Latest Release: Volume II – Power Drunk Majesty (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.metalallegiance.com
In spite of occasional conflicts of taste and interest, the various schools of more traditional metal have always seen each other as a worldwide fraternity. It’s an idea that Sam Dunn examined in his films and a spirit that Dave Ellefson says is manifested in Metal Allegiance. What else could one expect from a band featuring Megadeth’s bass player, Testament’s jazz-influenced guitarist Alex Skolnick and progressive metal drumming superstar Mike Portnoy? Which other band could get Andreas Kisser and Max Cavalera to appear on the same record for the first time in over 10 years?
“We were conscious of that,” Ellefson says with almost a laugh, “because we did not want to start an international incident!”
Cavalera was the last collaborator to join the Allegiance, coming in as a major contributor on ‘Voodoo of the Godsend’ when he and Ellefson crossed paths in the studio they both use in Phoenix, Arizona. The track, which Ellefson had composed on guitar, was one of the last ones to be completed, and Cavalera was invited to put his own slant on it.
“That one track was sitting there and I had just played bass on it, at the studio here in Phoenix where I had recorded my bass and guitar parts, and Max happened to be in that same studio recording,” Ellefson explains. “After we reached out to him and asked him if he wanted to participate he said sure, so it was this moment that lined up and I asked the engineer to push the faders up when Max came in to the studio next. He heard it, he loved it, and I said ‘We don’t have any lyrics, we don’t have any vocal melodies. You just take it and go.’ That’s kind of unusual. We usually come to the table with music and lyrics and when we find a singer we ask them to sing what we’re hearing.”
It was just another attempt from the band to make this album different from the first, something of which Ellefson says Metal Allegiance was very conscious. The plan to give it another flavour, as he puts it, meant casting a wider net when it came to musical influences, cutting back on the number of guests – the debut featured 21 other musicians – and bringing in more international voices.
“The first round of writing was Portnoy, Skolnick and (bassist and producer Mark) Menghi who composed the music for the first six songs and then several months later, it was me, Portnoy and Skolnick who composed the remainder of the record. That created a nice variety and for me, it allowed me to know what we had and what we needed. It’s funny… I play in one of the biggest thrash bands in the world, yet when I came in – and this was probably me wearing my producer hat a little bit – it was like, ‘Ok, we’ve got a lot of great thrashing tunes, we’ve got great groove metal, we’ve got some great fast tunes. Let’s try to step away from that a little bit so we don’t have 10 or 11 songs that all sound the same’.”
To that end, the trio started listening to music from outside the thrash spectrum – he name drops bands like Godsmack and Disturbed – “for no other reason than to be inspired”. They looked beyond America for singers too. Joining the Allegiance this time are Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth and Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen, adding to a cast that also includes Bobby Blitz from Overkill, The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnd, John Bush of Armoured Saint, Accept’s Mark Tornillo and Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss. Troy Sanders and Mark Osegueda make return appearances.
“When you come into Metal Allegiance,” Ellefson declares, “you never leave! Once you’re in, you’re in for life. So rather than just repeat the same people on the second record – with some exceptions of course, Andreas (Kisser) and Mark Osegueda joined us again – for the most part we really wanted to dip into more of a European sound as well. To get a different flavour. The last record was us as an American band, and this record we feel like it was much more of an international band, limiting the guests, expanding it to an international flag that we were all standing under.”
Volume II – Power Drunk Majesty does indeed expand the palette Metal Allegiance painted with on the debut. While lacking a shred-tastic instrumental like the previous album’s ‘Triangulum’ suite, Volume II deepens their experiment further with Strnd and Hegg adding some serious death metal gravitas and Jansen taking the band’s music in still another direction. Yet it retains enough familiarity that it sounds like the same group that recorded the first album.
“The spirit of this thing is just cool overall,” Ellefson says. “And we’re very happy that we’ve got such a wide spread of participants yet also be able to keep the sound very focused.”
Most importantly for Ellefson and his friends, Metal Allegiance is all about having fun doing something they all enjoy.
“(After the first album) it got serious and heavy because we’ve tried to bite off more than we can chew with touring and all of a sudden, we found where Metal Allegiance has its niche. And rather than get frustrated with it, we just took our foot of the gas because we wanted it to be fun. We’re all in other bands and we have incredible business schedules, but this is a fun thing we can do in our downtime, making these records in the fun spirit of where this thing started. It’s good friends making great music together.”