By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
During the month of January, musicians and fans are getting ready for one of the biggest music conventions in the world, The NAMM Show. Held during mid-January, it is where people gather to check out the newest products and instruments that will be hitting the shelves later on this year or in the nearest future. Also, this is when a multitude of concerts and shows are happening all weekend in both Orange County and Los Angeles. On Thursday, opening day of NAMM, the House of Blues in Anaheim once again played host to the all-star metal jam group, Metal Allegiance. Started up by bassist and founder Mark Menghi, this tremendous supergroup comes together with different guest artists to blast the eardrums off to help kick off NAMM weekend. Opening up for them this year included hard rockers Weapons of Anew and thrashers Exmortus. Trauma was another opener, but we missed them. Time to kick NAMM the right way, which is the metal way.
New Jersey based, Weapons of Anew were looking to get the fans blood going with jovial hard rock fun. Frontman Ray West had a soaring voice and magisterial presence on stage that the crowd, while guitarist Freddy Ordine was lightning on his riffs. His guitar licks are tasty mix of smoothness with a metallic crunch that does major damage. I was truly impressed with his blazing solo on “Killshot.” Chris Manfre was bashing with authority on the drums, with a slight technical meticulousness that is simple enough to get behind. Stefan Cutrupi wailed on the bass notes with such force. Having just released their new EP last December, Weapons of Anew performed their top tunes like “Killshot,” “Brave,” “Sundown,” “This Moment,” “Blood From Stone,” and “Speed.” For a good 30 minutes, metalheads were getting warm thanks to Weapons of Anew’s hard rock delight.
Full Weapons of Anew gallery below:
From melodic hard rock to extreme thrash/death metal, Exmortus appeared to the stage. This is where the true fun began as the mosh pits opened up in full force. Exmortus, with their intense shredding and wretched singing, caused chaotic excitement. Vocalist/guitarist and founder Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez was guttural and fierce with both his singing and guitar playing. Chase Becker gave the Anaheim crowd gritty ferocity on guitar, often tag-teaming with Conan and exchanging solos. At one point, Becker gave a tower for Rabit to shoot. Bringing the vividness of the extreme beats were bassist Phillip Nunez and drummer Adrian Aguilar. Exmortus’ fist-pumping lyrics dealt with themes of war and battles. I did not catch their set list, but from what I gathered from their YouTube channel, they played “Slave to the Sword,” “Swallow Your Soul,” and “Legions of the Undead,” among others. Extreme metal was given its forte thanks to Exmortus.
Full Exmortus gallery below:
Before Metal Allegiance came out, WWE Superstar and self-styled metalhead Erick Rowan gave them a grand introduction. After that, the first tune performed was an MA original, “The Accuser,” with Mastodon’s Troy Sanders singing his guts out. Menghi, drumming legend Mike Portnoy, and Testament lead guitarist Alex Skolnick are the main members of the group, and they were joined by a who’s who of metal legends that came to play. From Armored Saint’s John Bush to Overkill’s Bobby Blitz and Testament’s Chuck Billy, these ravenous vocalists lent their beastly screams with all their might. As for guitarists, Skolnick was joined by the likes of Machine Head’s Phil Demmel, Arch Enemy’s Jeff Loomis, Revocation’s Dave Davidson, Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser, and Slayer/Exodus’ Gary Holt, who sported a blue ESP guitar with a police badge molded on the front. It was his way of tell his fans “you will respect my playing.” All of these vicious riff masters poured their souls into all the songs they played. Portnoy even had help on the kit with Slayer/Suicidal Tendencies’ Dave Lombardo and Shadow Falls/Overkill’s Jason Bittner. Exodus bass master Jack Gibson was there for the fun.
Metal Allegiance played a great set list that consisted of original tunes like “Bound By Silence,” “Can’t Kill the Devil,” “Mother of Sin,” and “Let Darkness Fall,” as well a whole bunch of covers they love to jam to. From Metallica’s “Leper Messiah” to Judas Priest’s “Exciter,” Exodus’ “Toxic Waltz,” Overkill’s “Wrecking Crew,” UFO’s “Lights Out,” and Anthrax’s “What Doesn’t Die,” this was the ultimate metal celebration. When they came to Slayer’s catalogue, that’s when they brought out Death Angels’ frontman Mark Osegueda to bring his rage to “Angel of Death,” “Raining Blood,” and “Postmortem.” Afterwards, the group paid respects to the late drumming legend Neil Peart with their version of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” where Portnoy conquered the intense and technical drum work Peart made legendary. Next thing you know, the whole group came out to sing to us their “Pledge of Allegiance,” and finally pay homage to Motörhead and the late great Lemmy with “Overkill.” It was at that point that Sanders whipped out his signature Jaguar bass to lay down the melody perfectly. Lombardo and Portnoy would proceed an attempt to outdo each other with one of the best drum battles out there, where one would not let the other gain the upper end. It was the perfect ending for the night.
Full Metal Allegiance gallery below:
Like I mentioned before, this was the best way to kick off NAMM weekend. We were treated to a glorified jam session where metal legends shared their passion with the fans. Openers Weapons of Anew and Exmortus were excellent selections to kick off the night. While the Observatory celebrated the life of Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul at Dimebash, we celebrated heavy metal as a whole. We pledge our allegiance to it. To Metal Allegiance, Exmortus, and Weapons of Anew, I salute you. Horns up!!!