It’s been a tough time for the music business of late. Not only has the metal genre lost the likes of revered icon Lemmy and one of Megadeth’s favourite sons Nick Menza, but the wider industry has also mourned the passing of legends including Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Merle Haggard. It seems we are getting to that stage where a generation or two of stars will sadly start to fall with regularity. The loss of so many of his influences spurred bassist Mark Menghi into action. Aided by gifted Testament six stringer Alex Skolnick and drummer extraordinaire Mike Portnoy, best known for his 22 year stint in progressive metal masters Dream Theater, Menghi sought to honour his fallen heroes, enlisting the help of a trio of guest singers for this three track EP.
Things open up with Mastodon’s Troy Sanders taking the lead for a cover of Motörhead’s “Iron Fist”. Sanders does a pretty good job at mimicking Lemmy, his phrasing and delivery of the lyrics spot on as he barks over a thick wall of guitars and bass. Portnoy could perhaps do with loosening up a little, his drumming a bit too neat and clinical, although the addition of double bass to the verses works quite well in another wise faithful cover.
Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda is up next, taking on an amped up version of Bowie’s “Suffragette City”. It’s an energetic interpretation, and while Osgueda lacks Bowie’s effortless charisma, he sings with great passion and enthusiasm. The band is clearly enjoying themselves, with Portnoy and Skolnick showing off their chops with drum fills and blazing leads respectively. There’s a moment or two where these minor indulgences are ill fitting, but for the most part it’s an effective, beefed up cover of a 70s hard rock classic.
Alissa White-Gluz leads closer “Life in the Fast Lane”, a mid-70s hit for rock giants Eagles. Again it’s another rendition that dispenses of the swagger of the original in favour of a more straightforward metal style, complete with double bass flourishes and razor sharp riffing. In light of this, White-Gluz wisely dispenses of Don Henley’s suave demeanour, instead going toe to toe with the driving metal backdrop provided by the instrumental core.
The heavy, souped-up renditions of these songs may ruffle a few traditionalist feathers, but it’s always a positive to see a band shy away from playing it safe. Whilst these covers don’t top the originals (and I don’t expect anyone thought they would), they all possess an infectious energy that make them easy to enjoy. This is the sound of musicians having fun and it’s hard not to smile as they gleefully pay tribute to influential figures that helped shape their careers.
Rating: 3.5/5 – An enjoyable metal tribute to recently departed music legends