Dark Roots of Earth

About damned time! Four years for a new Testament album is just too long. After waiting 9 years on previous album The Formation of Damnation (which admittedly, in retrospect, is/was kind of a disappointment – certainly not bad but not one of their best), I had thought these extended breaks between albums were over. Apparently not. Regardless, Dark Roots of Earth is well worth the wait, as this album is easily in the top half of the band’s now ten-album-deep discography.

First things first: the band is still comprised of 4/5 of the original line-up, minus skinsman Louie Clemente who was replaced by Paul Bostaph on the band’s previous outing, and who, due to injury, has also been replaced by journeyman skin-basher extraordinaire Gene Hoglan (wise choice, boys), who previously helmed the throne on 97’s Demonic. As always, he does an incredible job. He even came with tricks up his sleeve! More on that in a bit.

Dark Roots of Earth fucking rips, plain and simple, and you can hear a little bit of all of Testament‘s eras throughout. Heavy, death-laden thrashing is on full display in “True American Hate”, sure-fire live favorite and album opener “Rise Up,” and the absolute scorching closer (on the regular album edition) “Last Stand for Independence”.

First promotional clip “Native Blood” is a mid-paced monster groover, and an absolute master class on catchy, memorable songwriting. It also contains blast-beats. Wait…what? Blast-beats on a Testament album?! Yes, blast-beats. (Mean Gene, I fucking love you. In a totally non-gay way, of course). You can also hear them in “True American Hate”. Yeah, I know. I was shocked too. The title track and “A Day in the Death” are two more mid-paced groove-oriented heavy tunes, though when “Dark Roots of Earth” does take a break, it’s only  to speed things up for a patented new-asshole-ripping Alex Skolnick solo. On the more traditional thrash end of the spectrum, “Man Kills Mankind” and especially album highlight “Throne of Thorns” bring it in a big way. The former packs a super-catchy chorus, and the latter is packed tight with riffs made of pure awesomeness and face-melting lead work.

Now, as far as things to gripe about, well, the ballad “Cold Embrace” sucks. Far and away the worst Testament ballad yet. Typically they write decent ballads, though not this one. I couldn’t latch onto anything really interesting about it, so I just edited it out of the track list after three or four plays. I also think that opening the album with a crowd sing-along type track was kind of a bonehead thing to do, but that’s just me and my tastes.

The bonus version of the album contains three covers and an extended version of “Throne of Thorns” which is completely pointless, since the extension is merely an additional 30 seconds or so of clean guitar noodling at the tail end of the track. Why wouldn’t they just put that on the cut that made the album and do away with that extra eight minutes I have to wait before the album starts over again? That’s got to be some dumb record label idea right there. Whatever. As for the covers, there’s Queen‘s “Dragon Attack,” but since I’ve never heard the original, I can’t compare. I can say, however, that I do enjoy Testament‘s version, as it’s something a little different and unexpected. Next up is Scorpions‘ “Animal Magnetism,” from an album I happen to own. Unfortunately, it’s by far the worst song on said album, and Testament, even in all their awesomeness, couldn’t do anything to make this song more interesting – pass. Last, but certainly not least, is Iron Maiden‘s “Powerslave,” and… Holy fuck. As an unashamed Maiden and Testament fanboy, this track is a fucking orgasm in my ear.

Let’s hope that the Bay Area boys don’t make us wait another four years for another slice of fantastic thrashing like Dark Roots of Earth.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Larry "Staylow" Owens
September 3rd, 2012


  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    good to hear you approve. I still need to check this out. now maybe I will.

  2. Commented by: Poop

    I agree about “Rise Up” being a bad choice for an opener its ok track..one of the weaker ones on the album IMO..but it kind of turned me off a bit my first time listening. Otherwise this rocks.

  3. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Been trying and failing to pull myself up off my ass and write a review for this one, but I’d say you nailed it. The only quibble is that I actually really like “Rise Up.” I get what you’re saying, but man that ought to be awesome live. Completely agree about “Cold Embrace.” I usually like their ballads. “The Legacy” is one of my all-time favorite ballads, but this one stinks. Got to find those bonus tracks now.

  4. Commented by: Gibbo

    Why does everyone put “The” in front of the album title when it is simply titled “Dark Roots of Earth” AND talk about the blast beats like it’s unheard of in a Testament album? Dave Lombardo whips one out on DNR on The Gathering!

  5. Commented by: gordeth

    “Rise Up” is the corniest thing they ever did. It starts the album off on a really sour note. And, “Native Blood” doesn’t turn things around very much. That spoken word segment is cringe-inducing. The album doesn’t get good until the middle, but then it’s quickly halted by “Cold Embrace.” The only decent stretch of tracks is the last three. Overall, I found the album to be a disappointment.

  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Gibbo – fixed

  7. Commented by: Staylow

    Gibbo – Out of 10 albums now, this is the second album they’ve used blast beats. My bad – they obviously use them a lot.

  8. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Gibbo: Sounds like a music service or a search engine of some sort. :P


    New platters by Overkill, Testament, Kreator, Exumer, Municipal Waste and Tankard. All in all, a pretty good year for thrash.

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