Testament's Dark Roots of Thrash Run Deep

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Testament 2013: Chuck Billy, Greg Christian, Gene Hoglan, Eric Peterson, and Alex Skolnick.
If classic thrash metal's "Big Four" (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer) ever decided to expand to a "Big Five," then that slot would certainly be taken by California's Testament (sorry, Exodus fans...).

And while seemingly every band of a certain longevity will proclaim their latest record "just as good" as their classics, Testament's recent Dark Roots of Earth really is. A fist-pounding, blood-thumping maelstrom of havoc, war, death, the dark power of nature, and one sorta romantic number (if you like your ladies sort of cold. Literally cold). It also has one fucking cool cover.

The lineup -- which has seen plenty of changes over 30 years -- includes classic-era members Chuck Billy (vocals), Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick (guitars) and Greg Christian (bass), with newer member Gene Hoglan on drums, is currently on tour. Rocks Off spoke with Billy about the record, some early days in Houston, and his distaste for a certain football team from San Francisco.

Rocks Off: How do you think Dark Roots of Earth stands out artistically from the rest of your catalogue?

Chuck Billy: Definitely the songwriting and the production on it are a notch up from the last records we've done, and we took a little more risk in the mixing process. We've been working with Andy Sneap [Accept, Exodus, Nevermore], and Eric and I are always on the mixes kind of breathing down his shoulder. On this one, we gave him a little direction, and he mixed it on his own. And he nailed it.

RO: So the overall reaching theme of the record is "Don't fuck with nature."

CB: Well, that and what mankind is doing to ourselves and the planet.

RO: What about the lyrics to "Pure American Hate"?

CB: I was watching the news years ago when we were seeing young kids in the street in other countries, six or ten years old, waving rifles in the air and burning American flags with all this... anger.

Just as a father, how could you raise a child that young and do that? To have that hatred ingrained in their brains? I know when you're that young, your mind is influenced. For instance, I was raised growing up to be an Oakland Raider fan and a 49er hater. And here I am, a 50-year-old man and I still hate the 49ers.

RO:: So you must be pretty happy about yesterday's Super Bowl.

CB: Oh, I loved it.

Location Info

House of Blues

1204 Caroline, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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Holy crap, did Gene Hoglan lose like 200 lbs?

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