Release DetailsLABEL Roadrunner
RELEASED ON 10/11/2005
The All Star Sessions
posted on 11/2005 By:
As impressive as the roster of artists appearing on this disc is, the list of those NOT appearing is at least equally disappointing. Right off the top, no (primary) members of Obituary, nobody (else) from Brujeria, and no representatives from Earth Crisis or Biohazard. The captains seemed content to stick to those from the past five years of the label’s history, with only the occasional nod to the old-school luminaries. Although Matt Heafy of Trivium deserves credit for enlisting King Diamond, Sean Malone (Cynic), and Mike Smith (Suffocation), it is captain Joey Jordison of Slipknot who has most fully embraced the spirit of this project, linking the old school and the new school together on some positively lethal compositions.
“Annihilation by the Hands of God” brings together a death metal A-list that includes Glen Benton (vocals, Deicide), Rob Barrett (guitar, ex-Malevolent Creation), James Murphy (guitar, Disincarnate), and Steve DiGiorgio (bass, Sadus). This lineup, completed by Matt DeVries (guitar, Chimaira) and of course Jordison on drums, perform a good ol’ traditional death metal track, which combines elements of all the bands involved without sounding too much like any of them. The main riff sounds like a stripped-down Slipknot, while the choruses sound a bit more like Malevolent Creation (not so strange considering Jordison and Barrett wrote the music), and of course a killer solo from Murphy. This is a great reminder that for all their current mediocre talent, Roadrunner used to be THE label for American death metal.
Much of this lineup returns later on for “Constitution Down”, with Kyle Thomas (vocals, Exhorder) taking over and Andy LaRocque (guitar, King Diamond) trading solos with Murphy. Now this is a killer track, taking on a decidedly more mid-tempo thrash/traditional feel. It’s cool because we’re used to hearing these guys play at breakneck speeds, but are just as tight and impressive at a slower pace.
A trend running though these Jordison-penned tracks is his employment of bitter ex-Roadrunner vocalists. Few have been more critical of the label in recent memory than Keith Caputo (Life of Agony), who in a recent interview slammed the label for dropping the ball with his amazing solo album. Since he wrote the lyrics, its no surprise that it has a name like “Tired N’ Lonely”. Jordison brings along a few of his bandmates for the ride here: James Root (guitar, Slipknot) and Acey Slade (guitar, Murderdolls). For some reason, two additional guitarists were brought on in the forms of Tom Niemeyer (ex-Gruntruck) and Matt Baumbach (ex-Vision of Disorder), while Jordison pulls double duty on bass and drums. This is another case of a track not sounding like anything that any the musicians have ever played on. Even comparing it to recent LOA would be a stretch. Regardless, its some solid rock with alternative leanings, and a catchy main riff.
If anyone could top Caputo for Roadrunner bitterness, it would be Daryl Palumbo (Glassjaw), who, along with his bandmates, fought their way out of their contract following a weak promotional push for their critically acclaimed debut, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence. I’ve never been a fan, but I know enough to know he was a perfect choice for “No Way Out”. Jordison and Baumbach reprise their roles from “Tired N’ Lonely” (with the latter also helping out on bass) and Junkie XL adds some electronic flavor to this one, probably the most accessible song on the disc (although Robert Flynn’s “Army of the Sun” may beg to differ). Unfortunately, because of that, it’s also the weakest of the Jordison tracks in my opinion, but I’m sure many a Glassjaw fan would argue that point.
Wrapping up the Jordison tracks we have “Enemy of the State”, featuring an entirely different lineup for once. Possibly the darkest collection of musicians here, Peter Steele (vocals) and Josh Silver (keyboards) of Type O Negative and Dave Pybus (bass) from Cradle of Filth are joined by the unlikely Steve Holt of 36 Crazyfists. This is probably the greatest Type O Negative song that they never wrote: dark, brooding, and gothic in their classic style. Surprisingly, Holt can hang with the dark souls, from the big chorus riffs to the quiet verses and all atmospheric points in between. Killer.
The point of this disc wasn’t to compose and perform songs that are going to be remembered as genre classics; it was just to bring together one-time-only collaborations between past and present Roadrunner artists to create a one-of-a-kind album celebrating the label’s 25 years of history. If you go into this album with that type of mindset, just to be entertained and not blown away, you can hardly go wrong.
posted on 11/2005 By:
Of all the captains involved in The All Star Sessions Dino Cezares is least adventurous. "The Enemy," "Baptized in the Redemption" and "No Mas Control" are safe tunes bearing a strong resemblance to Cezares work in Fear Factory and Brujeria. "No Mas Control" is the strongest of the pack, showcasing Cezares' ability to craft memorable pop-metal out of rich, driving chord progressions. While Ill Nino vocalist Christian Machado is no C. Burton Bell, he's at least serviceable enough to not spoil Dino's massive chorus. Both "The Enemy" and "Baptized in the Redemption" would serve suitably as filler tracks on a Fear Factory album. It's only fitting then that Mark Hunter (Chimaira) and Dez Fafara (DevilDriver, ex-Coal Chamber), frontmen of bands who've made careers out of penning Fear Factory filler tracks, should lend their vocals to these two songs. Neither of them are inspiring vocalists, and have a hard time making anything out of these largely disposable tracks.
A slightly disappointing showing from Dino on these three songs, who has perhaps here only shown how great a vocalist C. Burton Bell is.
posted on 11/2005 By:
Taking it upon myself to cover the songs of Trivium’s Matt Heafy on the Roadrunner United project, I knew I was in for a tortuous listen; tortuous not because the material is complete shit, but tortuous because the artists he chose to work with vary to such an extreme degree. King Diamond, Dani Filth, some dudes from Killswitch Engage, and Michale Graves, of ex-Misfits fame? Sifting through such a schizophrenic cast of characters was like trying to understand a John Waters film.
Very few of these artists interest me in any way. The recent Michale Graves solo release still gets some action on my iPod, and blasphemous as this might be, I am only vaguely familiar with King Diamond’s extensive career, Mercyful Fate included. Cradle of Filth might as well be Cradle of Crap, because I can smell poo from miles away, and it’s usually coming from their corner of Great Britain. I couldn’t care less about Killswitch Engage. Why am I telling you this? Because Heafy made this cast of characters digestible to someone that would otherwise be completely disinterested in most of their individual work.
Heafy’s collaboration with King Diamond, “In the Fire,” is the most interesting of the four songs on which he serves as “captain.” Side Question: Why captain? Why not songwriter or leader or something that doesn’t sound fruitier than licking cottage cheese off of a wasted Glen Benton’s shriveled ballsack? Getting back to the Diamond track, the guitar work, provided by Heafy and fellow Trivium member Cory Beaulieu sounds similar to that found on any of Diamond’s solo albums. There’s an excellent solo beginning around the 2:30 mark, but the rest of the track is fairly standard Diamond material, which is to say that it kicks pretty large amounts of ass, especially during its latter half. Diamond himself displays the vocal range he’s known for, and one ultimately gets what one expects out of such a collaboration.
“Dawn of a Golden Age” proves to be the most boring song on which Heafy dons the captain’s hat; typical symphonic black metal fare narrated by the most divisive vocalist in mainstream metal. I was actually surprised Heafy could play this material, but he manages to do a pretty good Cradle impression, which will turn people like me off, but fans of Cradle will probably eat this up.
I’ve heard a few Seemless tracks, so I knew what to expect from a collaboration between that group’s vocalist and Heafy. More hard rock than metal, “Blood & Flames” is one of the more melodic Heavy tracks, and it shows that he’s capable of playing slower, more ballad-esque material than what has been shown on his earlier tracks. Jesse David Leach has a good range, and it perhaps carries this track, as the riffs, supplied by Heafy and a dude from Killswitch Engage are, for the most part, tepid. This still ranks as one of Heafy’s better written songs on the album.
Heafy rounds out this metal smorgasbord with “I Don’t Wanna be (a Superhero),” a short little song that touches on so many genres it makes it hard to describe. There’s a definite punk element. I thought of Bad Religion during the first half of the album, but there are moments when the song seems to reach more toward traditional metal, such as when Heafy whips out a pretty standard five or six second solo. Michale Graves provides vocals, and completely nails the feel of the instrumentals. Justin Hagberg from 3 Inches of Blood serves as rhythm guitarist and does an excellent job creating a frantic pace ala Bad Religion. In all honesty, this is my favorite Heafy track, but I imagine most will pick the Diamond collaboration as their favorite.
Picking such a diverse cast and managing to produce songs that sound so different, even though he was songwriter on all four of them, is Matt Heafy’s greatest accomplishment. He proves he has a decent grasp on four different sub-genres, and I left more impressed by that than the songs themselves. Both “I Don’t Wanna be (a Superhero” and “In the Fire” are good songs, but the rest are too by-the-book to warrant praise.
posted on 11/2005 By:
Being assigned to only five songs, I figured writing this review would be a piece of cake. So why did I wait until the absolute last minute to compose this critique? One simple answer: the idea of a handful of (mainly) current Roadrunner bands teaming up to write a song sounds like a terrible idea.
I've been ordered to cover the songs written by Rob Flynn of Machinehead, a band I used to be in love with. Utilizing different vocalists, the rest of the formula stays the same. Consisting of Rob Flynn on guitar, Jordan Whelan of Still Remains on guitar, Christian Olde Wolbers of Fear Factory on bass, and Andols Herrick, formerly of Chimaira, on drums, also worth mentioning is the fact that Jeff Waters of Annihilator appears to do a guest solo on each of these songs.
"The Dagger" begins the record on an extremely promising note. In a brow-raising turn of events, Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage unfortunately utilizes his clean vocals causing a sharp turn in the song that I personally can't say I enjoy. What follows isn't even close to bad, but hey, it's hard to have something too terrible when Jeff Waters lends his talents. To boil it down, I don't like Howard Jones' clean vocals. The rest of the song is sort of a combination of groovy, thrashy, and percussive metalcore. If I had heard this for the first time and had no idea the origin behind it, I'd probably say it's a bit generic, but definitely good.
Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Nailbomb) appears on "Independent (Voice Of The Voiceless)", displaying his always entertaining Portuguese accent. I'm kind of lukewarm when it comes to this song. There's certainly nothing wrong with it, but it seems like there's a lot of reliance on Cavalera's voice, which compliments the music effectively, right into the steady breakdown. As the three or four people who regularly read my reviews know, for me to attach a term like "steady" to a breakdown must mean it's actually pretty good, as I consider most breakdowns to be stagnant and a puzzling waste of time on a record. The solo is excellent, as expected, but apart from those three aspects, the song fails to have a lot of identity.
Everyone's favorite Roadrunner band, Stone Sour, brings us Corey Taylor, also of some band called Slipknot, to lead the way through a quieter track. I can't recall specifics as it's been a while, but if there are any rather slow songs on the first three Machinehead CDs, this sound's identical to at least one of them. It actually sounds fucking awesome, starting with ominous vocals and erupting into what feels like the soundtrack to a city crumbling. Furious yelling, artificial harmonics, and perfectly mixed backup screams to match the ferocity of the rest of the chorus material. Say what you will about either Stone Sour or Slipknot, but truth be told, Corey Taylor truly has one of the most emotive vocal styles, namely when there's some anger behind them. I'd buy and wear out an entire CD of songs like this one. So Rob Flynn, just quit fucking around with thrashy shit and just write another classic Machinehead album.
A MetalReview.com colleague of mine pointed out that "Army Of The Sun" wasn't always intended for Tim Williams of Bloodsimple and once of the legendary Vision of Disorder. Apparently it was offered to Chad Kroeger to sing on, but he was too busy studying unearthing the lost, ancient, and hermetic music theories required to write the latest winner from Nickelback. Really though, it sounds way more catered to Nickelback fans rather than Bloodsimple/VOD followers. There isn't much else I can say about this. It sounds like a modern hard-rock/metal ballad - draw your own conclusions there.
Being a huge Type O Negative fan and an Opeth devotee gone bad, I selected "Roads" as sort of a bonus track to cover. With Michael Akerfeldt handling the major vocal duties and Josh Silver performing backup vocals and keyboard work, the song is a relatively short and somber piece made up of acoustic guitar and what I assume are synthesized strings. For me personally, the two forces seem to equalize and cancel each other out. Silver exhibits some quality songwriting skills, and Akerfeldt does a competent job singing, but neither particularly make for a wholly moving experience.
I don't know if it's just me, as I haven't had the chance to read the others' reviews, but it feels like a lot of the songs on this album, while usually written by only one or two people, seem catered to the band that the vocalist belongs to. So to me, most of this just sounds like second-rate takeoffs of these bands - many being bands that I have a hard enough time understanding the appeal of in the first place. Regardless, if Roadrunner United is the biggest travesty that ever laid upon metal, which it isn't, then metal is still in pretty damn good shape from where I stand. Still, I really wish that this was a collection of songs written and performed mainly by older/former Roadrunner alumni, as that could've been really incredible.
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