On the cover of Book of Black Earth's monstrous The Cold Testament is a demonic wolf with a bloody mouth. The thing probably took a bite out of Taylor Lautner.
For those not in the know, and that included me until I started ripping through this brutal record, Book of Black Earth is a Seattle metal outlet. The incessant rain may have something to do with the relentless attack this beast of a group drops on a routine basis. Featuring TJ Cowgill on vocals/guitar, Rob Beebe on guitar/vocals, Ricky Way on bass, and Joe Axler on drums, these four ass-kickers chomp down and don't let up for a second.
The Cold Testament is a dark, bleak, speaker-rattling record. If there's a concept, it's out-and-out harshness. Production is quite crisp and clean, but that only deepens the cruelty of the pitiless attack.
If there's ever a roadblock that I run into with bands like this, it's repetition. The punishment and the utter lack of variety within it is akin to several blunt hits to the head - or so I've heard. The pain eventually starts to wear off and, blood streaming, a touch of boredom tries to set in.
For purists who like it rough, Book of Black Earth manages that and then some on The Cold Testament. Every inch of the record is an attack on the ear drums, no matter how loud you choose to play it, and headbangers won't be disappointed. This isn't technical metal, mind you, and there's nothing experimental about the approach.
The eight tracks take about 36 minutes or so to wash over and each one, save for the slightly toned-down intro of "I See Demons," offers a belt of bloodied bluntness.
The best tracks are the shortest, as the blasts of pure energy carve through like dynamite. "Antarctica" is a fierce three minuter that rolls out with Axler's drum attack and Cowgill's throat-shredding vocals over a mesh of guitar. And "Road Dogs from Hell," my personal favourite, lunges with bad-ass bass and a shout-along chorus perfect for the pits...of hell.
The Cold Testament is one of those dogged metal records that plays to one tone and plays to it well. There are no breaks, no breathers, no moments to collect thoughts. An all-out assault, this album from Book of Black Earth is not for the timid.