Album: "Dark Roots of Earth"
Style: Thrash metal
Release date: 2012-07-27
Origin: United States
1. Rise Up
2. Native Blood
3. Dark Roots of Earth
4. True American Hate
5. A Day in the Death
6. Cold Embrace
7. Man Kills Mankind
8. Throne of Thorns
9. Last Stand for Independence
I cannot really say that I've ever been into much thrash metal at all. That is, apart from the mandatory Metallica-worship that I went through as young. And yeah, I've listened to a couple of Megadeth-albums and tried to understand the greatness of "Reign In Blood". But neither Megadeth nor Slayer did anything in particular for me. Yeah, that's right - I don't care very much for Slayer. So sue me.
Testament I've come across once in the past - namely the album "The Gathering" from 1999 which got a lot of praise when it was released so I decided to see what the fuzz was about. Sure, it was a solid album and everything, but I never quite got immersed into the music the way I should have. Even though that album from -99 sounded fresh and "modern" (back then at least) - it still somehow managed to sound 80's, simply because that's when thrash metal was at it's peak.
Their new album "Dark Roots of Earth" continues to worship at the altar of thrash and I assume this band has done little over the years when it comes to straying far from that path. Please correct me if I'm wrong though.
As with "The Gathering", this is also a solid thrash metal album which manages to vary it's songwriting enough to keep me interested. The band is very gifted when it comes to changing paces, varying the vocal-approach and inserting a solo here and there. "Native Blood" has a really interesting approach since it goes from almost mainstream-ish choruses (read: Metallica-mainstream) into galloping riffs and weird solos. It is easily the best Metallica-song I've heard from a band that isn't Metallica since 1991.
The title track is a slower thing that marches forth in a sluggish tempo - complete with vocal-harmonies as well as almost macho-like choirs - sort of what Biohazard effectively did in the early 90's. It is refreshing and cool at the same time, although the song might be a little too long for it's own good.
I must say that I really enjoy vocalist Chuck Billy's voice a lot. If there's ever anyone that's made for singing on a thrash metal song - it's this guy. He's got the perfect mix between melody and aggression in his voice. In other words, he neither sounds as whiny as James Hetfield nor does he do the little dog-bark á la Tom Araya.
I have to say something about "Cold Embrace" as well. When I first saw that the song was close to 8 minutes, I had serious doubts as to whether a thrash metal band could pull off something like that. Keeping me interested for that long when it's not one of my favorite genres is not an easy thing to do. But fuck me, Testament actually pulls it off! Chuck Billy once more shows his varied vocal-approach and the flow from the ballad-ish moments to the heavier ones fits like a glove. It gives me some serious "Master of Puppets"/"...And Justice For All"-vibes - but without the dreadful production the latter one had. Yeah, I know that I am a thrash metal-newbie since I keep comparing Testament to old Metallica, but I really think the comparison actually does some justice here.
I of course knew that the band had to follow up "Cold Embrace" with something faster and more aggressive and "Man Kills Mankind" does it's job just right. I get some serious 80's-vibes here - in a positive way that is.
In conclusion, this is better than anything that Slayer, Megadeth and (the extremly overrated) Anthrax has ever done and also better than anything post-1988 when it comes to Metallica. But if I remember correctly, "The Gathering" had a higher tempo overall and felt more aggressive which is more to my liking. "Dark Roots of Earth" is a good album indeed, just not a great one.