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METAL ALLEGIANCE

The Gospel According to Alex

In music (as in life), some of the most exciting developments aren’t planned and couldn’t be even if you tried. Metal Allegiance – and my role as guitarist/songwriter/co-producer – is one such thing that, to use two common phrases “just happened” and came “out of nowhere.” It was the result of two other terms that, until recently, were seldom ever heard in the same sentence: “heavy metal” and “cruise ship.”

The story of Motörhead’s “Motörboat” in 2014 (one of the final voyages of our spiritual guru Lemmy) – along with MA’s last minute addition to the lineup, my randomly sitting in, talks back on dry land a week later in which I was officially brought on board (pun not intended) and the subsequent, secret mission to shift the project from “all star cover jam” into one that creates new, original music – has been recounted in many interviews and is easily “Google-able.” The same goes for descriptions of our live shows. Instead, I’ll use this forum to discuss a few personal highlights.

One is working in the studio (sometimes in person, sometimes remotely) with fellow artists whom I’ve never had the chance to collaborate with before. Some I’ve only gotten to know fairly recently (Trevor Strnad, for example), others I’ve known since my early days on the music scene (Mark Osegueda and Gary Holt for example) and most are somewhere in between. All, however, are folks with whom I’d never recorded and might not have had the chance to otherwise. Normally, doing so would require forming a whole new project and a time commitment that is unrealistic (so many of us have crazy schedules these days – myself as much as anyone). With MA, however, there is the far more realistic goal of tracking one song for each artist (with occasional exceptions), not counting those of us who have laid the groundwork (myself, Menghi, Portnoy & Ellefson). Exploring the creative process with a vocalist or guitarist you’ve never been paired with before and helping nurture their contribution – which includes offering constructive guidance when appropriate and knowing when to keep quiet and just let that person do his or her thing – can be every bit as fulfilling as playing an instrument yourself.

On that note, let’s look at my own playing for MA. While most of my projects outside of my main band have been improvisational (with musicians who specialize in jazz and other genres), I’d already been thinking of one day recording the metal side of my playing – beyond the scope of what listeners are used to hearing with Testament – when, as if on cue, MA showed up. Since then, our albums have sparked solos that I’d count among my favorites (“Terminal Illusion” currently near the top of the list) and most notably, opened up a platform for my rhythm playing. To elaborate: Testament follows the blueprint for modern heavy bands in which one guitarist is the main soloist and the other as the “riff guy” ie James Hetfield, Scott Ian; I’m primarily the soloist while Eric (Peterson – who easily holds his own with James and Scott as a riffer- imo) records most of the rhythm. This works great for Testament – it is the established sound and I wouldn’t wish to change it. At the same time, it is also nice to also be able to point listeners to some crunchy riffs recorded with my individual tone, as heard on the Metal Allegiance albums.

Finally, as fun as our big blowout shows are (which can have around a dozen or so players), special mention should be made for the times MA scales down into a small unit in order to pay tribute to a specific album. Most recently it was “Black Sabbath” (Halloween weekend at the Brooklyn Bowl). Others have included “Made in Japan” (Deep Purple) and “Van Halen” (with Wolfgang himself sitting in on a few tunes). In each case, I’ve found that studying these records with highly trained ears is vastly different than doing so in your formative years. There are numerous subtleties I’d never caught before – from Iommi’s positioning, slides on certain chords and slight alterations of the same riff (depending on whether there are vocals) to Blackmore use of right hand finger plucking (on riffs as well as solos) to Van Halen using the exact same lick patterns throughout several songs, yet cleverly disguising them so they sound distinct – that can only be recognized after many years of playing experience. It’s also fun to tap (pun not intended) into these 6-string kings’ tones, from using a classic Phase-90 pedal and custom built “Frankenstein” guitar (Van Halen), to restoring the ‘68 Gibson SG I’d acquired long ago, now transformed from “fixer upper” to “fabulous vintage instrument.” It is great to have an excuse to explore this music on a deeper level and doing so helps inspire the original tracks we create for MA.

Whether large or small, any Metal Allegiance concert – let alone an album – is not easy to put together. Credit is due to Mark Menghi, whose brainchild this is and who somehow finds the drive to outline the plans, move them forward and be a taskmaster when necessary. A former leader of the US Congress (Trent Lott), famously compared his job to “herding cats.” I imagine Mark can relate.

Alex Skolnick

Photo Credits: Main photo and photo w/ Gibson Guitar by Scott Diussa. Motorboat Photo by Stephanie Cabral. Blythe/Menghi/Portnoy/Skolnick photo by Mark Menghi’s iPhone. Full band with crowd photo by armyofonetv.com

Ozzy Blitz

Hello boys and girls!

This is Ol’ Uncle Bobby Blitz. Bone collector and Metalist of the highest order, by time served and a purist in a time of impurity.

I must say… I was recently honored to partake/took in the Metal Allegiance rendition of the first Black Sabbath record along with other classics and a few hidden gems. I was stoked and I was ready. The day was stormy that Halloween weekend, angry you might say… like an old man trying to send soup back in a deli. The Brooklyn wind howled, “go back to Jersey you curly haired prick, Ozzy had noooooo cuuuuuuurls!” But I stood firm, like Frank Sinatra in the face of Dean Martin, trying to figure out if either knew how to speak Italian.

To my amazement the day leveled out, and became a ‘gig’, sound-check, dinner, family arriving, friends and foe alike… all willing to celebrate the original Sabbath on this All Hallowed Eve. Then in a flash, all transformed before my eyes… I panicked. The first; Menghi, a bearded sort, smelling of garlic with more facial hair than brains, Cindy Crawford wig and a stache that John Holmes would be proud of with a limp dick… a “star laced” hippie shirt and silver cross followed. This as I was calling 1-800-fix-me, I looked up and Mr. Skolnick wore the same upper lip adornment, there was something going on… those bell bottoms, that 70’s scent! Was I dreaming? I grabbed the last sane man in the room, a Mr. Portnoy, from a far away drummer-land and asked…”are we ok?” He smiled, disappeared behind a wall of wood and in a flash reappeared now donning “pigtails”. I was fucked!

I tried to make my escape and heard in the distance….”never talking, always walking, spreading his magic”. I was part of the plan, a plan that tore into the hearts of us and those who felt what we felt…..an Allegiance. I bow to the greatness of that era…. and the magic of that night.

BB
Overkill

Photos by Scott Diussa

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

It’s been a bit since I last checked in. Lets recount what has happened since my last blog post: We released our new record “Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty” on Sept 7th via Nuclear Blast Entertainment… what a trip it has been. I first and foremost wanna thank everyone involved in the making of that album. Alex, Mike, Dave, all the vocalists, guest guitarists, EVERYONE at Nuclear Blast USA and Europe/UK, etc… It was a ton of work and a true labor of love. Being one of the writing core-4 members is a lot of work, but this time around I co-produced the album with Alex and we slaved in the studio to make what we like to think is our ultimate thrash metal record (at least to us). I put my heart and soul into PDM, the music, the lyrics, the production… and hope you’re all digging it. I put the most pressure on myself as I am the “lesser known” and if I am writing, recording and performing with musicians like Alex, Joe Satriani, etc… I better be on point. Now that I think about it I have written, performed and recorded with some pretty legendary musicians and its insane to think about. Where most people have the experience with their band and the same people in their respective bands, I have the privilege of juggling over 4 dozen musicians. hahahaha its definitely a trip!

I’m truly humbled by the experience and most certainly do not take it for granted. With that, we also had our record release show the night prior on Sept 6 at the Gramercy Theater in NYC, a ton of press surrounding those days, a few in-store autograph signings, etc…

Fast forward to this past Sat night 10/27/18 at the Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, NY where myself, MP, Alex and Blitz portrayed our heroes; Geezer, Bill, Tony & Ozzy and paid tribute to a band from Birmingham England called Black Sabbath. It was a total blast getting into Sabbath mode. We covered their first album along with a few other choice Sabbath selections. I spent a great deal of time learning all the Geezer nuances (plus I emailed Geezer a few times to annoy him if I have the correct notes and tunings on certain tunes). hahahaha

It was also fun to look the part as well. I searched high and low for the right wig (hair), Shirt (thank you Amazon), necklace (thank you Alex), etc… I even shaved my beard (which I still can’t believe I did) to get the mustache just right. Yes the mustahce was real! (Alex had the fake one). This is the first time I have been cleaned shaved in years. No bueno! Never again. The afternoon of the gig Alex and I searched high and low, up and down Williamsburg B’KLYN at used clothing shops, vintage clothing shops, etc… to try and find bell bottom jeans. But no luck there. I’m still continuing the search because I have a feeling we are going to do more of these Sabbath shows (wait, I might have to shave again???). Was a total blast.

Looking into the future, we have our next massive “big” MA show on Jan 24th 2019 at our home away from home, The House of Blues in Anaheim, CA! More to come on that soon.

Thank you all for the massive support. Its greatly apprecieated!

MM

– All photos by MA camera man Scott Diussa
– Geezer Butler Photo by Black Sabbath

Writing with Bobby Blitz

Hey all… our new tune and video “Mother of Sin” has been out for a few days now. Hope you all are digging. When we first wrote the music to this tune, which was on January 2nd 2017, we knew from the moment we were riffing that we had to have Bobby sing on this. Most people think that we write for particular singers or we go in knowing who the vocalists are gonna be. I assure you, that has never been the case. Not once… the music we write has always dictated who the singer would/could/should be. In this case, Bobby Blitz was the first person we all had in mind. When we approached Bobby on this, he immediately accepted the invitation. However, I am pretty sure Bobby has not done much outside of Overkill in recent time nor has he ever co-written lyrics in quite some time. I approached Bobby with my lyrical idea for the tune, a novel of words and an open mind… we collaborated lyrically for a few weeks until we had a final draft of the lyrics, from there we went into demo mode. When I gave him my novel of words, I told him to take pen to paper, change words, edit for his vocal stylings, etc… with that he added so much to what I originally had. He even come up with one of my favorite lines of the record (which I’ll save that story for another day). It was truly an honor collaborating with Bobby on this tune and we spent the better part of April 2017 crafting this tune vocally and lyrically with the choruses, melodies, hooks and phrasing. What you hear now is collaboration in its truest form. This was not an email project, it was a bunch of dudes in a room writing music together from the first note written to the last lyric sang.

Welcome to the brand new MA online universe!

Welcome to the MA Blog better known as our rants and raves! We have a feeling this is where Menghi (and probably Skolnick) will come and carry on… Come back often as we’ll be doing a lot of “blogging” here! In the meantime, we hope you enjoy our new website and all the new stuff cooking. Today being June 22nd, 2018 starts a new chapter for MA. We did the impossible and actually wrote and recorded a new album that will be released on September 7th of this year! Plus we are doing a massive gig the night before in our home town of NYC. Did you listen to our new song “Mother of Sin” featuring our long time friend Bobby Blitz? Well, we are making this short and sweet for now since today is a big day for us, in the meantime get ready for all kinds of new and exciting things coming your way from MA over the course of the coming months! – MM



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