Normally when one hears about a group of musicians who have put together a side project there is a collective groan, but some four years after they first started playing together, and with their second album, there is a real risk that people will start taking Metal Allegiance seriously, and so they should. The core of the band is Alex Skolnick (guitar, Testament), Mark Menghi (bass), Mike Portnoy (drums, Dream Theater and so many, many more), Dave Ellefson (bass), and they treat this as a band as opposed to a project, with the songs written in a room together as opposed to long distance. “We don’t just phone it in,” bassist and cofounder David Ellefson explains. “These are real songs, written by real humans, in the same room. As complicated as it often makes our lives to do that, it’s a real band.” “We wrote these songs, in my basement, playing them in rehearsals before we ever hit record,” adds drummer and cofounder Mike Portnoy. “It’s important to stress that this isn’t one of those email projects where everybody just sends files back and forth. Like a garage band, each of these songs began with playing together, banging it out, old school.”

So, no singer among them, but that isn’t an issue when you have friends like Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder), John Bush (Armored Saint), Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill), Mark Tornillo (Accept), Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth), Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Mark Osegueda (Death Angel) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish) to call on. And if that wasn’t enough, Skolnick’s virtuoso, tasteful and melodic lead guitar work is joined by guest soloists who represent a wide spectrum of generations and styles: Andreas Kisser (Sepultura), who regularly appears with Metal Allegiance live; Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper), and the one-time guitar teacher for a pre-Testament teenaged Alex Skolnick, Joe Satriani. Although the use of different singers can provide some distraction, this does definitely feel like a classic thrash album which is out to take no prisoners. If they are to release anything as a single then it has to be closer “Power Drunk Majesty Part Two” where Floor shows yet again what a consummate professional she is by laying down some incredible vocal melodies that take the song to a new level while the guys beneath her aren’t pulling any punches with some great guitar and stunning bass. Everyone involved is giving it their all, and this is a metal album worthy of investigation by anyone who likes to bounce the noggin.

Rating: 9/10


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