In the thrash world, and across the metal community at large, there exists a square of pillars known as the Big Four. The comprising entities are, in no particular order, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. All four emerged from the still rather primordial molten metal of the 1980s, and if there were NCAA brackets of metal, this is the Final Four of Metal Madness. These are the acts that survived it all, and mostly lived to tell the tale, albeit some emerging a bit rougher than others do.
The bass players of these acts, Cliff Burton, David Ellefson, Frank Bello, and Tom Araya, respectively, played no small part in putting their brands on the map permanently. The four have recently been pooling resources as well as fan bases to showcase super-tours, where fans can see most are all of these acts in a single evening. Unfortunately, this degree of brotherhood and professional courtesy has not always been evident, most notably in the case of Metallica and Megadeth. “When you’re still climbing up the hill,” David Ellefson reflects, “there’s no room for friendly competition. But once you’ve been to the top of the hill and you’ve seen the view—which all of the Big Four have—it’s OK to break bread, hang out, have a drink.”
The rock and metal world is fortunate that Dave Mustaine’s bass-clef twin David Ellefson decided to break bread with old-school Anthrax alumnus Frank Bello, while the two were touring together and producing bass guitar clinics. What began as an attempt to sketch out some crude backing tracks for clinic jams quickly evolved into a mutual realization that these two men are not hired guns, but thoughtful artists with a variety of talents, and a message to impart via composition.
So it was that in 2014 the gentlemen formed a project to be known as Altitudes & Attitude, which mostly keeps Ellefson on bass duties, with Bello meanwhile stepping forward into more of a frontman role, holding down the vocal delivery and rhythm guitar. While the duo did release a three-track EP in 2014 to serve as a sort of proof of concept, the EP is upgraded in 2019 to a complete full-length album release, with a re-recording of the original songs, plus ten all-new songs.
To anyone immediately wondering if the album sounds like Anthrax or Megadeth, the album is neither, and a hint of both, although it is clear the songwriting and feel leans far more to the more melodic elements of Anthrax (think Volume 8, White Noise, etc.). Although it never loses that Bush-era Anthrax vibe (which is no bad thing at all), it is decidedly an animal all its own. The vibe and style is much more hard rock than metal, although make no mistake; it has definite retro metal throwback power, and then some. In fact, one might argue the major key rockers have just a hint of the golden age of punk. The single-kick drumming and the medium-gain rhythm guitars are a refreshing detour from full-on maximum gain blast beat metal with mids given no chance to breathe. To that end, the album features a healthy variety of reputable guest rockers, from Ace Frehley, to Nita Strauss, to Gus G, to Steel Panther’s Satchel. We are even treated to piano contributed by David’s aspiring music producer daughter Athena.
One very important area that deserves clarification is the lyrical content. It may be tempting to assess the song writing as banal or even simple, with songs like “Booze and Cigarettes,” “Get it Out,” or “Talk to Me,” but the seemingly basic lyrics and straightforward composition disguise the fact that much of the songwriting functions as a reflective diary, primarily for the life experiences of Frank Bello, who has seen more of life’s ugliness than most. For example, where someone like Lemmy might deliver a song about booze and cigarettes literally, Frank’s version is about encouraging his grandmother to live life to the fullest when not in chemo treatments. Likewise is the song “Slip,” about a nice friendly neighbor who spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse. Putting life experiences into art is a valuable step in moving forward, and we are glad Bello used this opportunity to give himself some needed therapy while treating the rest of us to some kickin’ tunes.
For better or worse, the album mostly sticks to a single recipe, such that if you enjoy a promotional video on YouTube, you are sure to enjoy the whole album. Frank delivers dependable vocals while Ellefson absolutely kills it on well-mixed bass parts, bordering on being “lead bass” of Harry Shearer fame. The guest lead guitarists all bring some A-game playing, while all sounding exactly like themselves, which is enjoyable. Ace sounds like Ace and Gus sounds like Gus.
As a whole, this is a cool album. While it is not going to change music, as we know it, it serves as one of those enjoyable excursions of music like Liquid Tension Experiment or Sons of Apollo, where it is just some good old-fashioned fun for its own sake. If you are the sort who used to watch That Metal Show, and yearn for the golden yesteryears of rock and metal, this record is a very safe bet. This is some insightful down-to-earth hard rocking, from the streams of old school real deal consciousness. Megaforce is releasing this new heavy hitter on January 19, be sure to check it out here.
Released By: Megaforce Records
Release Date: January 19th, 2019
Altitudes & Attitude Is:
- Frank Bello / Vocals, Electric Rhythm Guitars, Bass Solo
- David Ellefson / Bass, Electric Rhythm Guitars
- Jeff Friedl / Drums
- Christian Martucci / Lead & Melody Guitars
- Ace Frehley / Electric Lead Guitars
- Miki Black / Backing Harmony Vocals/additional
- Jon Donais / Electric Lead Guitar Solo
- Nita Strauss / Electric Guitar Solo
- Miki Black / Backing Harmony Vocals
- Gus G / Lead Guitar Solo
- Russ Parrish / Nylon String, Electric Lead Guitar and Solos
- Athena Ellefson / Piano
- Randy Walker / Hammond Organ
“Get it Out” Track-Listing:
1. Get It Out
3. Out Here
4. Part Of Me
6. Talk To Me
9. Another Day
10. All There Is
11. Booze And 12. Tell The World
13. Here Again
This album is tricky to score for originality. While straight-ahead hard rock is not especially original, per se, it is when it is a joint project by two of the oldest families in the heavy metal mafia. The writing and musicianship are patently Frank and Dave, and that carries some value for most of us in the metal world. If you like rocking with anything from Alice Cooper and Kiss, to (obviously) Anthrax and Megadeth, you will get some good mileage out of this album.