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
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
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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