Talk about a supergroup! This time it’s not just some half-super, semi-famous metal musicians who lay claim to the label ‘super’. This is more like a who’s who of people who have defined thrash metal during three decades. We are talking representatives from Megadeth, Death Angel, Exodus/Slayer, Testament, Pantera/Down, Machine Head, Anthrax, Sepultura, Trivium and Lamb of God. Beyond these prominent thrash names, there are emissaries from Dream Theater, King’s X, Mastodon, Lacuna Coil, Periphery, Constricted and Hatebreed.
I don’t know about you, but I get a bit suspicious when I hear the word supergroup or a term like ‘musical collective’. Just because all of these great musicians create fantastic music in their respective bands, it doesn’t mean that when they come together, magic happens. Remember when Roadrunner brought a shitload of amazing musicians together a decade ago to make a 25th anniversary album? Was it over the top amazing? Nah, not really.
Unlike said project, there is a different consistency of the quality of the material of the ‘Metal Allegiance’ album. The reason could be that there are three constants behind the album: Mike Portney, Alex Skolnick and Dave Ellefson. These three form the basis of the entire album and you can tell how well they work together, and – if you are to trust the video sequences aired on youtube the past few weeks – they’ve had fun making all the ends come together with the different singers and additional guitarists.
The singers, ranging from Randall Blythe to Dough Pinnick, have been sought out carefully for songs where their particular style and forces come out brilliantly. Blythe opens the ball with his aggression, Mastodon’s Troy Sanders takes over with a slower and darker ditty, Chuck Billy gives you the majestic thrash punch in the face and so on and so forth. In the process, two absolutely amazing pairings have been made, building unexpected intensity in one instance and ditto beauty in another. Coupling Dug Pinnick (King’s X) with Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) is a strike of genius. The two compliment each other perfectly in a song which is build around the interplay between the warm calm of Pinnick and Jasta’s aggression. The other couple who compliment each other excellently are Mark Osegueda (Death Angel) and Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), but this time the result is simply heavy metal at its most beautiful. Scars is a true hit song if you ask me.
With Alex Skolnick handling most of the lead and rhythm guitars of the album, you might think that the entire disc has Testament all over it. Well, yeah, it does to a certain extent. The man plays a characteristic guitar, but, that said, I think he manages to draw upon numerous references from other thrash metal bands, and he is, of course, helped by the many other guitarists who have contributed to the various songs. If you listen to the almost eight minute long instrumental Triangulum, there is Testament in there, but there is also so much more – and how could there not be with people like Bumblefoot, Charlie Benante, Misha Mansoor, Phil demmel, Matt Heafey and Ben Weinman chipping in? The tune Dying Song, featuring Phil Anselmo, could easily be Pantera anno 2015, not a trace of Testament there (and, yes, it’s that good).
‘Metal Allegiance’ is one of those albums I can listen to over and over again. It’s got a great sound, great musicians who can put together great, diverse songs with lots of fine details to wallow in. Enjoy this, boys and girls, it could be a one-off, although I sincerely do not hope so.
Tracklist and guilty parties:
1. Gift Of Pain
(vocals: D. Randall Blythe; lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums: Mike Portnoy; additional lead guitar: Gary Holt)
2. Let Darkness Fall
(vocals: Troy Sanders; lead, rhythm & acoustic guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums & percussion: Mike Portnoy; additional bass: Mark Menghi & Rex Brown; additional screams: D. Randall Blythe)
3. Dying Song
(vocals: Philip H. Anselmo; lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: Mark Menghi; drums: Mike Portnoy)
4. Can’t Kill The Devil
(vocals: Chuck Billy; lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums: Mike Portnoy; additional lead guitar: Phil Demmel & Andreas Kisser)
(vocals: Mark Osegueda & Cristina Scabbia; lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums: Mike Portnoy)
6. Destination: Nowhere
(vocals: Matthew K. Heafy; lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums: Mike Portnoy; additional lead guitar: Matthew K. Heafy)
7. Wait Until Tomorrow
(vocals: Doug Pinnick & Jamey Jasta; lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums, percussion & additional vocals: Mike Portnoy)8. Triangulum
(lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums: Mike Portnoy; additional lead guitar: Misha Mansoor, Ben Weinman, Charlie Benante, Phil Demmel, Matthew K. Heafy & Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal)
9. Pledge Of Allegiance
(vocals: Mark Osegueda; lead & rhythm guitars: Alex Skolnick; bass: David Ellefson; drums: Mike Portnoy; additional lead guitar: Charlie Benante, Gary Holt & Andreas Kisser)
Playing time: 56 minutes
Release date: 18th of September, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast