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Testament, 'Dark Roots of Earth' -- Album Review 

Everyone knows the story. There was the Big 4, and then those bands who seemed just outside that group, but still there from the start. Bands like Exodus and Testament. Alex Skolnick was always more than a "metal guitarist," and in fact left Testament to play in a jazz trio that, realistically, got most of it's sales from metal fans and through doing metal covers. I am not qualified to comment on his abilities as a jazz player (although I have some CDs), but he was always a hyper melodic guitarist, with his solo on "Electric Crown" being perhaps my favorite solo of all time.

Fast forward to 2012 and Testament, after years of diminishing returns and sub-standard work, have reunited with most of their original line up, Alex included, and released two albums, the most recent of which is Dark Roots of Earth. Let me say from the outset, I buy a LOT of CDs and it's rare for a CD to stay in my rotation list for long. This CD has been a constant for me since I got it. Imagine if Metallica had stayed a metal band, and James Hetfield had continued to drink, so that his voice got a little rougher instead of cleaner through the years. That's pretty much what you get here. I hate to belabor the Metallica comparison, because it's not perfect at all, but, the riffs here really would not be out of place on Master of Puppets, even though they certainly have their own character. The same is true of the complexity of the songs overall, the harmony leads, the melodic soloing, basically everything you love about metal is on this album in spades.

Even the artwork is awesome.

After a couple of faster tracks, the title track is a slower song, but bone crushingly heavy. 'A day in the death' starts with a bass riff, and then the guitars take over. "Cold Embrace" slows things right down with a ballad. I've read reviews that state that this is the one song that makes this CD less than the one before, but, let's not forget that Testament didn't just record a ballad back in the day, they CALLED it "The Ballad." This is nothing new, and it's a great piece of music, and a good break around the middle of the CD. It also shows that Chuck can really sing, as well as his customary bark. In any case, it doesn't sound like a Neil Young song, it has it's share of heavy guitars and solos.

The rest of the album rounds out in suitably heavy fashion, with only "Throne of Thorns" starting soft before kicking in. I have the bonus edition which includes covers of "Dragon Attack" (Queen), "Animal Magnetism" (Scorpions) and "Powerslave" (Iron Maiden). The "Powerslave" cover sticks to the original pretty much until the solos, which are much better than the original. There's also an extended version of "Throne of Thorns" (nearly eight minutes as opposed to seven). There's also a DVD with some live tracks and a making of documentary.

Testament joins a growing rank of bands (Metallica is not one of them) whose later work is so good that I'd be happy to go to a show where next to no older songs are played. That has to be good for metal as a whole, as well as hugely satisfying for the bands in question. If you like metal, buy this CD.

Reader Comments (7)

One of the best albums released this year.
Quick note, the singer Chuck is part indian, not Alex.
September 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSnoot
"Diminishing returns & substandard work"? Really? Nothing they have ever released has been substandard. They bring it on every release & always have! Their last cd(Formation of Damnation) was just as good as this one. Testament is what Metallica & Megadeth could never be, a band that's gotten better with time.
September 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbkallday
Killer album and great return to form. Testament, as well as Overkill and Exodus are definite contenders for being in the Big 5 or 6 of US Thrash.

It's the singer, Chuck Billy, who is Indian though, not Alex.
September 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack
Thanks ya'll. I fixed the Indian reference.
September 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford
Love this album. Brutal, heavy and tight. All metal fans should own this album.
September 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian C.
BOORING, as usual.

p.s. With ya on Overkill, though, Jack. Only catchy thrash band that ever existed. Check out their cover of the Dead Boys classic, "Sonic Reducer". And if you really wanna hear some Rock'n'Roll, check out the entire Dead Boys first album, "Young, Loud and Snotty".
September 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
But I should add, a very interesting review, Christian!
September 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!

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