Sound: Testament formed in 1983 with the release of their first album in 1986. They were one of the first thrash metal bands to sign to a major label, and one of the most popular thrash metal bands in the late 1980's. They have continued since that time to create great thrash metal albums. This will be the tenth full length studio release from Testament. Gene Hoglan returned on drums, having previously played on Testament's release, "Demonic", in 1997. The other 4 members are the original line-up from the first album. There are 9 tracks on the standard album version and 13 tracks on the bonus version which is available as CD/DVD or on vinyl. The standard album has a runtime of approximately 51 minutes and with the 4 bonus tracks that pushes the runtime up to 75 minutes or so. Three of the four bonus tracks are covers, with the fourth bonus track being an extended version of "Throne Of Thorns". The covers are "Dragon Attack" by Queen, "Animal Magnetism" by the Scorpions, and "Powerslave" by Iron Maiden.
The album really does start and end strong this is classic thrash metal in modern times. You get palm-muted chugging, lightning fast triplets, creepy melodies, insane solos, a driving kick drum, pounding drum fills, and the vocals roaring through the mix. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson trade out rhythm and lead duties throughout the album which really provides an interesting contrast. They each have their own strengths which have been evidenced in their past releases Eric Peterson has always been a genius of metal rhythm, and Alex Skolnick has always been a very intelligent player, choosing modes and scales to convey precisely what he wants conveyed by his playing. With the change up you get some intricate solos and some visceral solos, and the rhythm playing starts to take on more character than in some previous releases. Overall, the album has a very aggressive sound, reminiscent in a lot of ways to early Metallica more than Testament's previous work. Also, the album cover is the most bada-s album cover this year so far. // 8
Lyrics: Chuck Billy was made for performing metal vocals not the growling vocals of the modern metal genres but the contrasting operatic to melodic roaring of early thrash metal. His voice has just enough grit and individual character to make it stand out and fit into the palette created by the instrumental members of the band. Chuck Billy has been providing vocals for Testament for over 25 years at this point, and still managing to provide a strong delivery without sounding tired or weak after all this time. Chuck Billy really sounds like a metal vocalist just going into the prime of his career, and this is what really pushes this album from good to great.
The lyrics are what you would expect on a thrash metal album, focusing on war, Armageddon, hate, death, social injustice, etc. From the song "True American Hate", here are some of the lyrics: "Fear nothing, say nothing/ pledge allegiance to what's right/ the future in question/ revolution overnight/ for all the disservice/ into peril we fell/ my instinct ticking like a time bomb/ the human race implodes/ some choose to celebrate/ some choose to hate/ some choose to live their lives through someone else's pain/ all those who follow/ all those with faith/ show us your colors/ American hate/ True American hate, hate/ true American hate, hate/ true American hate, hate/ stand up and be counted/ stand up for what's right/ fall to resurgence/ intuition overnight/ the final plot in question/ evil mind overturned/ so many flags of hate/ so many nations scorned". I trusted a site online for those lyrics, so if they are not absolutely correct I do apologize. The lyrics throughout the album are very metal, very aggressive and fit very well with the music. // 8
Overall Impression: My favorite songs on the album are the title track, "Dark Roots Of Earth", "A Day In The Death" and "Throne Of Thorns". I was also really fond of their cover of "Powerslave". I really didn't dislike any song on the album. I thought this was a much better album than their last release, "The Formation Of Damnation" and I hope this is a sample of more to come from them in the future. Eric Peterson has always been a genius of metal rhythm and the primary writer for the band, but with Alex Skolnick back, hopefully they will continue in the future to re-capture the vitality of their earlier releases as they did with this album. I would absolutely recommend this album to any metal fan, especially fans of 80's thrash metal as this album has done an excellent job of bridging the gap between 80's thrash and modern metal. Also, this is one of the coolest album covers I have seen in a while. I would recommend buying this in the store in the CD/DVD format over downloading, and get to experience listening to the album laid back looking at the album cover and liner notes. It is definitely worthwhile. // 8
- Brandon East (c) 2012