Heavy Metal is more than a genre, more than an attitude, and certainly more than whatever cheap epithets are dismissively thrown at it by clueless critics. At its best, Metal is a lifestyle, a community, a tribe uniting people across cultural, economic, and philosophical divides with the primal pulse of bombastic and majestic expression.
Never before has one entity encapsulated so many components of the heavy metal community’s continued vibrancy and dedication to the lifestyle than the collective fittingly called Metal Allegiance. Like the comic book heroes of ‘The Avengers’ franchise, the men and women who’ve assembled on the stage and in the studio as Metal Allegiance come and go as they please, but each arrive armed with unique mythologies and classic discographies of their own, converging with mutual respect and a collaborative spirit. The result is a continuously evolving musical force both serious in its proficiency and celebratory in its enthusiasm and camaraderie.
Now, Metal Allegiance unleashes an album as pulverizing, energetic, atmospheric, and awe inspiring as fans of the jaw-dropping list of associated bands should expect.
The liner notes for the Metal Allegiance album read like a massive chunk of a heavy metal encyclopedia, with contributions from past and present members of Megadeath, Testament, Dream Theater, Lamb Of God, Slayer, Exodus, Mastodon, Pantera, Trivium, Kings X, Hatebreed, Sepultura, Machine Head, Anthrax, Lacuna Coil, The Dillinger Escpe Plan, Periphery, Death Angel, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, and Arch Enemy. Live incarnations of Metal Allegiance have seen guest appearances from Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee (Motörhead), Wolfgang Van Halen (Vav Halen), Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan.
As Troy Sanders (Mastodon) declared when he joined Metal Allegiance at the NAMM Convention in January 2015: “Holy Shit! I’ve been invited to the All-Star game!”
Metal Allegiance founder Mark Menghi describes his relationship with David Ellefson, Mike Portnoy and Alex Skolnick in terms of brotherhood, and it was those four who buckled down to write the first batch or original, all new material for the Metal Allegiance album. As principal architects, Ellefson (Megadeath), Portnoy (The Winery Dogs), Skolnick (Testament), and Menghi (a bassist and musical instruments industry exec beloved by metal musicians) built a foundation of sonic steel.
“Mark is kind of like the Brian Epstein of the band,” says Portnoy. “He’s the behind-the-scenes mastermind who put the whole thing together. When we began this as a live covers thing, he was the guy moving the chess pieces. When we decided to make original music, he became a huge creative element as a songwriter, as well.”
“Usually in a band, there’s a leader type, there’s a guy that’s more passive, a guy that wants to be a rock star at all costs, and sometimes, there’s a guy on drugs over in the corner,” Ellefson explains. “You have all of these dynamics in a rock band. What’s so cool about Metal Allegiance is that we’ve got four strong leaders who are all motivated, capable, and very driven. Everybody gets a chance to shine in Metal Allegiance, and everybody is comfortable when it’s time to step aside, too.”
More than an experiment, a one-off or a “super group”, Metal Allegiance is an experience. D. Randall Blythe (Lamb Of God) lends his blistered pipes to ‘Gift Of Pain’, which features dueling solos from Skolnick and Gary Holt (Exodus, Slayer). Troy Sanders (Mastodon, Killer Be Killed)sets an ominous vocal mood with the vintage Pink Floyd infused ‘Let Darkness Fall’ with Rex Brown (Pantera, Kill Devil Hill) pitching in on additional bass duties. The blend of melodic power from Doug Pinnick (Kings X) and the metalcore bite from Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed, Kingdom of Sorrow) on ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’ blends as seamlessly as the duet between Mark Osegueda (Death Angel) and Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) on ‘Scars’ or the somber intensity of ‘Dying Song’ featuring Philip Anselmo (Pantera, Down).