Testament – Dark Roots of Earth

Testament 2012 Nuclear Blast  2012 Nuclear Blast

Man, there’s nothing better than hearing a metal band you loved in the 80’s and 90’s sounding more juiced and inspired than ever on a new release 20 years later.  I remember back in 1987 when I bought their first album The Legacy (an album which initially scared the bejeezus out of me with its dark imagery) and I was blown away by the interplay between guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson on songs like Burnt Offerings.  I honestly wasn’t as blown away by the songs on the album, but it was obvious that there was immense talent in the band and I was hooked.

Hooked enough to buy every release since then.  I really thought they were the band that threatened to make The Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax) The Big Five.  Though it never quite happened, Testament earned immense respect and produced a bevy of cool albums in the years after.  While I was totally disappointed when the classic Testament lineup eroded (beginning with the departures of axe wiz Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente), I was equally thrilled when Skolnick returned for The Formation of Damnation a few years back.  To say I’m thrilled with Dark Roots of Earth would be an understatement.

Skolnick and Peterson have never sounded more juiced and Dark Roots of  Earth is quite possibly the best album Testament has ever recorded.  This is a band thoroughly in love with the sounds they’re creating and obviously having a blast creating them.  Kicking off with powerful opener Rise Up, this album  just never lets up and it’s chocked full of everything that has made this band special from the very beginning.  Lead throat Chuck Billy (cancer survivor…YEAH!) turns in one of his very best and most inspired performances, as does the whole band really.

Skolnick originally left Testament because he wanted to explore other less metal musical terrain, and I really believe the band is better for it.  What he brings to the music now is that much better, and that’s saying a lot when you consider the quality of Testament’s songwriting.  Peterson is more of a co-lead guitarist now and Dark Roots benefits from the two guitarists having a better chemistry than ever.  Hell, this band has been bleeding talent from the early days, as evidenced on their absolutely killer metalized cover of Aerosmith gem Nobody’s Faultquite a feat by a band that at that point was still proving themselves.

Witness Native Blood, True American Hate, Cold Embrace and Throne of Thorns, all delivering in spades and showing Testament to be a band with much more to offer…hopefully for many years to come.  This is a guitar hero album in the best way.   Many bands from Testaments early era are pretty much nostalgia acts, but these guys are perhaps more vital than they’ve ever been.  Whatever the journey that’s gotten them to this point, it’s been worth it.

Squarely heavy metal (once again in the best way), Dark Roots of Earth is one of those albums that could truly earn these guys a whole new legion of fans.  If you don’t like metal, you probably won’t like this album, but if you do like metal you’ll want to give this one a good thorough listen.  It’s so good that you’ll probably find yourself wanting to check out their back catalogue,

It’s also so good that you may find that it outshines their fine collection of recordings.   I haven’t been this stoked about a Testament disc since Low.  Welcome back, guys!

Rating:  4.5 out of 5
Download/Buy Dark Roots of Earth and other Testament music


The Sword Are Back With “Apocryphon” October 22nd!

It seems like forever (though it’s only been 2 years) since the mighty Warp Riders was released and I missed the chance to see The Sword at the Chameleon in Lancaster because the drummer abruptly left the band.

Well, The Sword are preparing to release their much-awaited followup CD “Apocryphon” on October 22nd.  All we have is this just-released snippet right now, so enjoy it while we count down the days to the release.  You can preorder the CD now at The Sword’s official website www.swordofdoom.com.  Enjoy Abysmally…and thank you Dr. ChadRock for the heads up on this!

Click here to pre-order/buy Apocryphon (Deluxe Edition)

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The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger

How the hell did I miss this band and especially this album (Costello Music) 6 years ago?

The whole disc is so rockin’, energetic and insanely catchy I just don’t know what more to say.  I was going to post the video for their song Flathead, but Chelsea Dagger won by just a hair.  Both videos are quite cool, featuring retro pinup-style girls, which fit the songs just perfectly.

Fortunately, they have ended their indefinite hiatus as of June of this year and could be recording new material together.  We can only hope.  In the meantime, grab a copy of Costello Music, their phenomenal debut album that will be happily stuck in your head forever.

Oh yeah…Enjoy Abysmally…

Click here to download/buy Costello Music album by The Fratellis.

Click here to download/buy Chelsea Dagger single by The Fratellis.

Cage the Elephant – Thank You Happy Birthday

2011 Relentless Records

As I’m writing this, the headphones are on, volume is way up and I have chills.   This is about the 20th time I’ve listened through to Thank You Happy Birthday, and I can’t stop.

I have to admit that when I put the disc on for the first time, lead track “Always Something” caught me completely by surprise and kept me off guard for the entire album that first time around.  I love albums like this…the ones that you have to listen to a second time (and more) to really appreciate, and that reveal new hidden treasures in the mix with every listen.   Said lead track quickly became a favorite whatwith the fun and daring attitude…oh yeah, and Daniel Tichenor’s bass lines bouncing the song over the top.

From song to song, everyone has a chance to shine.  You really must listen to this disc on headphones…the variety of textures and brilliance of the mix will blow you away and you will leave with  a real appreciation of guitarists Brad Shultz and  Lincoln Parish and their experimentation with (read: COMMAND of) guitar tones.  Their chemistry is something special.

Hooks for miles and surprises around nearly every corner, this in my opinion is one of the all-time great sophomore efforts for any band.   “Aberdeen” was the first song that clicked with me immediately with a chorus I can’t get out of my head, followed by “Right Before My Eyes” and “Around My Head.”   “Shake Me Down” is in there, too with its delightfully unorthodox approach.

There’s no attempt to rehash their debut and all of the experimentation sounds like a band genuinely in love with making music.   That’s why an abrasive song like “Sell Yourself” (the arrangement is a dimepiece) or the driving foreboding of  “Indy Kidz” can sit comfortably in the same space as something as immediately hooky as the aforementioned “Right Before My Eyes.”   Matt Shultz’s mini-monologue on “Indy Kidz” is just priceless (“…I gotta go down to the schoolhouse and get some shoes and get the right haircut.”) and his lyrical intelligence is once again on full display.

The album is really a clinic on guitar tones, arrangement, textures and sheer creativity.   Kickin’ drummer Jared Champion takes on every twist and turn in the music and makes sure that every song is loaded with groove to go with the power…check out “Sell Yourself” for a great example of this.   Champion is one of my favorite drummers, bar none, and he and Tichenor are just a dynamite rhythm section.

Cage the Elephant as a band is a brilliant pastiche of the best elements of rock from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s…and they’re miles above the self-loathing and/or self-importance of most of their modern contemporaries whatwith having more talent, creativity and guts than 99% of the newer bands of the past decade.

Forget emo, nu metal, alt punk, or whatever the flavor of the month is…Cage the Elephant is making timeless music that defies categorization (other than it’s ROCK) and will outlast 99% of the new stuff that’s out there now. There’s more heart, conviction, creativity and variety on this disc than most bands have in their entire catalogues…and it just plain works.  I can honestly see listening to this disc 20 years from now and still loving it.  If music keeps you young, CTE is my fountain of youth. lol  But enough about my age.

I have to include Cage the Elephant in with my favorite bands like Clutch, The Tea Party, Hot Head Show and Swell as the perfect antidote for the ear poison of much of today’s mainstream music.   And the masses are appearing to be ready for CTE, as Thank You Happy Birthday debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts.   Congratulations guys…now I’m going to have to find excuses to keep writing about you in the Sonic Abyss since you’re now some of the best music people HAVE heard!  Hmmm…maybe CTE will be the first entry in the Abysmal Hall of Fame.

Yeah, I know…I’m just raving on and on about these guys, but to have 5 people this individually talented and with this kind of synergy just does not happen very often, friends.   Jump on now and enjoy the ride.  Hopefully it will be a long one.

Rating:  5 out of 5


Jealousy Curve – Black Widow

All I know about this Jealousy Curve at this point is that they’re from Philadelphia, PA. Haven’t heard any other songs they’ve done (yet!) but man I just love this song, Black Widow. Hope you do, too. Enjoy Abysmally…

…and buy the Black Widow single or their full length CD This Is For Your Own Destruction