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Testament's return to original recorded music after 9 years with The Formation of Damnation in 2008 was nothing short of triumphant, and the touring which followed basically didn't let up for over three years. Drummer Paul Bostaph, who had to withdraw from live performances due to an unspecified injury didn't recover in time to record the new album, so with drums being handled by Gene Hoglan (who has also been filling in live) (and Lamb of God's Chris Adler on a the iTunes bonus version of A Day In The Death), Testament continued anyway. The result is a much more melodic affair than The Formation of Damnation. Where that record was the band's attempt to meld their early traditional thrash sound with the ultra-heavy modern sound of albums like 1999's The Gathering and 1997's Demonic (which also featured Hoglan on drums), Dark Roots of Earth is their attempt to go one step closer to their older sound by bringing in even more melody. It is again a resounding success, recalling 1994's Low in several places (especially lengthy ballad Cold Embrace) but rarely sacrificing heaviness. The album's title hints at a thematic link between songs, of the dark side of Earth and humanity (supported by tracks like Man Kills Mankind and the title track) but there's also a thread of defiance against oppression throughout songs like Rise Up, ode to singer Chuck Billy's native American heritage Native Blood, and Last Stand For Independence. Ballad aside Dark Roots of Earth is essentially a melodic, slightly better crafted version of The Formation of Damnation. It's still packed with massive, heavy riffs, wailing solos and Billy's trademark growl, but there are a lot more sing-along moments that are guaranteed to work well live, none more so than the ready-made call-and-respond chorus of Rise Up. There's nothing here for Testament fans to dislike at all.
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