I’m willing to bet good money on it having been a really exciting past few months for the guys in Anthrax because not only were they still riding high from the positive reception to their “Worship Music” CD; but they were also now on a headlining trek that immediately followed “The Big Four” event and delivering the Metal Justice with the incredible Testament. The bands had been referring to this as a co-headlining run but Anthrax appeared to be closing all of the shows. Generally with tours like this the bands will swap out on the headlining spot but I had not heard of this happening on this run of shows. Tonight was the final night of the North American Tour and what a way to close it out……being home in New York City. The gigs would be enhanced by the presence of Death Angel and I made sure to get to the Best Buy Theater nice and early to not miss a single note of this killer evening. Here is how it went down.
Death Angel: I had to say that I was really happy to find Death Angel on the bill with these other giants because they have been on a bit of a rise themselves since their “Relentless Retribution” album of 2010 and based on the reaction of the crowd when the band hit the stage, they were very much appreciated by this NYC audience. The band hit the stage like they were on fire. I liked that, and especially since they were the first of three groups. They had a lot to prove to this audience and then again they didn’t have much to prove as the consensus was high on their ass kicking abilities. Singer Mark Osegueda was a flurry of motion and bounded from left to right to left to right on the stage and all the while whipping his lengthy dreadlocks around as he head banged. There was not a lot of time wasted with banter and that was a good thing since the band only seemed to perform for about thirty minutes. Their seven song set featured “I Chose The Sky”, “Mistress Of Pain”, “Truce”, “Claws In So Deep”, “Buried Alive”, “The Ultra Violence”, and “Thrown To The Wolves”. Three of the tunes hailed from the bands most recent album and this is a high recommendation if you do not have it already. This all too brief set proved one thing in the eyes of the New York Metal Republic and that was that Death Angel is welcome back anytime and should visit us again with a headlining set. Now it was time to declare our Testament for Metal.
Testament: I don’t think I need to stress the power and importance that Testament holds in the minds of the Metal Legions of the world but if I do, their 2008 masterpiece “Formation Of Damnation” really planted the seeds of truth into the minds of any that might have been a non-believer in the bands abilities. Even the latter day Testament fans were floored by this monster album and since its release the band has been touring extensively on powerhouse bills with the likes of Slayer and Megadeth that would leave the fans breathless night after night. You saw Testament, and you always wanted more. With this in mind it was fantastic to have them back in New York City on this co-headlining bill. Tonight the band hit the stage in their usual fashion and that was pretty much like a hurricane that was trapped in a small space – as soon as their opening number “The Preacher” began; the floor of the venue started swirling about as the bodies became one mass of humanity. They were a tight machine for sure and a band that demonstrated just how good one can become in the live sense by doing this again and again and again. There was a difference in the lineup of course and that was with the presence of the mighty Gene Hoglan who was now on the drum chair in place of Paul Bostaph. Initially he would suffer and injury and need a stand in but soon after he opted to leave the band. Without meaning any offense to the talents that Paul brought to the band, I had to say that Hoglan was a step up and in the right direction for the overall power of the bands rhythm section. Moving on. As the band rumbled through number after number it was clear that the audience was just as excited for Testament as they were for Anthrax. Who could blame them with guys like their hulking singer Chuck Billy commanding the charge with his LED laden microphone holder. It was like watching the musician brandish a lightsaber as the Metal Forces rallied in front of him.
The bands set was a solid mix of their new and classic material. While three songs would come from the 2008 release they would not bypass their most popular tunes like “Over The Wall”, “Practice What You Preach” and “Disciples Of The Watch”. Through it all the tag-team guitar shredding of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson was without flaw. I love watching Skolnick do his thing on guitar and will make my statement about how I think he is one of the finest musicians in music today. Not only for Metal but for all the other accomplishments as well. I do hope he sticks with Testament and maybe even does some additional guest spots on other band recordings if possible. After the band finished I was drained and we were only 2/3’s done. Thank you Testament for remaining true to the genre and always delivering. If I could make one complaint it would be the omission of “Electric Crown” which I had seen on some of the other reported sets. It’s one of my favorite tunes so I kind of wanted to hear it. Oh well, you can’t always get what you want. Now, let there be Anthrax.
Anthrax: I’ve already said how cool it had to be to be Anthrax right now but tonight would also be a show that while exciting and a feather in their hometown cap, was also one that brought a lot of personal sadness with it. You see it was only a couple of days ago that Charlie Benante’s mother (and Frankie Bello’s aunt) had passed away after battling serious illness. It could not have been easy to get up on the stage for these two but in the spirit and memory of their loved one made sure to be there for their fans. After the intro of “Worship Music” the guys came out all guns a blazing and one could expect nothing less since this was home and the final night of the current North American tour. It was strange to hear “Earth On Hell” as the actual opener since the last time I saw them this closed out the set. I did love “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t” which is one of my favorites from the new album. The driving tune is about killing zombies which is perfect for this “Walking Dead” world that we are in today. I’m speaking of course about the hit television show. “Caught In A Mosh” would be the first legacy song and the one that pushed the fans over the brink. I really wasn’t sure where they were all finding the energy as singer Joey Belladonna kept holding the microphone over their heads for additional screams and response. The crowd surfing was pretty awesome during the Testament set but I had to say that during the Anthrax set it was almost non-stop. “Antisocial” got its usual sing along intro with the fans and it’s pretty much become an Anthrax song at this point in Metal history even though it was written and performed originally by Trust. I do like how they do it so will not complain. “The Devil You Know” would be the last of the new numbers that they would deliver tonight and then it was a strict focus to their back catalog. Some of my friends complained about too much of the “same old set” being done when it comes to Anthrax and while I can agree in some sense about this, I can also see the bands point. They left out the song “Only” this time around and that was a John Bush era tune but they would do “Deathrider” which is a Neil Turbin era tune from way back in the day. I really enjoyed hearing this and don’t think I ever saw Anthrax do it.
Belladonna was having a blast and of course so was the rest of the gang. I love the expressions and into the music faces we get from guitarist Scott Ian. He has to be one of the happiest guys in the world up there by the looks of it. So the set really didn’t feature any additional way out of left field surprises but that is because Anthrax seems to be a band that does not want to sacrifice any of the staple numbers. I did love hearing “Medusa” again and “Madhouse” again but perhaps it’s time to put “I Am The Law” on the shelf for a little while along with any trace of “I’m The Man”. We did get a teaser taste of that song, but I don’t think that today’s Metal fans really care about that one at the end of the day. Bring back “Gung Ho” or “Stand Or Fall” if they think Joey still has the pipes for those throttling tunes. I would love to see that happening. There did seem to be some issues with the sound tonight because I watched from several different locations and felt that it was not evenly mixed. Friends at various spots in the room also said that while they were enjoying the gig that the sound was leaving them less than enthused.
So there you have it. The audience left the Best Buy Theater soaked to the bone and some of them were bruised but by their own adventuring. Everyone who performed delivered the best and it showed from the moment this show started. Next up Death Angel will join Sepultura on some dates while Testament will headline in other regions and Anthrax will be seen again as one of the main stage bands for the Rockstar Mayhem Fest with Slayer and Slipknot. Keep the Metal flags flying my friends, we shall see you in the trenches again soon.
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Official Web Site: www.anthrax.com
Official Web Site: www.testamentlegions.com
Official Web Site: www.deathangel.us
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