Testament have proved themselves time and time again as one of the enduring greats of their era and have no pressure except that they clearly put on themselves. Dark Roots Of Earth takes up where Formation... left off, and while it doesn’t quite surpass its predecessor, it certainly matches it blow for vicious blow.
Opener “Rise Up” is an instant, crowd-pleasing anthem. Not simply powerful, it’s an empowering statement of strength and self-belief, which along with the equally passionate “Native Blood” clears a path for the epic title track, which itself displays just how much Testament has outgrown a simplistic thrash pigeonhole and become a simply great heavy metal band.
Although Dark Roots Of Earth doesn’t offer experimentation as such, it does show a band unafraid of constant progression. The close to eight minute “Cold Embrace,” for example, unashamedly borrows from the psychedelic side of early Sabbath and puts it in the context of something not too far removed from a power metal ballad, without ever raising any doubt about Testament’s music coming from anywhere other than the heart.
Crucial to Testament’s resurrection in recent years has been their ability to absorb modern inspirations into their classic thrash blueprint. The power of Pantera and bottom-heavy groove of Lamb Of God are apparent in Testament’s latest output, but far from jumping on any bandwagons, Testament has simply made such influences their own and in doing so, ensured they remain as invigorating now as at any time in their lengthy career.
With time doing little to blunt their attack, Testament has crafted another fine album which once more underlines not only their outstanding musical pedigree, but their integrity and unshakable passion.
Testament remains a band at the very top of its game. Only time will tell if the likes of Metallica still have one more great album in them, but even if they do, it’s highly unlikely to come close to matching Dark Roots Of Earth.
Wait for the best of 2012 list folks – Testament just booked a place on it.
(released July 31, 2012 on Nuclear Blast Records)