METAL ALLEGIANCE Debut, Self-Titled Album Review

By ~MaggieUk @FullMetalRock

HOLY FUCK!! That was my initial reaction on hearing the self-titled debut album from Metal Allegiance. Having heard it numerous times since, my reaction remains just as animated! From the creative minds of David Ellefson (Megadeth), Mike Portnoy (Winery Dogs), Alex Skolnick (Testament) and principle partner Mark Menghi, comes a mind-blowing collection of songs whose credits read like an announcement of Hall of Fame nominees (see below for a full list of artists by track number). "Metal Allegiance" is due for release 18 September 2015 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment, and is going to BLOW YOUR MIND!

From the very start of the album (any song starting with "fuck off" gets my attention!), it is obvious that Metal Allegiance is a musical collective like no other. Collaborations are nothing new. Sometimes they work. Other times, well..., not so much. When the musicians and artists get together to share their love of music, and set out with nothing to prove, the results can be incredible. That is what "Metal Allegiance" has achieved. The opening song, 'Gift of Pain', is the absolute perfect choice to kick off the album. The introduction builds second by second until we get that trademark growl by D. Randall Blythe (Lamb of God), and are taken into an absolute master class for achieving an ultimate head banging classic.

'Let Darkness Fall' begins with a mini drum solo, an extra treat for Portnoy fans, before Troy Sanders (Mastodon) takes us through a Pink Floyd infused seven minute journey with additional bass provided by Menghi and Rex Brown (Pantera), and additional screams from Blythe. At just before the three-minute mark one of the most impressive guitar solos/instrumentals I have ever heard begins. Beginning slowly, deep and mournfully, a single guitar starts, in complete contrast to the first half of the song. Then, another guitar joins in, this one in a much higher octave, and percussion comes in. Just before the music takes me away, an acoustic guitar replaces the second guitar, and the tempo starts to really build. Sanders voice brings me back to reality, and the decibels build to ear pounding levels.

By track three, I am pounding my desk with excitement. Philip H. Anselmo (Pantera) gives an outstanding delivery of 'Dying Song'. With notable Black Sabbath influences, the verses feature Anselmo delivering a tone that matches the depths of Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummies) while remaining true to his own sound. The choruses and solos, on the other hand, are far from Sabbath. In a world and time where songs have become so predictable, "Metal Allegiance" continually surprises me. You won't find any standard song format of verse, chorus, verse, chorus here. Far from it! This is no dying song as the name suggests. It may start with the melancholy and solemnity of a funeral dirge, but it builds to a point where you will feel the intensity of a mosh pit in your own home, so move the furniture!

Maintaining the intensity from the end of track three, 'Can't Kill the Devil' gives us full-blown speed metal with some of the best guitar work on the album. Skolnick, with the additional guitar talents of Phil Demmel (Machine Head) and Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) are absolutely outstanding. There are subtleties of Metallica in the verses and Chuck Billy's (Testament) vocals are an absolute driving force in the song. At this point, during my first listen, I'm thinking that this just can't be THIS good all the way through, when I hear Mark Osegueda's (Death Angel) voice, intense and gritty on the verses of 'Scar', followed by the melodic sound of Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) belting out the choruses. Scabbia then takes us through a key change into the bridge where Osegueda joins in harmonizing, before Skolnick delivers yet another incredible guitar solo. All the while the rhythm section thunders away. That'll teach me to doubt! If you weren't a believer before, you will be now!

I found myself, with subsequent listening, trying to dissect each song, to pull out Portnoy's drums and percussion, or Ellefson's base line, and then stopping myself. As much as I would love to, at some point, hear the individual tracking for each instrument, to try and do so now would not serve the collective's purpose. In their entirety, each song is SO good, THAT good, that I felt it was an injustice not to hear them as a whole. And I include the vocals when talking about instruments. Matthew K. Heafy (Trivium) is excellent on 'Destination: Nowhere'. The combination of dUg Pinnick (Kings X) and Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) on 'Wait Until Tomorrow' is pure brilliance. Every song has so many moments for individuals, but it is the manner in which they have come together that makes "Metal Allegiance" so superb.

It would be far too repetitious to compliment Portnoy on the skins, or Ellefson's bass work, or Skolnick's guitar virtuosity as they deliver in every song. There is no superlative known to man that hasn't already been used to describe their individual talents. Anyone wanting to study music would do well to follow their work. A starting point would be 'Triangulum', an instrumental progressive rock song in three parts, which features the added guitar skills of Misha Mansoor (Periphery), Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Demmel, and Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal (Art of Anarchy). Although Benante is more popularly know for his performances as a drummer; to have him included as a guitarist is amazing.

The final song, 'Pledge of Allegiance' (shouldn't take any guesses) is an anthemic, fist pumping song. Blistering guitar riffs, a pounding rhythm section and Osegueda belting out the lyrics, screams and growls, have me envisioning thousands of packed school gymnasiums with a whole new generation of Rock fans. If that is the mission of Metal Allegiance, then the collective is well on their way to making that vision a reality. What Menghi, Ellefson, Skolnick and Portnoy bring together, and what they are able to bring out of each of the contributing artists is truly mesmerizing, and speak volumes towards their character as individuals and their work ethics as artists. The passion for performing amongst them is so strong that you can feel it through your speakers.

For those smart enough to order the deluxe digital edition, the album does not end there. The tenth track is an all-star tribute to Ronnie James Dio; a cover song of his classic song 'We Rock'. And, as if that wasn't enough, there is also a forty-five minute documentary of behind-the-scenes footage of the making of "Metal Allegiance". This edition will be available as both CD and as a double vinyl version. As for me, I stand by my initial impression, HOLY FUCK!! I dare you not to say it when you hear it! It is one of the must-have albums for the year. When you play it, PLAY IT LOUD!!

The Tracklisting for "Metal Allegiance" Is:

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)

5. Scars (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: dUg Pinnick & Jamey Jasta; Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick; Bass: David Ellefson; Drums, Percussion & Additional Vocals: Mike Portnoy)

8. Triangulum

I. Creation
II. Evolution
III. Destruction
(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)

10. We Rock (Deluxe Edition Only) (Vocals: Mark Osegueda, Chris Jericho, Tim Ripper Owens, Alissa White-Gluz, Chuck Billy & Steve 'Zetro' Souza; Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick; Bass: David Ellefson; Drums: Mike Portnoy; Additional Lead Guitar: Andreas Kisser, Phil Demmel & Gary Holt)

More Info On Metal Allegiance
Twitter @metalallegiance

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