Testament’s long awaited tenth studio album, Dark Roots Of Earth, is a throwback yet a step forward. It’s not as in-your-face as  The Formation of Damnation or The Gathering but just as potent. In the natural progression of Testament albums, Dark Roots Of Earth is the logical successor to The Ritual if Alex Skolnick had never left. Speaking of the guitar god, unlike The Formation of Damnation, Skolnick is on board from the beginning along with drummer Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory, who was last heard on Demonic). In other words: strap in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

“Rise Up” is the new Testament National Anthem and destined to be the token tour opener for the foreseeable future especially with the call and response lines vocalist Chuck Billy delivers with vitriol. “Native Blood” works as both a “comeback” single (Testament never really went away, though…) as well as just a classic modern Testament song. Same goes for “True American Hate” which strikes the same nerve but is ten times more vicious. The title track harkens back to Souls Of Black and Practice…-era Testament as does “A Day In The Death” which features a great old school bass intro by Greg Christian.

Anyone who says that ballads don’t belong on metal albums obviously don’t know Testament or the genre very well. Sure, it’s nuts to hear a seven and a half minute slow burn in the middle of a modern thrash masterpiece like DROE but it’s Testament reclaiming their roots (Pun intended) and something that has been conspicuously absent on their last few releases. Remember the groundbreaking “Return To Serenity”? Or “Trail Of Tears”? Or “The Legacy”? All Testament. All awesome. All ballads. Testament is bringing back metal ballads. Deal with it.

If that one’s a downer for you, then try the equally long “Throne Of Thorns” that pummels along for seven plus minutes and once again proves why Testament is forever considered the fifth Beatle when it comes to “The Big Four” (Let’s face facts, they should just go ahead and call it “The Big Five” already). It’s also one of the best songs Testament has written and proves why the dual guitar attack of Skolnick and Eric Peterson is something to be feared.

The deluxe version of DROE is worth it for their cover of Scorpions “Animal Magnetism” alone. You’ll forget all about “Rock You Like A Hurricane” after hearing this brutality. Trust me. Other highlights include a cover of Maiden’s “Powerslave” and Queen’s “Dragon Attack” as well as a bonus DVD.

Dark Roots of Earth is out on July 31st through Nuclear Blast. Pick it up digitally here (Itunes features “A Day In The Death” with Lamb Of God’s Chris Adler on drums) or through the great people at CMDistro here. If you want to leave the house and get it (Which is definitely worth it, by the way.), then check out some specials here.

Grade: A



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