Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal of Metal Assault recently conducted an interview with guitarist Eric Peterson of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Assault: Finally, there is a release date for your new album, “Dark Roots Of Earth”. It must be a relief, considering how long this album has been in the works.
Eric: Yeah, it’s been a record in the making for quite a while, but it’s finally coming out now. There were a lot of hiccups and stuff, because there was a lot of scheduling to take care of. The last time that we pushed it back, we decided to put out some covers and some bonus stuff at the same time as the regular record, so that way the fans can choose what they want to purchase. So it got pushed back again because we wanted to do these covers, which actually turned out really, really awesome. We’re really excited about the covers. I think it’s worth the wait, and once people hear the record, they’ll be like, “OK, I don’t remember why, but this is killer!” [laughs]
Metal Assault: Obviously, the main reason for the delay was the lack of time, and also because you got on so many tours, but in terms of the songwriting, was there any big change while the album was being delayed? Or did it stay the same throughout?
Eric: No, it had nothing to do with the writing. It was just a lot of scheduling. We kept having tours pop up every four months that we were committed to, and we didn’t want to cancel those. So we just kind of kept going in and out of the studio. At one point, we were actually done and the record would have come out in May, but again the record company wanted some covers for the special edition. So we all decided against putting the record out and then put a bonus one out three months later. We didn’t the fans to be like, “Wait, I just bought the record. Now I have to buy it again?” This way you can choose. You got the regular record or the special edition. The one with the bonus material is way better, because it’s got three really good cover tracks we did in a way that we actually kind of gave birth to these songs again, I think. And it’s got an extended version of a song called “Throne Of Thorns”. It’s got a DVD on it with the making of the record, it’s got some additional live tracks from our last tour, and it’s got this really cool guitar thing where me and Alex [Skolnick, guitar] show all our guitars and the rig that we’re using. So it’s a lot of fun. That version is really good. And the album is also going to be out on LP, which is perfect for this album because you really have to buy the vinyl to capture the vibe of this artwork.
Metal Assault: At the time of this interview, I haven’t been given access to the album, so I have to ask you this. How does it compare to the previous one in terms of the overall sound?
Eric: It’s in the same vein, definitely. But if I have to compare it to any records, it would be a hybrid of “The Gathering” and “The Ritual”. What I mean by that is, musically it’s heavy like “The Gathering”. It’s really riff-heavy, it’s got a lot of melody to it, and it has the fast brutal stuff. Then it’s also got the slow heavy stuff. But vocally, and in terms of the way the songs are arranged, it’s like “The Ritual”. This record is a lot more melodic than anything we’ve done. “The Ritual” was like an easy-listening kind of TESTAMENT record, but super melodic. We had “Return To Serenity”, “Electric Crown” and some really good songwriting, but the drums were kind of … too easy, you know. There were some really good songs on there, but it lacked the heaviness of “The Gathering”. So, I think with those two ideas put together, the most melodic and the heaviest side of TESTAMENT mixed all together, you have “Dark Roots Of Earth”.
Metal Assault: You talked about the drumming. Do you think Gene Hoglan‘s return, at least for this record, helped you in that aspect?
Eric: Definitely. The songs were all written before Gene came in, and the beats were kind of were what they were already. But Gene came in and just played them better than they were anticipated. Like I said, you can have songs written and the beats all programmed or whatever, and the ideas are there, but it depends on what drummer is going to play them. Like for example, the song “Native Blood” is a catchy, melodic song, but it’s got a blast beat in the chorus. So it depends on who’s going to do that blast beat. It just happens to be Gene Hoglan doing it, so it’s going to sound pretty authentic and pretty brutal.
Metal Assault: Now this is something pretty much all fans want to know. What’s your permanent drummer situation? I know Gene‘s been touring with you on this run with ANTHRAX, but what’s going to happen after that?
Eric: We’re trying to make it such that Gene can stay with the band, and I think Gene wants to stay with TESTAMENT, but he’s got other things he’s doing. Just like Alex, who’s doing his jazz stuff and we try to work out scheduling, and I’m also starting DRAGONLORD again. A new album is being recorded right now and it’s going to come out soon. So we all have different stuff that we’re trying to do, but when it comes to TESTAMENT, when we schedule stuff we all have to stick to the plan. So that’s kind of what we’re aiming for, to make a schedule that’ll work for everybody. We do have the first tour in Europe for three weeks in August, and Gene is not going to be available for that. So that’s where we kind of learned our lesson. The communication between the management wasn’t spot on, and it kind of got messed up. Gene signed on for our Europe tour, but then he wasn’t aware that DETHKLOK was starting earlier or later, or whatever it was. So from now on we’re really trying to nip it in the bud. That’s out plan, at least. Drummers in TESTAMENT have always been a curse, but they’ve also always been a blessing [laughs], because the records are coming out better. For me, getting to write with a Dave Lombardo or with John Tempesta or Paul Bostaph, and now me jamming with Hoglan again, it really has inspired me with the music that I’ve written. Once I found out that I was going to get Gene, I really honed in on everything I wrote and went, “OK, I can actually get super fast double bass here on this part.” When I wrote with Paul, I was thinking of doing something here and there, but then I would think, “Oh, he doesn’t like to play that kind of beat. So I won’t do that.” So I was kind of compromising on stuff, but with Gene, there was no compromise. I just did everything that I wanted to do.