The Cream of the Crop: Metal Allegiance rocks Anaheim with Metal Hits and Deep Cuts

By Andrew Bansal

January 25 2018, House Of Blues, Anaheim CA: All-star heavy metal supergroup Metal Allegiance, created by bassist and songwriter Mark Menghi, features Alex Skolnick (Testament), David Ellefson (Megadeth) and Mike Portnoy as members of the core quartet alongside Menghi. The band writes and records original songs as well as performs covers with the help of guest musicians, and through the two studio releases and past live shows, Metal Allegiance has boasted involvement of the who’s who of heavy metal. Every year, the group convenes to play a show in Anaheim when all members are in town for the NAMM convention, and judging from past concerts, it is always a show worth attending for all metalheads. So, this year I had no hesitation in choosing this one as my sole concert of choice for NAMM week, and I expected nothing but a stellar show.

Doors opened at 7 and the lovely new House Of Blues establishment filled in steadily through the evening. Before the main attraction, there were four local opening acts. Forgotten Legion were already playing when doors were opened, and from whatever little the audience caught of their set, it sounded like your typical, straightforward thrash band. Nothing wrong with that, and not a bad start to the live entertainment. Next up were Edge Of Paradise, who have played bigger stages abroad but it was probably their biggest show in the US and they totally proved themselves as worthy of the billing. They appropriately presented their heavier songs in this set and created a solid impression on the audience, garnering a unanimously positive response from everyone in attendance.

Edge Of Paradise photos by Joe Schaeffer:

In stark contrast, next was Superfix, possibly the worst band I have ever seen, with the worst stage banter thrown in for good measure. If you are ever at a show with Superfix on the bill, make sure to scope out all the exits and patios beforehand, because you’re going to need to get out of earshot when they’re on stage. Thankfully, Wednesday 13 lifted things back up with an impressive set, and having never seen this band live and having never heard their music before, I was quite pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it, except for the silly “I Want to Say Fuck” song, worst of the set by far. But an excellent set regardless, which got the crowd pumped and ready for the headline act.

Wednesday 13 photos by Joe Schaeffer:

Promptly at 10 o’ clock, Metal Allegiance arrived on stage in front of a completely packed House Of Blues Anaheim, and wasted no time in jumping straight into the action with ‘Hit the Lights’. Mike Portnoy played drums on all 19 songs, which was a smart move for two reasons. Firstly, obviously he can play anything and everything better than any other drummer in the world, and secondly, it saved the band a lot of dead time which comes from changing drummers. Mark Menghi played bass on nearly all songs, with David Ellefson joining/replacing him on a few occasions throughout the set. Alex Skolnick and Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) held fort on guitar for the most part, with Gary Holt and Nita Strauss chiming in at opportune moments. All musicians were fantastic, but the selection of the vocalists is what really made this a high-quality show, as the absolute best contemporary metal singers graced this stage with their class, presence, and performance. Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), Chuck Billy (Testament), Bobby Blitz (Overkill), John Bush (Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax), as well as Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil contributing on two songs. All these singers are at the peak of their powers in their own bands, and Metal Allegiance and this entire crowd should consider themselves fortunate that they all participated in this event, some of them even outshining the original versions of the songs they sang.

The admirable fact of this annual Metal Allegiance show in Anaheim is that the set list is always different, and the group makes a conscious effort to throw in some surprises, rarities and deep cuts. There were a few very special surprises in this set. The most unexpected one was John Bush coming out to sing ‘Room For One More’ off of the Anthrax album ‘Sound of White Noise’, a song he hadn’t performed in 15 years, he said to the audience before singing it. It was just a tiny reminder to the audience that the John Bush era of Anthrax, specially that particular album, has some great tunes that should not be forgotten.  ‘Prowler’ from Paul Di’Anno era Iron Maiden was another great inclusion, as was Judas Priest’s ‘Grinder’, and Metallica’s ‘Metal Militia’. Of course, there were Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Overkill and Sepultura songs in the set too. Surprisingly no Megadeth, and thankfully no Pantera.

John Bush singing Anthrax’ ‘Room For One More’

The other commendable aspect of this band is their refusal to rely solely on covers for this show, and adding original tunes into the mix. Menghi and co have created some undeniably good metal songs of their own under the Metal Allegiance banner, and this set featured five of them, including two brand new ones, and the yet unreleased ‘Mother of Sin’ with Blitz on vocals came across as the best of these five. The audience reaction was expectedly more lackluster for these numbers, but majority was still paying attention, and anyone hearing these songs for the first time would most likely be inclined to check out the Metal Allegiance discography.

Besides the performance itself, stage banter and crowd interaction from the band’s side is of utmost importance in shows like this, with the nature of the NAMM weekend crowd and fickle attention spans. All these vocalists showed themselves as true masters of this art, and Bobby Blitz in particular was the funniest, bringing in his instantly recognizable Jersey twang and delivering some great one-liner jokes in the process.

Metal Allegiance’s annual Anaheim show is fantastic every year but there’s no doubt that it gets better each time, and they really outdid all the past ones with the set list, performance and musician lineup they brought to the stage this time. This is not your run-of-the-mill random, clusterfucky, half-assed NAMM jam, this is a real band of top-class musicians. From here to eternity, I pledge my allegiance to this show year after year, and so should you.

Metal Allegiance ‘Number Of The Beast’ encore (photo borrowed from band’s official instagram)

Set List (vocalists in parentheses):
01. Hit The Lights – Metallica cover (Chuck Billy)
02. Can’t Kill The Devil (Chuck Billy)
03. Mandatory Suicide – Slayer cover (Mark Osegueda)
04. Fast As A Shark – Accept cover (Mark Osegueda)
05. Grinder – Judas Priest cover (Mark Osegueda & Bobby Blitz)
06. Elimination – Overkill cover (Bobby Blitz)
07. Mother of Sin (Bobby Blitz)
08. Room For One More – Anthrax cover (John Bush)
09. Bound By Silence (John Bush)
10. Lights Out – UFO cover (John Bush & Chuck Billy)
11. Into The Pit – Testament cover (Chuck Billy)
12. Refuse/Resist – Sepultura cover (Chuck Billy)
13. Scars (Mark Osegueda & Cristina Scabbia)
14. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – Black Sabbath cover (Bobby Blitz)
15. Prowler – Iron Maiden cover (John Bush)
16. Bonded By Blood – Exodus cover (Bobby Blitz)
17. Metal Militia – Metallica cover (Mark Osegueda)
18. Pledge Of Allegiance (Mark Osegueda)
Encore
19. Number Of The Beast – Iron Maiden cover (everyone)

Metal Allegiance photos by Joe Schaeffer:

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