TESTAMENT's ALEX SKOLNICK On Upcoming METAL ALLEGIANCE Album: 'It Happened Really Naturally'

TESTAMENT's ALEX SKOLNICK On Upcoming METAL ALLEGIANCE Album: 'It Happened Really Naturally'

METAL ALLEGIANCE — the all-star metal band consisting of a rotating cast of musicians, including members of MEGADETH, TESTAMENT — which debuted on MOTÖRHEAD's Motörboat cruise last year, and performed at this year's NAMM show and on the ShipRocked cruise, will release its self-titled debut album on September 18 via Nuclear Blast Entertainment.

Brought together by METAL ALLEGIANCE principal partner Mark Menghi, the project's original material came together from the creative minds of David Ellefson of MEGADETH, Mike Portnoy of THE WINERY DOGS, and Alex Skolnick from TESTAMENT, alongside Menghi. The four writers then reached out through their metal rolodexes to a diverse lineup of performers, each adding their own personal musical stamp to the collection of nine original songs.

Speaking to Planet Mosh at this year's Download festival in the U.K., Skolnick stated about METAL ALLEGIANCE (hear audio below): "For me, my involvement began last year… I think the fall. The MOTÖRHEAD Motörboat cruise, TESTAMENT was performing, and METAL ALLEGIANCE made its debut performance as a fill-in for MEGADETH, with all kinds of all-stars. And a few of us… There were many, many artists that were part of that. And I was brought in; they just sort of invited me. I hadn't played with them before. And they invited me, and we hit it off [musically]. The performance was great. And they said, 'All right. You're in this. You're gonna play with us every time. And, by the way, we're working on a record. And we want you to be the guitarist. And you're gonna write it with Ellefson and Portnoy and Mark Menghi.'"

He continued: "It all happened really fast. And I wasn't sure what to expect. But we got together over the Christmas holiday at Mike Portnoy's house, and we put our ideas together and bonded over our favorite albums and we just came up with all this music that… it sounds like… it takes from all our favorite eras of metal. And it happened really naturally. And we played it for a few people, and there was instantly industry interest. And Monte [Conner] from Nuclear Blast stepped up to the plate and said, 'Okay, we're gonna make sure…. We really wanna work on this together.' And from there, it just happened to where it's become this really exciting, unexpected source of creativity."

Regarding the musical direction of METAL ALLEGIANCE's original material, Skolnick said: "It's sides of all of us that [people] don't even exist or just haven't heard [us explore with our various other projects]. You've never heard Mike Portnoy actually play… He's played metal parts… DREAM THEATER, for example, they have sections that are clearly metal. But then it's so progressive that it quickly shifts to something completely different. Here you'll hear him locking into grooves and building a whole song around that." As for Ellefson, he "really has a sound that's special, and I think he's capturing [it on this album]."

Alex continued: "People have heard me outside TESTAMENT, doing very different music; I've done several jazz-guitar albums, and I just did an acoustic album with PLANETARY COALITION with some of the top world artists. And I'd guest with artists… Like Stu Hamm; I'm about to tour with him. So people have heard me play instrumental music that's very different, with musicians that aren't metal musicians. But nobody has heard me play like this. And this is… A lot of it is one guitar…"

Skolnick added: "I enjoy being part of a guitar team in TESTAMENT, but I'm also somebody… You can give me the whole track and I'll make it happen. I kind of enjoy being in the foundation as well. And when you hear these guest vocalists… And these are voices everybody's familiar with."

Alex also addressed the possibility of METAL ALLEGIANCE doing select shows in support of the upcoming CD. He said: "Performing live is gonna be… It's gonna be hard. And we'll probably never have the exact lineup of the album. My recent acoustic world album, I have 27 musicians [guesting on it], including Rodrigo y Gabriela and Horacio 'El Negro' Hernandez. These are constantly touring, very established musicians. I'm never gonna get the exact lineup [to play with me when I do PLANETARY COALITION shows] . But you can do the music and adjust it and you can get a good lineup. Same thing with METAL ALLEGIANCE... I think we'll be able to do shows with myself, Portnoy and Ellefson — maybe give or take one of us. But our goal is to, as often as possible, have at least us, and then have a few vocalists cover the extra parts."

"Metal Allegiance" contains appearances by:

* Philip H. Anselmo (PANTERA, DOWN)
* Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX)
* Chuck Billy (TESTAMENT)
* D. Randall Blythe (LAMB OF GOD)
* Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (GUNS N' ROSES)
* Phil Demmel (MACHINE HEAD)
* Alissa White-Gluz (ARCH ENEMY)V
* Matthew K. Heafy (TRIVIUM)
* Gary Holt (EXODUS)
* Jamey Jasta (HATEBREED)
* Chris Jericho (FOZZY)
* Andreas Kisser (SEPULTURA)
* Misha Mansoor (PERIPHERY)
* Mark Osegueda (DEATH ANGEL)
* Tim "Ripper" Owens (JUDAS PRIEST, ICED EARTH)
* Doug Pinnick (KING'S X, KXM)
* Troy Sanders (MASTODON)
* Cristina Scabbia (LACUNA COIL)
* Steve "Zetro" Souza (EXODUS)

"It's always my pleasure to jam with such esteemed musicians and brothers, and my contribution to this project is further proof of that fact. Hail to all heavy metallers the world over!" stated Philip H. Anselmo.

Mike Portnoy added: "I could not be any more excited or proud of the METAL ALLEGIANCE album... It's everything I've always dreamed of and hoped for and a hundred times more!"

From the blistering opening of album starter "Gift Of Pain" to the final notes of closer "Pledge Of Allegiance", it is clear this collective have created something special. The diversity of the individual tracks is apparent through each musical collaboration.

The standard edition CD of "Metal Allegiance" will feature the nine original songs. A digipak edition will be available that features an all-star tribute to Ronnie James Dio with a cover of his classic song "We Rock" as well as a 45-minute behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the album. A double vinyl version will also be available that will feature all 10 songs as well.

D. Randall Blythe added: "When LAMB OF GOD asked Alex Skolnick to rip a guest solo on 'Ashes Of The Wake', it was a big deal to us to have one of the legends of our scene play on our record. Much to my amazement, years later he returned the request, and it's an even bigger deal to me to be asked on a peer level to contribute to a project with so many stellar players. I was honored to be chosen. 'Gift Of Pain' rips! Play it LOUD!"

"Metal Allegiance" track listing:

01. Gift Of Pain

Vocals: D. Randall Blythe
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums: Mike Portnoy
Additional Lead Guitar: Gary Holt

02. Let Darkness Fall

Vocals: Troy Sanders
Lead, Rhythm & Acoustic Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums & Percussion: Mike Portnoy
Additional Bass: Mark Menghi & Rex Brown
Additional Screams: D. Randall Blythe

03. Can't Kill The Devil

Vocals: Chuck Billy
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums: Mike Portnoy
Additional Lead Guitar: Phil Demmel & Andreas Kisser

04. Dying Song

Vocals: Philip H. Anselmo
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: Mark Menghi
Drums: Mike Portnoy

05. Scars

Vocals: Mark Osegueda & Cristina Scabbia
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums: Mike Portnoy

06. Destination: Nowhere

Vocals: Matthew K. Heafy
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums: Mike Portnoy
Additional Lead Guitar: Matthew K. Heafy

07. Wait Until Tomorrow

Vocals: Doug Pinnick & Jamey Jasta
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums, Percussion & Additional Vocals: Mike Portnoy

8. Triangulum I. Creation II. Evolution III. Destruction

Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums: Mike Portnoy
Additional Lead Guitar: Misha Mansoor, Ben Weinman, Charlie Benante, Phil Demmel, Matthew K. Heafy & Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal

09. Pledge Of Allegiance

Vocals: Mark Osegueda
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums: Mike Portnoy
Additional Lead Guitar: Charlie Benante, Gary Holt & Andreas Kisser

10. We Rock (DIO cover) (deluxe edition only)

Vocals: Mark Osegueda, Chris Jericho, Tim "Ripper" Owens, Alissa White-Gluz, Chuck Billy &
Steve "Zetro" Souza
Lead & Rhythm Guitars: Alex Skolnick
Bass: David Ellefson
Drums: Mike Portnoy
Additional Lead Guitar: Andreas Kisser, Phil Demmel & Gary Holt

Nuclear Blast Entertainment president Monte Conner offered up his label as the home for METAL ALLEGIANCE after several meetings. Upon hearing the demos and seeing the list of performers, he felt it was something he wanted to be a part of.

"I am incredibly fortunate to be able to work with legendary musicians and personal heroes like David Ellefson, Alex Skolnick and Mike Portnoy, as well as METAL ALLEGIANCE founder Mark Menghi," he said. "These guys wrote an amazing and diverse record that is 100 percent pure metal, and lined up some killer guest vocalists and lead guitarists to bring it home in an epic, shredding fashion — just the leads on this record alone will blow people away! Perhaps the coolest part of all is that unlike similar projects in the past that existed as studio-only creations, METAL ALLEGIANCE were a touring entity first and have now organically evolved into a studio band that makes albums. I am very grateful to these guys for choosing me and the Nuclear Blast team as the vehicle to bring their music to the metal masses."

Stemming from an initial idea in 2011, METAL ALLEGIANCE was born as a way to unite a collection of hard rock and heavy metal's most notable musicians in a setting born under one ideal, a love of music and performing. In 2015, that ideal still holds true and has become the foundation for everything METAL ALLEGIANCE; furthered with the release of the upcoming debut album. While the lineup may change, the passion, the energy and the emotion all remain the same. METAL ALLEGIANCE is more than just a record or a concert, it’s an experience and a lifestyle.

Previous participants in METAL ALLEGIANCE live events have included Philip Anselmo and Rex Brown (PANTERA); Joey Belladonna, Frank Bello, Charlie Benante and Scott Ian (ANTHRAX); Gary Holt, Kerry King and Dave Lombardo (SLAYER), Chuck Billy (TESTAMENT); Troy Sanders (MASTODON); and Andreas Kisser (SEPULTURA). These unforgettable events have also spawned surprise appearances by the likes of Geezer Butler (BLACK SABBATH), Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee (MOTÖHEAD), Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan (THE WINERY DOGS).

Portnoy previously told MikePortnoyWarriors.com about METAL ALLEGIANCE: "For me, I'm getting to do the full-blown, double-bass shredding drumming that I've only been able to hint at with DREAM THEATER or with AVENGED or with ADRENALINE MOB. So now it's a full-blown album. And the whole album is not thrash. I mean, this album is really kind of the history of metal; there's moments that are early metal, like very [BLACK] SABBATH-esque, and then there's moments that are full-on mid-'80s thrash — EXODUS, SLAYER, early METALLICA, 'Kill 'Em All' METALLICA — so there's a good chunk that's very, very much like that. And then there's moments that get more into '90s type of ALICE IN CHAINS sort of stuff. So it's almost a good history-of-metal sort of album. But I definitely have gotten my metal chops in. It's been fun. It's been really, really cool. I can't wait for people to hear this album."

Regarding how he fits alongside other METAL ALLEGIANCE members, Portnoy said: "To me, METAL ALLEGIANCE is… it's the ultimate hang. And, for me, it's awesome, because I'm really the only guy on the roster that's not normally in a thrash or metal band; I come from a kind of different world. So, on the outside, it may look weird that I do this, but I've always been the biggest metal fan through and through. I grew up listening to the same stuff as all these guys — we all grew up listening to [BLACK] SABBATH and [JUDAS] PRIEST and [IRON] MAIDEN and KISS and AC/DC and MOTÖRHEAD — so I have the same musical background as these guys. And once all the guys in METAL ALLEGIANCE were coming up — in MEGADETH and SLAYER and PANTERA and ANTHRAX — I was coming up around the same time as well, just in a different genre. But these guys were always my friends; I was always hanging out with the ANTHRAX guys and the PANTERA guys… whatever. I felt a close kinship to all the guys in this thrash world, and they became my friends. So, with METAL ALLEGIANCE, for me, it's a natural thing to be involved with these guys. All these guys are great guys, great friends. We love jamming together, and the whole METAL ALLEGIANCE thing is just… You know, we're fans. When we're up on stage playing this stuff, we're as much fans as the people on the other side, in the audience. We're on the side of the stage headbanging and cheering everybody on and having a good time. So that's what it's about: it's just metal by metal guys who are still metal fans."

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