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Roadrunner United Review

by Dan Upton

By now you've probably heard of the sprawling project that is Roadrunner United - The All-Star Sessions. Just to recap: spread over 18 tracks are songs from 4 "team captains" featuring 55 musicians from 42 of Roadrunner Records' past and present bands. The idea was that each captain would have a core band and different singers on each song, and that no musician could be on more than one team's songs--it didn't quite work out this way, but that's probably for the best, as breaking the rules gives a little extra flexibility in each songwriter's sound and also gave them a chance to involve more musicians. And then there's "Roads," written by non-team-captain Josh Silver of Type O Negative and capitalizing on recent Roadrunner signing Opeth to pull in Mikael Akerfeldt for vocals. 

Joey Jordison of Slipknot and Murderdolls turns the most songs for the compilation, and probably the most varied set of all the team captains. There's "Annihilation by the Hands of God," groove/death metal featuring Deicide's Glen Benton on vocals and James Murphy of Death, Obituary, and Testament (among others) for the solo. The song is pretty pummeling, although I have to say Benton's monotonous death vocals are boring. Next from Joey is "Tired 'n Lonely," featuring Life of Agony's Keith Caputo on vocals and sounding eerily reminiscent of something Velvet Revolver might churn out. Then there's the emocore ("-core" used loosely) in "No Way Out," featuring Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo. Finally getting back to the metal, there's "Constitution Down" with Exhorder's Kyle Thomas, and then the moody, sprawling closer "Enemy of the State" with Type O Negative's Peter Steele. 

Robert Flynn of Machine Head claims the opening track of the CD with the metalcore of "The Dagger," featuring Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage on vocals and Jeff Waters of Annihilator on the solo. In an attempt to provide "the best song Sepultura never wrote," there's the thrash of "Independent (Voice of the Voiceless)" featuring (who else) Max Cavalera. "The Rich Man" is another textured, moody piece with Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour on vocals and would have been right at home on Stone Sour's debut. Rob's last track showcases Vision of Disorder and Bloodsimple's Tim Williams on "Army of the Sun," and again, based on my experience with VoD, this song would fix in perfectly with their catalog.

Fear Factory and Brujeria's Dino Cazares, who was apparently the guinea pig for the whole project, kicks off his contributions with "The Enemy" featuring Chimaira's Mark Hunter. Again, it's rather metalcore, although it opens and closes with a smooth fingerpicked acoustic riff. Then there's "The End," the lead single featuring other team captain Matt Heafy and doing a good job taking care of Roadrunner's more radio-friendly side such as Thornley and Theory of a Deadman. "Baptized in the Redemption" has a heavy groove and features Coal Chamber's Dez Fafara but is superior to anything his band actually did on its own. Rounding out Dino's set is "No Mas Control" with Ill Nino's Christian Macado, which is better than most of Ill Nino's output but isn't that great compared to some of the other songs on this comp.

And then there's Matt Heafy, the youngest team captain and also from one of Roadrunner's most recent signings... and I'd say he also took on some of the biggest challenges. His first track is "In the Fire" featuring King Diamond on vocals and a long tradeoff solo with Trivium bandmate Corey Beaulieu. Then there's the nod to black metal with "Dawn of a Golden Age," featuring Dani Filth and calling upon blastbeat master Mike Smith of Suffocation. Blastbeats usually are over the top for me, but the blasting in this song is both tasteful and bludgeoning at the same time. Matt also turns in "Blood & Flames" with Jesse David Leach of Seemless (and formerly of Killswitch Engage), which ranges from the galloping groove and riffing of old-school, Maiden-style metal, to a more radio-friendly chorus, and the punk of "I Don't Wanna Be (A Superhero)" with Michael Graves of The Misfits. 

As if all of those songs weren't enough, there's also a DVD with footage from all 4 sessions. I'm generally a fan of footage like that anyway just because it's interesting, but in this case the DVD is almost worth the price of admission on its own--there's some footage of Mike Smith showing off his blastbeat technique, several clips of Jeff Waters laying down the solo to "The Dagger," a complete video of Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu tracking the solo to "In The Fire," and some shots of Steve DiGiorgio laying down the bass for "Annihilation by the Hands of God"--there's enough video of sick technique here to make any musician cry.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this compilation is the stylistic variation across the Roadrunner roster and even across what each songwriter is able to put down. Anybody who listens to this is definitely going to find a song or two they don't care for--for instance, I think "Tired 'n Lonely" and "No Way Out" should have been scrapped to let Heafy or Cazares pen another song--but overall this is an incredible, innovative release from one of the record labels that's been at the front of the heavy music scene for 25 years now.

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Roadrunner United

Label:Roadrunner Records

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