Guitarist Eric Peterson of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT recently spoke to Maximum Metal about the progress of the recording sessions for the band's long-awaited new album, "The Dark Roots Of Earth".
"It was supposed to be out in late April but may [finally get released] in May, hopefully," Eric said. "[Producer] Andy Sneap is going to [mix]. We almost didn't get it done, but he stepped up. There were a lot of things left undone that Andy knew and we didn't feel right throwing it at [proposed mixer] Zeuss [real name: Chris Harris], who had a great mix set up; maybe we can do something with him in the future. It's gonna be our heaviest record and we have a ballad called 'Cold Embrace' on the new album, which we haven't had since the 'Low' album. We have songs on this album that have blast beats in the choruses with melodic vocals… very DIMMU BORGIR/EMPEROR blast beats with TESTAMENT riffs with Chuck [Billy] doing 'Practice What You Preach'-style vocals. 'True American Hate' may be the fastest song we have ever done. 'The Dark Roots Of Earth', which is the title track, sounds like 'The Thing That Should Not Be' by METALLICA and 'Sign Of The Southern Cross' by BLACK SABBATH. There are lots of different textures; every song has its own trip. 'Throne Of Thorns' is an eight-minute epic, one of my favorite tracks off the new album… kind of like 'Hole In The Sky' by BLACK SABBATH. Lots of crazy middle sections that go into this weird jam that is just really cool. Also for me, I usually do leads. I did 30 percent of the leads on 'Formation', but it's close to 50 percent on this album. Chuck is singing well and I think old fans are gonna love it. Hopefully, a lot of new people will jump on board as well."
In a recent interview with Decibel magazine, TESTAMENT frontman Chuck Billy stated about "The Dark Roots Of Earth", "We [recorded] it at our place in Oakland and at Trident Studios and Andy [Sneap, producer] came out and did all the recordings with us — as much as he could — and then we finished off some vocals and guitars at Trident studios. I think over the years Andy really knows the sound of this band, and kinda knows what we want. We've mixed stuff with Andy, so I think he knows without has having to be there physically with him what we are looking for. And I just haven't heard anybody in metal come out with any better mixes! Honesty!"
Regarding some of the songs that will appear on "The Dark Roots Of Earth", Billy said, "Well, there's a song called 'Native Blood', which is basically a song about my Native heritage. It's almost like a protest song, that the Native Americans have a voice that needs to be heard — that's the chorus of the song. There's another called 'True American Hate', which was kinds inspired by when we sent all our troops overseas there, and we were just seeing in the news when all that was going on a lot of young kids, under 10 years old, out there with their families burning American flags. And that was a pretty shocking thing to see, to see that generation, a kid that young being taught to hate that much. It makes you think what's going to happen, 10 to 15 years from now when the majority of these kids have just been raised to hate? It struck me as a little odd. There's a song called 'Cold Embrace', which we kinda hoped we'd be able to pitch the song into one of the 'Twilight' series movies; it's a song about a girl becoming a vampire and never being able to see the sun again. 'The Dark Roots Of Earth' is kind of a play on the band we have together, just like a metaphor, like TESTAMENT is a tree and all of us in this group are really embedded in the planet, in the earth, the environment and our surroundings. It was kind of a play on that. 'Rise Up For War' is more of a war song, like your preparing yourself for war, going into battle. There is a lot of cool stuff there."
Due to a "serious injury," TESTAMENT drummer Paul Bostaph was unable to take part in the recording sessions for the CD and was replaced by Gene "The Atomic Clock" Hoglan (DARK ANGEL, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, FEAR FACTORY, DETHKLOK). Bostaph has since announced his departure from the group.
When asked if Hoglan — who is currently touring with TESTAMENT — will become a permanent member of the band, Billy told Horns Up Rocks!, "We'd like him to be, but I think right now we're just taking it tour by tour. We don't know yet. We just kind of unexpected had to do this tour before the record came out, so we haven't really thought about it yet."
Regarding how different it is playing with Gene compared to working with Bostaph, Chuck said, "We played with Gene before on our 'Demonic' record , so we knew exactly what Gene was capable of and what he would bring to the table. We knew that it would definitely bring a different style of drumming, 'cause Gene's a different player than Paul. I think it just worked out. Eric [Peterson, TESTAMENT guitarist] had a lot of the [basic drum patterns] already done [for the new album], and Gene just had to kind of put his style on it."