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Testament: Dark Roots of Earth
Nuclear Blast Records has yet to ship out the promotional reviews copies of Dark Roots of Earth to many members of the press, but have made two audio streams available to the public at this point. As a huge Testament fan, I simply couldn’t wait to hear the songs, and dove right in. However, what I heard really made me drop my enthusiasm for another album, or the possibility of a better one than 2008’s The Formation of Damnation.

The first of the two streams is the song “True American Hate,” which I coincidentally absolutely hate. Listening to this track didn’t make me think of Testament in any way, but of the modern Groove Metal oriented Annihilator circa Schizo Deluxe and All For You. The introduction is definitely heavy, there’s no denying that, but once the music kicks in it just sounds like unoriginal technical Thrash Metal chords with a decent drum performance behind it. Even the vocals come off more like what Dave Paddon offers, and the subtle melody to the chorus is catchy, but the slight shift in music during it, as well as the heavily crisp audio quality, really just eradicates what bite it has while making it sound repetitive. It’s definitely a darker offering overall, which is something I did manage to get into, and it’s obvious Testament is throwing back to the Death Metal influenced days of Demonic thanks to the heavier and darker music, as well as the deeper vocals. Unfortunately, that’s not the end product, which would have been rather interesting to hear after all this time.

The other song on the chopping block is “Native Blood,” and it is definitely a far more impressive single than “True American Hate.” It does still have it’s faults, but this song clearly throws back to the group’s earlier works with a hint of that Demonic touch thanks to some blast beats that do appear here and there. The tighter song has some catchy riffs, a lighter sound and even some emotion that does become apparent in the music. The song itself just sounds like it has a personal meaning or message to it. While not the most impressive Testament recording, one spin with the song did make a strong impact on me, and the chorus did prove to be somewhat memorable. However, this doesn’t make up for the cleaner audio quality that takes away the energy the band brings with them, which you can pick up on in traces throughout the song.

Both songs are intriguing, though “Native Blood” definitely saved things for me. Since hearing “True American Hate” I feared what Testament was planning with this album, but it’s that aforementioned audio stream that did kind of save things for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to hear another Demonic, as I think I’m one of the few out there who actually enjoyed it, but the time for that has definitely passed given the embracing of such a crisp audio quality on the past few albums, as well as how these songs seem to take from that approach, but fail to really capitalize on it. Overall, it’s clear the group is trying to reach back into their discography, but traces of the problems The Formation of Damnation had, up to and including the overly digital audio, seem to return once more. While I’m not as worried about Dark Roots of Earth being a bad album now, I still will be approaching it with caution, as neither song really grabbed me by the neck and made me want to play it more than I had to. In fact, all they did was make me want to revisit various Testament albums from their early to mid career…

Testament (Logo)
Article based on public audio streams provided by Nuclear Blast Records.