September 2015 seems to be the month of super groups. Next to The Hollywood Vampires, consisting of a bunch of no-names like Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum, Metal Allegiance also released their debut album on Nuclear Blast Records, September 15, 2015. Metal Allegiance initially started as a live band, playing mostly covers of metal classics. The core members of Metal Allegiance are drummer Mike Portnoy, guitarist Alex Skolnick, bassist Dave Ellefson, and songwriter Mark Menghi. Sprinkled amongst this backbone are a who’s who of guest musicians, lending their talents to the ten songs therein.
On paper, this list of musicians has you licking your chops. Unfortunately, hearkening back to the “Roadrunner United” album, there is no guarantee of success. Luckily, Portnoy, Skolnick, and Ellefson are studious of their peers, and were able to write some good songs with Menghi that play to their guest musician’s strengths. For instance, the combination of metal and prog in ‘Let the Darkness Fall’ is the perfect setting for Mastodon’s Troy Sanders. ‘Dying Song,’ featuring Phil Anselmo also fits him like a glove. Opening track ‘Gift of Pain’ featuring the one and only D. Randall Blythe lets you know this is not going to be some modified covers record either.
With Skolnick and Ellefson in the band, it is not surprising that many of the songs are a little on the thrashy side. Put them together with Chuck Billy of Testament on ‘You Can’t Kill the Devil’ and Mark Osegueda of Death Angel on ‘Pledge of Allegiance,’ you have a match made in thrash heaven. On the latter you will also hear Charlie Benante of Anthrax (on guitar!), Gary Holt of Exodus / Slayer and Andreas Kisser of Sepultura laying down some sweet solos. Speaking of solos, on the three part instrumental ‘Triangulum,’ along with Benante you get to enjoy the guitar styling of Misha Mansoor (Periphery), Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Matt Heafy (Trivium), Bumblefoot, and Phil Demmel (Machine Head). Then you have the non-obvious combinations of guest singers. In ‘Wait Until Tomorrow,’ the soulful rasp of King’s X’s Dug Pinnick contrasts beautifully with the hardcore punch of Hatebreed front man Jamey Jasta. The duet of Osegueda and Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia is one that should have been done a long time ago, as their performance on ‘Scars’ is the vocal highlight of the album.
The album culminates its list of guest appearances with Chris Jericho, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Alissa White-Gluz, and Steve “Zetro” Souza on a bonus Dio cover track, ‘We Rock.’ Even though the list of guest musicians is long, it does not detract from what Portnoy, Skolnick, Ellefson, and Menghi have built. According to them, this band was created as a tribute to the metal community. To that, I say well done guys, well done.