Anniversaries provide record labels with the perfect excuse to reissue albums you've owned for years, complete with fresh packaging and tons of extras you never knew you needed. There might even be a televised special, featuring some of the label's biggest artists singing duets together to promote those re-releases. But Roadrunner Records, which for 25 years has influenced and nurtured modern metal's evolution, took a different tack.
In addition to the requisite reissues (Coal Chamber's self-titled debut, King Diamond's Abigail, Killswitch Engage's Alive or Just Breathing among them), Roadrunner is releasing an epic collaborative effort to commemorate the milestone: Roadrunner United: The All Star Sessions, which hits stores on Tuesday.
United features more than 50 members of Roadrunner's roster, both artists who at one time called the label home and others that still do. Acts from the label's formative years — like black metallers Deicide, Brazilian thrashers Sepultura, goth-metal band Type O Negative and electronic metal stalwarts Fear Factory — through today's lineup of formidable metal bands, including Chimaira, Opeth and Trivium, are represented throughout the album's 18 tracks.
Each song on the disc was written by one of four "team captains," who entered various recording studios with the members of their core teams — two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer from the Roadrunner roster, but no one from the captain's own band — and recorded the tunes. Singers were summoned to write lyrics and record vocal tracks later on.
Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison was the first of the four captains (the others being Machine Head frontman Robert Flynn, former Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares and Trivium mainman Matthew Heafy) to be pitched the all-stars idea. He said it wasn't at all challenging to work with musicians he'd never met before on the five songs he penned.
"For me, I was just really honored to meet all of these artists who've really inspired me through the whole time growing up as a metal head, and helped shape me as a songwriter," he explained. His team consisted, at times, of former Vision of Disorder guitarist Matt Baumbach, Chimaira's Matt DeVries, Malevolent Creation's Rob Barrett and Obituary's James Murphy. "I wrote in five different styles for this album, and I'm just fortunate I got everyone on board I'd wanted for these tracks. It's been a great experience, and just meeting all these killer people helped me learn a lot."
It also provided Jordison with an outlet for the type of material he'd never bring to Slipknot. "The song 'No Way Out' with [Glassjaw's] Daryl Palumbo, 'Tired 'N Lonely' with [Life of Agony's] Keith Caputo, 'Enemy of the State' with [Type O Negative's] Peter Steele — these are all songs that I'd never approach Slipknot with," he said. "It was also a sort of token of my appreciation [to Roadrunner]. I'm glad to have been a part of it, and I considered it a fulfilling experience, as a whole."
The album features several musicians who cut ties with the label years ago, and whose splits with Roadrunner Records were both public and acrimonious. Take Life of Agony frontman Caputo, for instance.
"Well, Joey asked me to do it, and I completely respect him and was honored that he asked me," Caputo said. "I'm one of his favorite singers so that's a plus. It begins and ends with Joey, for me. We did a great song — it's exactly what we wanted, creatively speaking. Most importantly, I feel like I met someone who I can deeply connect with artistically and spiritually."
Caputo worked with Jordison over the course of a year on the track, and the two met for the first time only last week. "It was mostly phone calls back and forth, but we had a lot of different ideas," he explained, describing the track as "[Johnny] Cash on crack." "The song's bangin' and it's one of my favorite songs I've ever sung. Really, it's just cool that, after so many years and all the heartache, the horror stories, the headaches and the bullsh--, I'm at such peace in my life right now, and it's pretty cool I'm on a Roadrunner record again."
Baumbach's former band V.O.D.'s divorce from Roadrunner was even messier, but the guitarist, who's left the heavy behind with his newest project, the Current, said he's had ample time to heal those wounds. "I can look back and I know those years were really the best years for our band, the Roadrunner years, regardless of anything that happened label-wise," he said. "You forget about the crap."
While the album is perhaps the most fitting method for marking the label's 25th year, it could end up fostering an unintended result. Several of the artists who collaborated for these songs said the experience yielded the possibility for side projects — with many of the metallers proclaiming they'd either like to work together again or already have material which failed to make the disc on the backburner.
Fear Factory's Cazares said his sessions with Sepultura's Andreas Kisser, Soulfly's Roy Mayorga and Slipknot's Paul Gray left him with a pair of tracks recorded, and others written and waiting to be set to tape. "We'll see what happens," Cazares said. "We might end up forming a project out of it. The chemistry between us in the studio was killer. We were really surprised at how easy and fun it was. The vibe was so killer that we're seriously considering starting a whole other band. That's what's so great about this album, is that other projects could emerge from it. You know, we all basically share a connection. We know each other from touring, and we all share the same idea: metal."
As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, the label's also planning a concert for December 15 in New York, which will feature performances from the artists involved in United; no venue has been determined yet.