It wasn’t that long ago when I used to think that Testament was no more than sloppy Metallica second without identity or strong material. I also used to believe that there was a reason for them always hanging in the wake of The Big Four, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. I always had a soft spot for their album The Ritual, though. Of course, that album is the most hated one by true Testament-fans because of its more mellow and melodic ways. I have also always loved their lead guitarist Alex Skolnick, because the guy is a fantastic guitar player! But all that changed one day back in 2008 when a friend of mine told me I just HAD to check out their then new album The Formation Of Damnation, on which they had reunited with all the original members except drummer Louie Clemente, who wasn’t considered good enough anymore and had been replaced by former Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph.
I was floored, to put it mildly! That was and still is a brilliant album and it made me go back and check out their earlier stuff. Lo and behold, I found that I had been dead wrong all along. What I discovered then was a band who only wasn’t as good as The Big 4, but the best of them all. Why Testament isn’t within that bunch is beyond me, maybe it should be called the Big 5. Or just lose Anthrax!
For the recording of Dark Roots Of Earth, Bostaph had left the band and had been replaced with another drum magician, Gene Hoglan (Death, Dark Angel). Hoglan actually played on Testament’s death metal debacle Demonic from 1997 as well. And this was the first time in my life that I was looking forward to a Testament release with excitement. And with The Formation Of Damnation in mind, my expectations were very high. Wouldn’t it be a crying shame if they released a total fiasco just when I had become a fan? Well, I only had to watch the video for the first single “Native Blood” once to lose all my worries. The song is magnificent. It’s heavy and melodic, with their thrash metal roots still present. I can also trace bits of early Metallica and Judas Priest in there. A true killer! The rest of the album is just as good. Opener “Rise Up” is angry, hard and fast and classic Testament all the way through. The title track is heavy, dark and melodic and I can spot small traces of their awesome The Ritual album, “True American Hate” is hard and aggressive, still with a strong sense of melody and “Cold Embrace” is an astonishing ballad, played Testament style. Think their earlier ballads like “The Ballad”, “The Legacy” and “Return To Serenity” in a blender and add more heaviness. But my absolute favourite on here is the phenomenal “Throne Of Thorns”. It is heavy, dark and epic and should go down in Testament history as a classic song.
For all those who gets their hands on the limited edition version of the album also gets, apart from a bonus DVD disc, some extra songs. An extended version of “Throne Of Thorns” might be a bit overkill, but they have also recorded some really cool covers here. “Dragon Attack” (Queen), “Animal Magnetism” (Scorpions) and “Powerslave” (Iron Maiden) are all of them very well done, all done Testament style. Very good, indeed.
With this album, Testament still holds the # 1 spot for best thrash metal band in my book. A majestic piece of music that I, after only a few listens, hold as their finest work to date. I really can’t find anything wrong with this album at all.
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
01. Rise Up
02. Native Blood
03. Dark Roots Of Earth
04. True American Hate
05. A Day In The Death
06. Cold Embrace
07. Man Kills Mankind
08. Throne Of Thorns
09. Last Stand For Independence
10. Dragon Attack (QUEEN cover)
11. Animal Magnetism (SCORPIONS cover)
12. Powerslave (IRON MAIDEN cover)
13. Throne Of Thornes (extended version)