CD Review: Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance

CD Review: Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance
Nuclear Blast Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Metal Allegiance - S/T 2015
The army of mercenary artists assembled for Mark Menghi's Metal Allegiance has a history of violent aggression and sonic brutality. Their mission: Go forth and shred, and do whatever's necessary to keep metal alive and vital.

Assembled by Mark Menghi, the all-star project – established in 2011 – unites a veritable "Who's Who" of metal and hard-rock notables in a rather large and seemingly unwieldy musical collective with a revolving cast, although the core of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Alex Skolnick (Testament) and David Ellefson (Megadeth) is unchangeable. And Menghi is the ringleader, making a foursome that created the original material for this record.

Up to this point, Metal Allegiance's activities have been limited to live performances on boat cruises and special events like NAMM, but in September, their self-titled debut LP – released by Nuclear Blast Entertainment – dropped from the sky like a burning asteroid of furious, full-on thrash (meaner than hell on "Can't Kill The Devil" and the anthemic "Pledge of Allegiance) that satisfies and more traditional metal swimming against periodic melodic tides. In "Destination: Nowhere" and the rumbling, action-packed "Scars," with its scissoring, serrated guitars and the contrasting vocal textures of Cristina Scabbia and Mark Osegueda, Metal Allegiance toggles between barely harnessed rage and bittersweet ruminations, but the searing opener "Gift Of Pain" is the gift that really keeps on giving. A relentless, slamming juggernaut of grinding guitars, "Gift Of Pain" sets a blistering pace, its momentum only temporarily stalled by a swinging bridge that almost cracks under the weight of its ponderously heavy riffs, as Lamb Of God's Randy Blythe growls with malevolent intent.

Weighed down by deep melancholy and trudging along, "Dying Song" is just the opposite, a thick, gothic slice of metallic Southern-rock frosted by Philip Anselmo's hoary utterances and struggling to hold onto its bruised and battered soul. There are complex progressive instrumental parts that hijack "Wait Until Tomorrow" and the multi-part, technically brilliant "Triangulum," which suffers from self-indulgence and boring, masturbatory jamming. On the whole, however, there is a surprising cohesiveness to Metal Allegiance that allows for the occasional head-scratching departure, such as the beautifully rendered Spanish guitar interlude that breaks up "Let Darkness Fall" – otherwise a fine specimen of solid, lively hooks and propulsive energy. While the standard version of Metal Allegiance keeps to nine tracks, the digipak edition adds a faithful and thrilling version of Dio's "We Rock," as singers Osegueda, Chris Jericho, Alissa White-Gluz, Chuck Billy, Steve "Zetro" Souza and Tim "Ripper" Owens pay homage to a metal icon with a variety of interesting singing styles.

The project's list of contributors includes a slew of metal heavyweights, its vast Rolodex including ex-Pantera bassist Rex Brown, Exodus and Slayer guitarist Gary Holt and Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, just to name a few. Still, what keeps this alliance together, whether on record or onstage, is a common vision and a healthy respect for metal's glorious past and its promising future.
– Peter Lindblad

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