Published Aug 10, 2012Back in 2008, thrash metal institution Testament released The Formation of Damnation, their first album since 1999. It was a success of a comeback, with a lineup that brought together almost every member from the band's '80s heyday. Now, they've followed up that disc with The Dark Roots of Earth, which is an improvement even on the formidable Formation, a fact not lost on guitarist Eric Peterson.
"Formation was a stepping stone for the next record," Peterson tells Exclaim! "Sometimes you have to paint a picture to see the next picture more clearly."
Oddly, Peterson says that he had a vision of what Dark Roots would become back during the creative process for the last album. That vision came to him in the most unmetal of places: a dream.
"It was during the end of writing sessions for me that I got a sneak glimpse in a dream of what the next record would sound like," he says. "Sounds crazy, I know, but I got to hear and taste it in a dream! I'm not sure if they are the same songs I heard in my dream [laughs] but it led the way of what was to come."
While Formation featured metal drummer extraordinaire Paul Bostaph (Slayer, Exodus, Forbidden), he was unable to appear on the new disc due to an injury. So the more-than-able drum hero Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Dark Angel, Death) stepped back into the Testament fold; he previously played with Testament on their 1997 album Demonic. The drum stool is the only position not filled by a member from the band's early thrashing era, but Hoglan did a great job at learning the songs -- in a very short time period.
"I had most of the riffs and ideas of what the drums would do, but some of the songs were still in my head and hadn't been recorded yet," explains Peterson on Hoglan's re-entry into the band. "Gene basically had a crash course in brain surgery and learned and moulded all of the ten tracks in a week's time. That's amazing: to not only learn them but make them sound owned is a whole other level."
The album is one classic Testament sound after the next, right down to something longtime fans know to expect from the band: love 'em, hate 'em, or tolerate 'em, these guys love throwing in a ballad. But it's never cheeseball stuff (their ballad, uh, "The Ballad" from '89's classic Practice What You Preach is timeless), and this time out the band have given the listener a "Cold Embrace" to help break up the album's thrash attack.
"There is so much feeling and atmosphere in songs like that," says Peterson. "'Cold Embrace' is part of the ride on the record, but it's the epic journey it takes you on that hits! That song has been around for a while; this is what happens when Alex [Skolnick, guitars] and I collaborate musically. Chuck [Billy, vocals] also found his way on that one. It was a great song to begin with, but with the right vocals on top it becomes perfect... It took him a while to find his way, but sometimes it's just right there in front of you melody wise, you know?"
For Peterson, the release of this album is simply the end of a journey that began when the last album was being made, and his dreams were beginning.
"Like I said before, once Formation was done, and even before, I knew that the pay-off, musically, was gonna be on the next one," he says. "I've never, ever had a premonition like that, either. Weird? Fate."
As previously reported, Testament will link up with Antrax and Death Angel for fall North American tour, which includes plenty of Canadian dates. You can see the schedule below, and grab The Dark Roots of Earth now via Nuclear Blast.
9/14 Sacramento, CA - Ace of Spades
9/15 Portland, OR - Roseland Theatre
9/16 Kennewick, WA - Toyota Arena
9/17 Spokane, WA - Knitting Factory
9/20 Vancouver, BC - Vogue Theatre
9/21 Calgary, AB - MacEwan Hall Ballroom
9/22 Edmonton, AB - Events Center
9/24 Saskatoon, SK - The Odeon
9/25 Winnipeg, MB - Burton Cummings Theatre
9/29 Toronto, ON - Danforth Hall
9/30 Quebec City, QC - Capitole du Quebec
10/2 Montreal, QC - Metropolis
10/3 Portland, ME - State Theatre
10/5 Montclair, NJ - Wellmont Theatre