Review Summary: Testament release a great album - but also prove that they have no where to evolve, and that they will never top their old stuff.
Enjoyment and disappointment, these were the two major emotions I felt while listening to Dark Roots Of Earth. I wasn’t very surprised of my reactions, to be honest, because I felt these mixed feelings for almost every new Metal release in the past few years; e.g. Death Magnetic, Thirteen, World Painted Blood and so on. Time and time again, I build up high exceptions for a Thrash revival, but with the release of every new album my hopes slowly fade away. Dark Roots Of Earth is not different, again an album that doesn't meet up with its own expectations, and despite being a solid release on its own, it was the last straw for me.
The album is very good musically, honestly, with some of the songs such as Rise Up and Man Kills Mankind sounding like they were taken from Souls Of Black or The Ritual in some way. The drummer Gene Hoglan delivers what probably is the best drumming a Testament album ever knew, and by that he proves that even after so many years he is still up there in the top Metal drummers list. Peterson and Skolnick are as excellent as always, Peterson being the mind behind the band, writing all of the music with Skolnick helping out on few of the tracks. The riffs and the solos are just fine; they build an excellent base for the album, and songs like Throne Of Thorns and the title track show some darker and more mysterious aspects of Testament and make the album more interesting. If it wasn’t for them the album would have become extremely boring and repetitive.
So far so good, musically, but unfortunately for me, every throne has its thorn.
I'll begin with the singing. Chuck proves once and for all that Dickinson is really one of a kind, and that singing well after passing 45 is really a rare phenomenon. Chuck is in no way even close to what he was before, and his performance decreases the level of the whole record. 47 seconds into the album, after being completely satisfied with the instrumental, the grin turns upside-down as you suddenly remember how old Chuck is. But Billy isn't awful throughout the whole record, his voice sounds good in True American Hate and Native Blood, and it still may be enjoyable with the correct amount of listenings. When listening to the whole thing (74 minutes!), though, it gets pretty tiresome.
The vocals are not the only downside to this album, sadly. The lyrics are way too cheesy and they become very annoying after a short while.
"…There's no excuse, attitude! Got something here that I must prove…"
Chuck writes the lyrics with such fat percentage that even Judas Priest couldn't have pulled off. Testament barely makes it work, and most of the songs fail lyrically.
When you will listen to Dark Roots Of Earth, the level of satisfaction you'll feel will depend on how high were your expectations.. If you want a fun easy record, that you can listen to from time to time, then it's your thing, but if you are looking for a Thrash revival, just like the media makes us believe every time again - just forget about this, and you might as well forget about Testament at all. If there is one thing that I learned from listening to this album, and to all "Thrash revival" albums in the past few years, is that the true Thrash revival, if will ever come, will be in a form of a new band, and not an old one; these will never match up with their old albums, and will always keep us dissatisfied. I guess the Jews were correct; New Testament will never top the Old Testament.
Dark Roots Of Earth was released in July 27th (July 31st NA), 2012. The record label is Nuclear Blast and it its 50:48 (74:00 remastered) minutes long.
Chuck Billy – vocals
Alex Skolnick – guitars
Eric Peterson – guitars
Greg Christian – bass guitar
Gene Hoglan – drums, percussion
Producer – Andy Sneap
Dark Roots of the Earth sold over 20,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release, and reached number twelve on the Billboard 200—Testament's highest U.S. chart position to date.