"Dark Roots of the Earth"

By Dr. Abner Mality

The new Testament is here at last! Worth the wait? Do you really have to ask?

With a band such as this, all label Nuclear Blast needs to do is just give them a decent budget and stay the hell out of their way. Testament knows what their fans want and how to give it to them. None will be disappointed with "Dark Roots of Earth". Those looking for some great stylistic leap will be disappointed but since that collection of people is unlikely to reach double digits, no problem.

One thing I will say is that this is considerably moodier than the straight as an arrow "Formation of Damnation". The band is comfortable enough to breathe and doesn't feel forced to race at breakneck speed all the time. Indeed, the longest song here is the ballad "Cold Embrace", which drips with sorrowful melody. The second longest cut, "Throne of Thornes", is one hell of an epic, mostly in a commanding mid-tempo mode and featuring the exquisite lead guitar work which has been a Testament trademark since 1987. If you guys love to hear Skolnick and Petersen duke it out and challenge each other, "Dark Roots of Earth" is for you. That's a nice segue to the title track, the most "experimental" and moodiest cut on a very dark album in general.

Fans of pile-driving thrash, don't start to twitch, the album opens with "Rise Up", which is just pure, absolute Testament as its driving best. Said it before, but it bears repeating: Chuck Billy is the best thrash vocalist around. Such a powerful yet smooth voice. Many of the vocal lines on this album remind me of more tempered Testament albums like "Practice What You Preach" and "The Ritual". No demonic growls this time around. It works really well..."True American Hate", "Man Kills Mankind" and the rousing "Last Stand For Independence" deliver more of the hard-charging Testament we love so well. Nothing surprising needed...or wanted.

Worth the wait? Are you kidding me?