Review of Testament's "Dark Roots of Earth" (Deluxe Edition)
The tenth studio album by America heavy metal band, Testament, "Dark Roots of Earth" was recorded and released on 2012. Their last album, "Formation of Damnation" (2008) saw their first release since their 1999 album, "The Gathering." So, it is certainly good to see that the band isn't in the mood for another 9 year break.
The album features Chuck Billy as vocalist, Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson on guitars, Greg Christian on bass, and Gene Hoglan on drums.
The album starts off on an energetic note with Rise Up, a song dealing with war and the death of soldiers, both criticizing war for its toll and seemingly rousing the listener at the same time to "rise up for war." A decent enough start to the album, in spite of the rather uncreative chorus of, "Rise up! War!" four times... perhaps made with live shows in mind where the crowd can partake and I'm not just sitting in my room screaming "WAR!" at my speakers. The second song, Native Blood, deals with Chuck Billy's Native American heritage. While the musicianship and riffs here impress, the mediocre songwriting and somewhat generalized sound end up being major flaws, in both the song and album.
With the next song, and title track of the album, we further witness something notable about Billy's vocals. While they're still deep and gruff and fitting for the music, they appear less so when compared to, say, their last album, or any other before it. This adjustment in vocals and overall guitar sound place Testament farther from Lamb of God and closer to Iced Earth, a less "heavy" realm of thrash metal. A noticeable step away from their last effort, Dark Roots of the Earth furthers the surprising flaw that ends up prevalent in this release; I never would have thought that Testament could ever be called generic. Don't take my word for it, check the video and see how it compares to their earlier works.
Even their supposed heavy hit, True American Hate, should have been a punch in the face to listeners, and, to a minimal extent, it is. But lackluster lyrics lessen what should have been a kick-ass thrash-fest. The riffs add what they can, and they are, indeed the only compliment I give the song, but the delivery fails and chorus falls flat.
A Day in the Death is reminiscent of early Overkill with the high pitched whining intertwined in the beginning lead of the song. This song is actually one of the better ones, with the emotion effectively displayed and, perhaps more importantly, the heaviness evident. Yet instead of embracing those qualities, there significantly useless sections of lesser quality than the song's potential. Overall, a worthy listen.Cold Embrace is the most out-of-place song on the album, its only song with a 'power ballad' feel to it. For what it is, there is a certain beauty to much of the song, and the heavy parts of the song are well balanced. The song is also the one most deserving of repeated revisiting.
Man Kills Mankind is worse than Rise Up and Dark Roots of the Earth.
Throne of Thorn is similar to the ballad in length, but has much more energy and charge to it. Not to mention soft moments are purposefully lacking, save the outro. The dual guitars featured halfway through instantly reminded me of Iron Maiden, which the band covered with Powerslave, on the bonus tracks of this release. It is fun and well done, excluding the chorus, as you could have guessed, but should have been two or three minutes shorter. The last song on the standard album, Last Stand for Independence falls somewhere in between the two distinctions made between the songs. It's fast, heavy, bouncy, even, and marks an adequate end to the album.
The cover songs are, suffice it to say, unconventional. Dragon Attack, by Queen, is decent enough and rather unexpected. The Freddie Mercury attitude present in the original simply isn't in the cover. Animal Magnetism, by Scorpions, is slow and heavy, but seems unnecessary. And Powerslave, by Iron Maiden, is probably the most worthwhile cover of the three, while not beating the original, like Dragon Attack, it is a noteworthy tribute.
Final Thoughts: 5/10 Not able to surpass the album before it, the overall sound is simply not what Testament is best with. They can be monsters of Thrash Metal, and need to embrace it. While the songs that are good are worth praise, they are few and far between.
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