Thrash metal titans Testament, first emerged from the bay area in the early 1980’s playing alongside acts like Exodus and the highly successful Metallica. Despite their long history in the metal scene, the guys in Testament still haven’t missed a beat, and this album stands as testimony. Their latest studio release, Dark Roots of Earth, is anything but ordinary, and it is just as heavy, if not heavier than previous releases. The guitar work only builds on an already signature sound resulting in a crisper, cleaner, and better produced record. Despite the bands age, the iconic Testament sound first debuted on The Legacy, is still present on the new album twenty-five years later. The addition of session drummer Gene Hoglan, (Devin Townsend, Death, Dethklok, Unearth, Fear Factory, Opeth, and others) adds a slightly different element to the music, but he fills his position nicely. With the exception of Hoglan, Testament is one of the few bands to retain its core lineup. Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, Alex Scolnick, and Greg Christian have all been present on much of the band’s original work and are still present today.
The majority of the album was written by Peterson, who recorded and drew inspiration for much of the album’s structure while away from home in the United Kingdom. Lyrically the theme is dark, but it is also diverse in subject matter. The song, Native Blood, stresses indigenous pride for ethnic minorities fighting for respect in a primarily “white” world. It deals with cultural heritage and how race ties into modern life. It is also the first Testament song to be written and performed in Spanish as well as English. The title track, Dark Roots of Earth, focuses on a different concept, pertaining more to the earth element and how it relates to the body, time, and death, while True American Hate touches on how America is perceived internationally; especially in the middle east. This wide variety of subject matter is sure to keep anyone entertained who is tired of the “same old stuff” and wants to listen to an album with some substance.
The album is impressive musically, but part of this is due to its diversity with sound. It is a heavy record; the softer parts are what give the album character such as the more fluid guitar harmonies at the beginning of Throne of Thorns and Cold Embrace are reminiscent of Testament’s original sound without taking away from the album’s distinct punch.
If you’re looking for an album that will hit you in the mouth with straightforward, no-nonsense American heavy metal, look no further. It’s a tight record, and while it may not be on a best seller list, it certainly is worth the listen.