On their brand new album, “Dark Roots Of Earth”, San Francisco Bay Area metal veterans TESTAMENT explored new territory by the inclusion of blast beats. The reason for this has to do with the collaboration between guitarist Eric Peterson, TESTAMENT‘s chief songwriter, and Gene Hoglan, the legendary extreme metal drummer (DETHKLOK, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, DEATH, DARK ANGEL) who stepped in when Paul Bostaph was unable to continue after four years with the band following a wrist injury.
“In ‘True American Hate’ and ‘Native Blood’, we’re doing blast beats, but we’re not jumping on the bandwagon like the black metal thing or whatever,” Peterson tells Decibel for the magazine’s September 2012 cover story. “I almost think we took blast beats to another level because most blasts are over really aggro riffs and screaming. But if you muted the drums in ‘Native Blood’ and only heard the vocals and guitar and asked somebody, ‘What do you think the drums would do here?’ it wouldn’t be a blast beat; it would be more like [starts humming rhythmic drum patterns]. It wasn’t something I went in wanting to achieve, but there was an opportunity to incorporate it.”
“I basically got a call from Eric about two weeks before they were going to record,” says Hoglan. “Apparently Paul‘s injury was still in recovery and they were like, ‘Can you just come in and do the record?’ This was in summer of 2011, the day before I left for a two-week tour with FEAR FACTORY; they wanted me to come in directly after. Eric sent me the song files and after [the FF tour). I drove up to the Bay Area and we started getting down. We spent a week tweaking the songs and getting the arrangements happening, and by the second week I was tracking. Within two weeks, it was rehearse, record, drum tracks done, there you go!
“They actually asked me about the blast beat while we were rehearsing,” he continues. “There wasn’t a blast beat in the demo track, but Eric was like, ‘Hey, what do you think about a blast there?’ I like being Eric‘s drum machine, learning the crazy beats he wants and adding a few of my own. That’s one of the reasons we [end up) fleshing out all the songs, because I’ll try everything to see what works . It didn’t matter if it worked for me; it was more important that it worked for Eric. Ironically, that’s the type of blast I’m not super-comfortable with: the black metal blast beat. I’m more into a grind beat with the 1-2-3-4-s-6-7-8 on the snare, the pop, pop, pop coming down with the cymbal.”
“It works for certain riffs.’ adds TESTAMENT guitarist Alex Skolnick, “and as long as you’ve got somebody who’s got that as part of their palette and does it well, you might as well utilize that. It was really revelatory and so different for us.”
“I think blast beats would have come with time anyway, and now it was the time,” theorizes bassist Greg Christian. “And with the way Gene does it, with such flair, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a death metal sort of way. Like, ‘Native Blood’ has it in a really melodic part where it sounds more like IRON MAIDEN on steroids than death metal.”
The September 2012 issue of Decibel magazine can be ordered here.