While most of the thrash bands of the 1980s have gone through identity crises since that decade ended, few of them have come out of that period as strong as Testament.
While the band did release the somewhat more accessible The Ritual in 1992, which gave them a minor hit in “Return to Serenity,” and experimented with more of a death-metal style on 1997’s Demonic, for the most part, their output has been consistent, dependable and rock solid. Their other two 1990s releases – 1994’s Low and 1999’s The Gathering are, arguably, a couple of the best thrash albums of the decade.
But it was 2008 when they gave fans a real treat by getting most of the band’s classic lineup back together for the stellar Formation of Damnation, their first studio album in nine years. Guitarist Alex Skolnick, who had departed due to artistic differences in 1993 to do a brief stint in Savatage and work with his jazz trio, came back into the fold, as did bassist Greg Christian. Only drummer Louie Clemente, now a successful furniture store owner, didn’t return.
For the upcoming record Dark Roots of Earth, due in July, Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Death, Dethklok, tons of others), who also played on Demonic, returns and makes an immediate impact, heard most notably on the blast beats under the chorus of “True American Hate.”
The song starts in classic Testament territory, with a relatively plodding riff and some noodling by Skolnick before stepping up to a neck-snapping thrash pace. Vocalist Chuck Billy takes on the darker, growly vocal style that he adopted through the 1990s, but you can still hear a taste of his 1980s style in there, too. It’s crushingly heavy, yet still hummable. There’s a nice breakdown about halfway through and then Skolnick cuts loose. Though there’s no doubt his lengthy solo is full-on metal shred, you can also hear some of the smoother tones of his jazz playing in places.
“True American Hate” is pretty much exactly what you want from a Testament song and a nice teaser for the upcoming record.