Dark Roots of Earth
As a big, fat fan of their previous offering, the excellent The Formation of Damnation, the build up to the new TESTAMENT record has been rather agonizing.
When the cover to Dark Roots of Earth was unleashed upon the metal community a couple months ago, a giant "Holy Sh*t" was heard 'round the world to the sheer kick-assery of the art work, causing the drool of anticipation to bubble up in my throat and spatter out of my mouth as I yelled, "I want to hear a sample song, dammit!"
When "True American Hate" and "Native Blood" were released, respectively, to a generally well-received audience, the build-up had reached its peak for me. Although I confidently knew in my freakin' BONES that Dark Roots was going to be a near-flawless album, I couldn't help but think that the cover art and the two preview songs were too good to be true, leaving the rest to be a bit of a let down.
I guess I was simply preparing myself for the worst. What an idiot.
Fanboy praise be damned, Dark Roots of Earth is pure Testament and it completely freaking rocks. To speak of how well-crafted the songs are should be of no big surprise. The cumulative musical ideas spanning from each of the past albums created that Testament SOUND, one that is unmistakable and always welcome, and is once again utilized to create yet another classic in the band's arsenal of killer studio albums.
From the opening shout-along metal anthem Rise Up to the final scorching track Last Stand of Independence, fans are treated to the gamut of everything we love about Testament, ballads and all. Classic thrash? Melodic hooks? Death-tinged metal? Well-crafted solos? It's all in there, baby, cooked to perfection.
Stand out tracks for me include A Day in the Death and Man Kills Mankind, both which take me way back as a young fan of Testament and wondering how even more devastating the Practice What You Preach album could be with the thick, bone-shattering production found on Dark Roots.
To back up the strong songwriting is the equally strong presence behind the drum kit: Gene Hoglan. His previous venture with the Testament crew helped forge the heaviness of the band's "f*ck you!" to the watered-down 90s metal scene - the Demonic album (a polarizing offering that remains one of my all-time favorites). Hoglan's welcome return to the skins displays his brand of tight and precise driving rhythms to the melodic and brutal riffing throughout.
One element that I am definitely happy to hear in heavier use this time around is Chuck Billy's catchy vocal melodies, predominately used on past releases such as Souls of Black and The Ritual. Billy has such a knack for creating catchy vocal hooks that work so well with the underlying music, they can easily get burned into the listener's brain.
So fans, old and new, take note. Testament managed to take everything they have perfected over the course of the band's career and build upon that foundation to give us an album that is savagely hungry, effectively beautiful, and as heavy as a near-flawless metal album should be. Dark Roots of Earth is the metal album to top for 2012.