Album Review: Testament – Dark Roots of Earth

As a long time Testament fan, I’m happy the band returned this year with something new to offer to fans.  Over the years, the band has endured many changes, but regardless of the path, props goes to Chuck Billy for keeping the band going through all the years. With the recent release of Dark Roots of Earth it feels like now is the time for the band to finally receive the accolades it has long deserved.

Let’s face it, very few bands can survive all the lineup changes and manage to keep its core sound.  If you’ve followed the band since the 80s, you know what I mean. When Alex Skolnick left after The Ritual, no guitarist could fill his shoes.  The Testament sound flickered, but never died.  The band stayed true to its roots over the years, but until Skolnick returned, something always felt a bit off.

In Dark Roots of Earth, all the qualities fans have come to expect are present. Filled with dark fast riffs, low melodic bellows and blistering solos, this album keeps you craving more. Lyrically, songs are just as personally and politically charged as ever.

Right out of the gates, “Rise Up” is classic Testament. I can image the band opening with this song to rev up the crowd; it will surely become a live favorite.  The equally charged “Native Blood” follows setting up the title track. “Dark Roots of the Earth” has characteristics from The Ritual, with a more colorful and experimental feel to it.

The next two tracks are hands down my favorites. “True American Hate” and “A Day in the Death” are melodically ferocious and memorable. Skolnick proves why he belongs with Testament and what was missing.  His solos always feel just right by embellishing the song, but restraining the flash;  Skolnick’s musicality reigns supreme.

And some will argue that “Cold Embrace” is a bit of an unnecessary, oddball song, but the band has never shied away from including a mellow, softer song.  It adds contrast to the ferocity in the rest of the album.

“Throne of Thorns” is arguably the more intricate and artistic song of the album. The song begins with a clean arpeggiated section juxtaposed over power chords before the main riff enters. Vocally, Billy balances between his classic roars and spoken dialogue. The song exemplifies is bold enough to never stand still or stuck with a particular sound. Plus, the song has an extended version available too, which just made me thing they should’ve just used this version.

If there is any one word that describes Testament, it’s consistency.  Even without Skolnick in the mix, the band never frayed from its identity or soul.  But let’s face it, Dark Roots of Earth proves Skolnick adds to the Testament magic and that Formation of Damnation was no accident.  Big Four, eat your heart out.   It’s time to make a permanent addition and change to the Big Five.

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