The creation known as Metal Allegiance started as a spark in the mind of Mark Menghi a few days after a Big 4 show in 2014. Few bands can say they’ve had members of Pantera, Testament, Anthrax, Lamb of God, Guns N’ Roses, Megadeth, Arch Enemy, Trivium, Dream Theater, Exodus, Hate Breed, Sepultura, King’s X, Machine Head, Death Angel, Lacuna Coil, Tim “Ripper” Owens and Chris Jericho among others, in their ranks.
They released their self-titled debut album in 2015 with Megadeth’s David Ellefson, The Winery Dogs’ Mike Portnoy and Testament’s Alex Skolnick along with bassist Menghi.
The band’s first live appearance was in 2014 on Motorhead’s Motorboat cruise. A lot of the music from the first record came from the freedom given to the musicians. The songs then put in mind as to who would be a good fit to complement the music.
The core of Metal Allegiance is four guys with shared influences; writing music with egos, fame, other bands and who they are left outside. They released their self-titled debut in 2014 and their new Fallen Heroes EP is now available.
Chuck Billy lent vocals to Can’t Kill the Devil a testament rich face-pounder with Skolnick’s signature shreds. Phil Anselmo did vocals on Dying Song, inhaling the reapers breath exhaling fate.
Gift of Pain featured Randy Blythe on vocals and brought Testament, Megadeth, Lamb of God and Winery Dogs together via studio footage and YouTube. The cover and video for We Rock was an all-star tribute to the father of the horns with Skolnick rooftop Rainbow in the Dark style. The track and video featured vocals from Death Angels’ Mark Osegueda, Jericho, Owens, Alissa White-Gluz, Billy and Steve “Zetro” Souza with cameos by Anselmo, Bumblefoot, Eddie Trunk, Queensryche and Twisted Sister.
Metal Allegiance started with Frank Bello, Charlie Benante, Ellefson and Menghi. “In 2014, we got offered a spot on Motorhead’s motorboat cruise and that is where everything really set course,” Menghi says.
They were in good company with Anthrax, Down and Megadeth, playing their favorite songs. They decided to do a record and everything changed.
Menghi’s favorite studio experience making the first record was with Gary Holt. “He’s hysterical in the studio, nothing but comedy,” Menghi says. “When you try and be serious, you’re laughing. Randy came in and we co-wrote the lyrics to Gift of Pain. I gave him a title, a chorus and did it in [his] style. Within 20 minutes he had lyrics and we recorded it on the spot and that’s the tune. It was really cool to see how organic that happened.
A seasoned studio player, Menghi wasn’t star struck. “The closest I got to shock was (during) the first writing session when Ellefson, myself and Mike were sitting writing and I was sitting down with my bass, thinking holy shit, this is actually happening. I remember those 30 seconds pretty clearly.”
Dying Song came from an impromptu jam. They gave Anselmo full reign to do what he wanted with it. “We high fived when we got it back. We were fortunate to get that performance from him. We said ‘Phil, do your thing.’ No producing, no editing, what he did for us and is what you hear on the record.”
Inspired by Alice in Chains Rooster, they didn’t want to appear in the video, which depicts an eerie reaper stalking victims, snuffing out life candles in the dark. “That’s the vibe and inspiration we went with.” The moral of the story was beating death and overcoming obstacles in life.
They did their own modern tribute to Hear N’ Aid. “We kinda did that with We Rock, a bonus track on the first record. We wanted to pay tribute to Ronnie. We had seven to eight singers, extended guitar solos, a lot of musicians on there.
There were 25 appearances on the first record with over 50 musicians. The music came first, without thought to singers. Blythe was given Gift of Pain and Can’t Kill the Devil had Billy written all over it.
“We decided to write a record in Sept/Oct. of 2014. December was the first writing session, ten months later the record came out. We did this for us, no labels, managers or lawyers. We got offers but said no. We did this ourselves and wanted fans to hear it. We wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered it all in under a year.”
The new Fallen Heroes EP features three tracks, Motorhead’s Iron Fist (Troy Sanders), David Bowie’s Suffragette City (Osegueda) and The Eagles Life in the Fast Lane (Gluz), paying homage to Lemmy, Bowie and Glenn Frey.
They wanted to cover Prince on the EP but schedules didn’t align. “We tried to. We did the West Coast tour back in January.” A week before the L.A. show they got a call from their manager telling them they were playing the day of Lemmy’s funeral at the Whisky. “We heard from Mickey Dee. The owner of the Whisky and the Rainbow called, begging us to do something.”
“That was the day they held the public memorial and shut down Sunset Strip,” Menghi remembers. “It was chaos. We made sure we got there early.” They played Vegas the night before, arriving bright and early. “We wanted to pay our respects (and) attend the services. We kind of split apart that day, we went to the Rainbow (and) the public memorial they had. Before we knew it, it was time. It was a hot ticket, we couldn’t even move in the Whisky.” They did their normal set adding five or six Motorhead tunes. Dee came up and jammed with them. Dave Grohl, HHH and Danzig were in the crowd, everyone was there.
“We refused to do any media that day. It was about remembering our friend, paying tribute to him and in my opinion, if it wasn’t for Motorhead there might not be a Metal Allegiance,” Menghi admits. “He gave us our first opportunity. We’re forever in debt to Mickey and the whole team.” Almost two years later they played a memorial to Lemmy. “You can’t make it up. We sat in the bus and rehearsed all the Motorhead tunes and payed tribute properly.”
“For me, Lemmy and the music, it’s more the attitude than the music. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you say. You stand for yourself and that, I don’t give a shit attitude, is what inspired me. Lemmy’s demeanor, how he went about life is what inspired me. We play metal and rock n roll, that’s it. If you’re looking for us to change our sound or copy the popular band of the day, we’re not gonna do it.”
A memorial for fans to pay homage was built. “We all wrote something on the wall and a statue’s being built for the Rainbow. The whole Sunset Strip, that day was just thousands and thousands of fans and people coming, mourning, crying, partying, it was something I’ve never seen or experienced before and I’m thankful I got to do it,” Menghi confesses.
They played Killed by Death but wouldn’t cover their signature out of respect. “We wouldn’t cover Ace of Spades. That’s Motorhead’s Stairway to Heaven.”
“The next day in San Francisco in the middle of our set we found out Bowie died.”
They went into the studio recording Motorhead, Bowie and Eagles songs for the tribute EP. “We tried really hard but at that point everyone was scattered all over the world. We wanted to do a Prince song, but couldn’t fit it in. Hopefully we won’t be recording anymore songs like this for a while. 2015-2016 has been horrible.”
“You know the fucked up part was it was right at the part where we were doing our Lemmy tribute. We (did) it at the Whisky and said why not do it in San Francisco.”
They were told of Bowie’s passing during set break, returning to the stage shell-shocked telling the crowd. “Having to do that was awful.”
Menghi talks about metalizing Life in the Fast Lane. “It’s funny I picked Ted Jensen to master the first record and the EP, for one reason only. He mastered the Eagles, Hotel California, sonically it’s flawless.” If you can imagine James Hetfield’s And Justice for All style guitar work, that’s what Life in the Fast Lane sounds like with Alissa singing, not growling or screaming. “That song was a lot of work and we hope we did it justice. We got her performance back [and] said holy shit. Fans in the community will be shocked, in a good way with what she delivered. You’d have no idea it was her. People would ask, who’s singing this.”
Metal Allegiance is not a novelty act. They take everything seriously. “We’re having fun and enjoying each other’s company. The EP was finished within a week. “Almost a year later, we have another product and we will have a second record.”