Nuclear Blast (2012)
Prolific early in their career due to major label demands (i.e. when we have a successful formula, pump it out to the masses as quickly and often as possible), Testament have slowed down in terms of studio releases since the early 1990’s. You would figure in 25 year recording career the band would already have hit double digit studio albums- but since “The Gathering” in 1999, Testament have only released one subsequent studio album in 2008 “The Formation Of Damnation” prior to this new recording. It’s not like they’ve been idle- touring the globe on their own headlining excursions, opening for killer package deals like “Metal Masters” with Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Heaven & Hell as well as hitting festivals in India, Venezuela, and Columbia among other territories.
Given their propensity to change the formula through the years- “The Ritual” being their most straightforward, commercial offering, while “Demonic” probably their heaviest knocking on death metal doorsteps- where would Testament 2012 belong in their legendary thrash career with “Dark Roots Of Earth”? Do not fear legions- Testament know what their fans want and deliver in spades through these 9 songs. “Rise Up” and “True American Hate” explode with Gene Hoglan’s inhuman speed, power and finesse drum drilling. Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick burst at the seams with a bevy of licks and solo tricks- be it of the hammer on, shred or tasteful build up variety. Greg Christian’s natural finger plucking bass delivery comes through on the opening chord sequence of “A Day In The Death”- another tip of the cap to the old school. Finally Chuck Billy has one of those instantly memorable vocal presences in the metal business- evil one moment, melodic the next, he has proven over his career that his ability to channel anger, aggression, and restraint gives Testament opportunities 95% of the thrash world can’t possibly match.
“Cold Embrace” opens its 7:46 arrangement with this acoustic/electric guitar panoramic motif, once again taking a ballad format but twisting things up enough in terms of where the solo spots appear and how to surprise the listener with the crushing, heavy chorus action- something I haven’t heard since Mike Howe-era Metal Church days. The other epic “Throne Of Thorns” evokes a slightly Middle Eastern meets “Seventh Son...” Maiden-era atmosphere, especially during the bridge transition, dual guitar harmonies and spirited solo section. Produced once again by Andy Sneap, Testament understand the need to really push their riffing, songwriting and performance skills to unleash an album that will have longevity beyond the initial five to ten exposures.
Much like Anthrax’s “Worship Music”, “Dark Roots Of Earth” proves that thrash isn’t merely a young man’s game. Well worth the wait, Testament provide Bay Area magic once again.
Rating: 5.5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe