of longer tracks that satisfy as well, namely Cold Embrace, a 7:45 epic that starts out slow and pretty with acoustics (and is that a violin I hear?). I’ve never really heard what I would call a ‘mellow’ or ‘soft’ track from these boys that I can recall, but this one comes about as close as we’re gonna get. The heaviness kicks in about 1/2 way through, however, and leaves us with a very cool outro as well.

Man Kills Mankind (I’m sensing a pattern here – Day In the Death of Mankind, MKM) has another convincing refrain, reminding us that while ‘some people live the lie/some people don’t’, and stomps its way into our hearts in spite of the rather grisly subject matter. Typical fare for thrash, you might say; however, grisly nonetheless. Throne of Thorns (of which there is an extended version at the close of the disc), meanwhile begins with another deceptive intro on guitar. Not to worry, dear reader – the ‘lightness’ doesn’t last for long. Soon we are being pummeled into submission once again. The fadeout also boasts a very cool solo. The regular version is just over 7 minutes, while the extended version clocks in 7:40, which gives rise to the question, why the extended version? Why indeed. To take up space, perhaps?

We have fantastic drumwork again on Last Stand For Independence. This track also has a very nice lead in the midsection. Next we have the covers. Not sure on Animal Magnetism, at first I thought ‘oho! Scorpions! (…and you were right! – Ed), but I don’t remember that track in particular. I do seem to recall there being a Scorpions album with that title, but I cannot recall the track. Of the other two, however – Dragon Attack (Queen) and Powerslave (Maiden), I am sure that these are covers. Well done, too, in my humble opinion, which is cool because we all know how much we love a good cover! In both cases the boys are dutiful, faithful, and slamming! I have to wonder what Brian May would think of their take on Dragon Attack, as the leads do bear a slight resemblance to May’s curling attack. All in all, I would say very well done.

Rating: 4/5

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