For the second time in his career, New York bassist Frank Bello steps into the studio without the help of his Anthrax bandmates to record something a little different. Whereas previous side project Altitudes and Attitude was a collaborative affair with Dave Ellefson of Megadeth and Jeff Friedl of A Perfect Circle, six track EP Then I’m Gone (Rare Bird Recordings) is a much more personal affair with Bello playing almost all of the instruments himself.
Whether you want it to or not, once a nickname is acquired, it sticks. Sometimes for life. For almost as long as the band has existed itself, Californian speed metal legends Megadeth have been known by fans as Megadave. A purely affectionate nickname for sure, but one which grew out of frontman Dave Mustaine‘s often brutal and cold-blooded approach to personnel management. The singular constant in a revolving door of band members, make no mistake. Mustaine is Megadeth. Always was, always will be.
The back-story of Megadeth’s debut album, released in 1985, is possibly even greater than the impact that the album itself would go on to have. Possibly. For this is a damn fine and damn influential album. Fired and wired, Dave Mustaine set out to make a faster, more technically proficient, and a better album than anything his former employers Metallica had done. He was also hell-bent on proving them wrong in their assertions that he was too hampered by his vices to perform his six-string duties. And perform his six-string duties he did, indeed. However, his and band’s mass consumption of alcohol and other less-than-legal substances put such a dent in the budget of the recording of the album that the producer was fired, and the band produced the record themselves. The results were, aurally, insufficient – even with added funds to try and save the recordings. Continue reading →
It’s been a busy few years for Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein. From setting up his eponymous band, launching a debut album via his own Monsterman Records and the tiny matter of reforming and gigging the classic Misfits he is now completing the cycle with part II: As We Die of the Doyle legacy, this time partnering with Dave Ellefson’s EMP behemoth empire.Continue reading →
For many years now, Megadeth has been a beast of two heads. The first, basically just a dripping, cavernous maw filled with razor sharp knives, was born in 1983 and would attack anything that moved with unnatural speed, venomous aggression, and of course, biting sarcasm. Then, a few albums down the road, a second head began to form alongside it’s bitter, hateful brother. Although still not the friendliest of things, this second head possessed a more laid back personality, preferring melody, patience and a more commercial approach to music.
Since the early nineties, these two distinctly different personalities have sat, occasionally uncomfortably, side by side on the same body, one continually attempting to become the dominant force over the other. When the original, Thrashier head gains control, we get albums like Endgame (Roadrunner), but when its more easygoing counterpart takes the helm, records like Cryptic Writings (Capitol) or the much maligned Risk (Capitol) are the results. Every now and again though, the two set aside their differences and actually co-operate, working together to try and achieve great things. Other times, it all goes horrifyingly wrong and things like Super Collider (Universal/Tradecraft) happen.
On new album, Dystopia (Universal/Tradecraft), the balance between the two is as good as it’s ever been. Just pretend Super Collider didn’t happen. Scrub it from your mind because the turnaround from 2013 to 2016 is unbelievable. While people have been happily writing Megadeth off as a spent force, frontman Dave Mustaine does what he always does with his back against the wall – digs in belligerently and refuses to go down without a fight.
In a situation like this, one of the best ways to make positive steps forward is to return to the past. And while it’s sometimes difficult to know whether a band is harking back to former glories so fans can identify quicker with new material, or whether it’s just because it’s an easy option from a band out of ideas, the answer lies in the shape of a ginger frontman. Dave Mustaine may be guilty of many things, but he doesn’t do easy.
So, when opening track ‘The Threat is Real’ begins with it’s atmospheric Arabic maqam introduction, one of the first things that leaps to mind is ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’ from 1990’s Rust in Peace (Capitol). Although not as good as that seasoned classic, ‘The Threat is Real’ is still a great way to start an album. Snappy lyrics, a chunky central riff and some sharp soloing courtesy of new boy Kiko Loureiro help this song become easily the best album opener since ‘Sleepwalker’ from 2007’s United Abominations (Roadrunner), even if it does sneakily try and fit an ever so slightly reworked ‘Five Magics’ riff in at the end.
The slightly downbeat, but still quite pacy title track follows next. Melodic riffs and catchy verses only let down by a slightly unimaginative chorus. However, it’s a more than worthy title track, and one with definite shades of ‘Hangar 18’ as the second half of the song becomes an entirely instrumental affair.
The already released ‘Fatal Illusion’ rumbles into view next, it’s discordant intro followed by a fast, smoothly played bassline from the always reliable David Ellefson. Some quick incisive riffing follows along with the first real signs that drummer Chris Adler, borrowed from Virginia’s Lamb of God, is seriously beginning to put his own individual stamp on the album. From then on though, it becomes a bit of a hotch-potch of other songs, with riffs and vocal patterns being casually lifted from the likes of ‘Devil’s Island’, ‘Black Friday’, and ‘Five Magics’ (again). Luckily, this is the only time the reliance on older material is so blatant, and with ‘Fatal Illusion’ being the song used to introduce people to the album in the first place, it was possibly even written that way with that in mind.
The album stalls briefly with the mid-paced and pretty forgettable ‘Death From Within’, which although isn’t awful or anything, is just sort of there. ‘Bullet to the Brain’, a song which on the face of it appears to be about a man lured into having an affair, but knowing Mustaine probably has some sort of deeper hidden political meaning, starts with a brief acoustic intro before turning on the heavy and delivering one of the catchiest choruses on the album. The brooding ‘Post-American World’ follows next, warning of future political dangers while tweaking the main riff to ‘Sweating Bullets’ to suit its purpose.
Next up is ‘Poisonous Shadows’. Somewhat similar in tone to ‘A Tout Le Monde’ (albeit with different subject matter), its gentle, recurring backing vocals and quiet piano outro (played by Loureiro) give the song a distinct personality while Adler finally becomes the star of the show, his powerful drumming pushing the song forward with precise, interesting patterns.
‘Conquer or Die!’ is one of the better instrumentals in Megadeth’s arsenal. Beginning slowly, a uniquely Mustaine riff takes over, becoming heftier as the sound of bells toll ominously behind some fantastic solo work. Instrumentals have been known to sap the interest of some listeners, but any cobwebs which may have appeared during ‘Conquer or Die!’ are instantly blown away with the ferocious intensity of ‘Lying In State’. A bludgeoning riff kicks things off, Adler adds to the carnage and Mustaine spits out the words with sneering disdain as it builds towards a frantic and extremely satisfying conclusion.
After such an explosive climax to the previous song, ‘The Emperor’, with it’s uptempo punk meets Alice Cooper vibe, feels strangely out of place. Also, it’s “The Emperor has no clothes” chorus conjures up some very unwanted images of a naked Mustaine wandering around his bedroom in just a pair of socks. Forget the themes of war, deception, murder, and political subterfuge. That image alone is scarier than all of those put together.
A cover of ‘Foreign Policy’ by California’s Fear rounds things off. Nice and straightforward, Mustaine does a better job of evoking the spirit of punk in this than he did with ‘Anarchy in the UK’ back in 1988, even if it does feature a very un punk-like guitar solo. Truth be told, these last two tracks are good but fairly unnecessary additions. Just treat them like bonus tracks and convince yourself the album finishes with ‘Lying in State’.
Varied and entertaining, ‘Dystopia’ is Megadeth’s best album in years and everything that fans who recognise Mustaine’s youthful piss and vinegar has matured into something else could hope for. Super Collider, is but a distant memory so stick it back on the shelf to gather dust, grab this one instead and smile that blacktooth grin once more.
All-star mash up albums are great when they work – for example Roadrunner United or Dave Grohl’s Probot project. But they are terribly underwhelming when they don’t – for example this year’s Teenage Time Killer or any number of fast-buck tribute albums.
Metal Allegiance (released via Nuclear Blast), a project centred around Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson, Testament guitarist AlexSkolnick and former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, features a revolving cast of singers, and definitely counts as an all-star mashup. Each track features a different singer and focuses on a different style of metal. Despite the cheesy name, the self-titled debut manages to avoid being a hockey tribute and instead is a perfectly satisfying, if safe, tribute to the genre.
The 10 tracks on offer cover pretty much all areas of mainstream metal of the last decade or so. Opener ‘Gift of Pain’ (featuring Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe) is a solid mid-paced chugger, featuring the kind of groove you’d expect on a Lamb of God album track. ‘Dying Song’ sees Phil Anslemo do his best Layne Staley impression over a Black Label Society-eque southern rocker. ‘Can’t Kill The Devil’ (featuring Testament’s Chuck Billy) is a classic slice of American thrash. All the way through, the quality of the music can’t be faulted.
Troy Sander’s spot on ‘Let Darkness Fall’ gives a glimpse of how Mastodon could have sounded if they were more of a thrash outfit but retained their experimental edge, while King’s X singer dUg Pinnick and Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta come together perfectly for what is probably the album’s highlight in ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’; Pinnick’s haunting baritone juxtaposes Jasta’s aggression in what is one of the few surprises on the record. Matt Heafy’s bland appearance on the dull ‘Destination Nowhere’ is the only real stinker (how far he and Trivium have fallen since he guested on 2005’s Roadrunner United album).
But throughout Metal Allegiance, it’s Skolnick that shines brightest. His blistering solos are scattered throughout the record and add some urgency and life to each track. The scorching guitar work on ‘Gift of Pain’, the Spanish interlude of ‘Let Darkness Fall’ or the grungy groove of ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’ all make them a more enjoyable listen. It’s only the self-indulgent masturbation of seven-minute instrumental ‘Triangulum’ gets old pretty quickly, even if it does feature half a dozen guitarists.
Metal Allegiance is good fun, but it’s not particularly adventurous; there’s no surprise or controversial inclusions, no one from the extreme edge of metal. Every musician involved can boast a lengthy and successful career and a few spots on the Billboard 100. It is, however, an enjoyable listen and would make a great showcase introduction to the genre for someone who hadn’t heard any metal before, and offers fans a chance to hear some of their favourite singers in a slightly new setting. And that’s no bad thing.
Johnny Wore Black is streaming the music video for “Firefly,” off of their new album Walking Underwater Pt 2 which features several tracks co-written and co-performed by Dave Ellefson (Megadeth). The “Firefly” video features action-packed cartoon horror animation, created by up-and-coming animator Paul Solomons, the mastermind behind the band’s 2012 “Noise” music video. The “Firefly” music video actually serves as a prequel to the “Noise” music video, which features many of the same characters.
JOHNNY WORE BLACK is: Johnny Wore Black – vocals Pete Mathers – guitar Simon Hutchby – drums Robert Gibiaqui – drums David Ellefson – bass James Coppolaro – guitar Loretta Heywood – vocals (Winter in July) Sara Renar – vocals (Shine On)
Show creator Brian Tichy and partner Joe Sutton conceived this event in 2013 after agreeing years before that Randy Rhoads deserved fresh recognition for his musical impact. They are both huge fans of Rhoads. Tichy himself played with Ozzy Osbourne in 2000. On top of the best guitar players in the world rocking their favorite Rhoads’ songs, Randy’s brother Kelle Rhoads performs and both his sister Kathy and he share their stories making this a very touching and personal experience for all involved!
The following artists have been confirmed as participants in Randy Rhoads Remembered:
Tracii Guns (Devil City Angels) Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake / Night Ranger) Nik Kai (Kemical Kill) Kiko Louriero (Angra) Marzi Montazeri (Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals / Marzi Montazeri’s Heavy As Texas) Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob) Mitch Perry (MSG / Edgar Winter) Monte Pittman (Madonna) Rowan Robertson (DIO / Bang Tango / DC4) Janet Robin (Student of Randy Rhoads / Lindsey Buckingham) Alex Skolnick (Testament / Alex Skolnick Trio) Brian Tichy (Whitesnake / Foreigner / Ozzy Osbourne / Billy Idol) Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) Brent Woods (Student of Randy Rhoads / Vince Neil / Sebastian Bach) Phil X (The Drills / Bon Jovi) Roy Z (Halford / Bruce Dickinson / Tribe of Gypsies) Mark Zavon (Kill Devil Hill)
“THE MADMEN” (RRR House Band): Michael Devin: vox (Whitesnake) Stephen LeBlanc: keys (Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Exp.) Rudy Sarzo: bass (Ozzy Osbourne / Quiet Riot / Whitesnake / Queensryche) Phil Soussan: bass (Ozzy Osbourne / Billy Idol / Big Noize) Brian Tichy: drums (Whitesnake / Foreigner / Ozzy Osbourne / Billy Idol)
SPECIAL GUESTS: Dewey Bragg (Kill Devil Hill / MOTH) Host: Dean Delray (Rock n’ Roll Comedian) Kathy Rhoads D’Argenzio Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) Kelle Rhoads Jeff Scott Soto (Journey / Talisman) Chas West (Bonham)
*In addition to this lineup, there will be some very specials guests – some will be announced and some won’t, so stay tuned!
Johnny Wore Black, the dark rock project featuring Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson, has made “Fallen Angel” available for streaming here. The album Walking Underwater Pt 2 is out November 26, 2014 via Dead Cherry, and was mixed by David Bottrill (Tool, Stone Sour).
The album also features Croatian singer Sara Renar, and renowned soul singer Loretta Heywood.
JOHNNY WORE BLACK is: Johnny Wore Black – vocals Pete Mathers – guitar Simon Hutchby – drums David Ellefson – bass James Coppolaro – guitar Loretta Heywood – vocals (Winter in July) Sara Renar – vocals (Shine On)