What makes a band great? There are as many different opinions as there are bands, but it essentially really all comes down to the music, nothing more; how easily does a tune get your foot tapping, or in this case, your head banging.
We've seen a plethora of the bands we've grown up with go astray down the wrong paths artistically, but this is not the case with Testament, they have consistently put out bonecrushers, and since ending their long hiatus with 2008's "The Formation of Damnation" they have been firing on all eight cylinders.
I've actually held off reviewing this for awhile, because it was such an incredible album, I knew I just had to find a way to talk to Chuck Billy...hence our recent interview.
But with Testament, Anthrax and Death Angel now tearing shit apart on the road, I thought it would be the perfect time to remind people of this album, an album which has been, not only well received from the media, but hardcore fans as well. That's the thing about Testament, sure they've experimented a bit with their sound, but it's what should be expected from any artist; however, they haven't ever broken away from the intensity of their roots in order to cash in on popular trends.
No, Testament is a band who have been faithful to their art and it shows from the very first rage-filled note which is pushed through your speakers...sounds like an exaggeration doesn't it? Well, it isn't; when the opening track "Rise Up" blows your woofers, and the metal as fuck anthem transports your metal starved ass through time into the mad, thrash bay area hangouts of Ruthie's Inn and The Fillmore, you will have no choice but agree that the aggression level on this album is as high as it has EVER been on a Testament album...just with a bit more finesse in its delivery. See, that's what makes a band like Testament great, they have taken what they've learned over their careers and used it to continue making kick ass tunes!
Each song on this is a powerhouse of intensity; delivered, at times, with a crunch which demands a mosh with tracks like "True American Hate" and "Last Stand For Independence" while hauntingly melodic at other times...check out "Cold Embrace", fuck 'n' a that's what I call metal!!
Yeah, we've all been to shows where we scream for the classics from the band who has lost their way into the realms of progressive metal or, for lack of better words, alternative pop; Testament has never been, or ever will be, one of these conformists...each of their albums offer killer classics and "Dark Roots of Earth" throws down with wall to wall mindblowing jams which cannot be denied! If you're lucky enough to catch 'em on their current tour, I guarantee you'd be a happy camper if they played nothing but songs from this album, that's how good it is!
As you have correctly surmised, I am one who has been incredibly disappointed by the musical direction many of the old masters have taken in the past couple of decades, not so with Chuck, Alex, Eric, Greg and Gene..they are holding fast to what makes heavy metal the music of the rock gods by instilling in the listener a need to sing along and move...it's impossible not to shake a fist while listening to a song like "A Day In The Death"...pure magic!