Anthrax and Testament, House Of Blues – Anaheim, January 23, 2012
There was a very compelling reason to make the trek to Downtown Disney this wet Monday night in January. Three, actually and their names were Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel. While buddy Dave and I got in to see the last song of the opener’s set, the venue was already packed and sweaty and plenty of hair was flying. Tonight was co-headliners Testament’s turn to take the middle set and as the lights lowered the anticipation rose. Chuck Billy is as generous as he is imposing and he was all smiles and air guitars throughout the band’s massively powerful set. One of the architects of the thrash/speed metal genres, Testament laid down charging beats, chugging dual guitars and fast-chanted raspy vocals for opener The Preacher. Lights flashed along with Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson’s amazing fretwork. While the safest place to be at the venue was in the upstairs bar, the best place was the front of the crowd pressed up against the photo pit barrier as bodies flew over and fists were raised to yell, scream and sing along to the metal masterpieces. Billy’s glowing microphone stand was part light saber, part motorcycle handlebar and part muffler pipe, the singer swinging it upside down to play air guitar on it. Testament’s style of metal is dark and dangerous, yet still focused on dynamics, tempo changes and mind-altering guitar solos.
Yes, Testament played Practice What You Preach and D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate), two iconic metal songs that belong in the Bible of Thrash. Into the Pit was a highlight of the night, the band a whirlwind of energy spinning the audience into a frenzy of flying hair and thrown up metal signs. Electric Crown is the Testament crossover song, proving that Billy can sing tunefully and the band can do melody along with their brutality. Testament wrapped up their set with the intense Disciples of the Watch. Billy alternated between fast spit vocals and throaty growls, inciting fans to most to the insane beat and red-hot solos.
I’ve seen Anthrax many times throughout their career, and never have they been anything less than amazing. Their most famous songs invite audience interaction, especially in call and response songs Caught In A Mosh and Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) and I just learned after all these years that Antisocial is from a French band named Trust. Anthrax presented many songs from their new Worship Music disc, featuring the long awaited return of Joey Belladonna, who was in fine voice on this, the second night of their tour with Testament. They opened with Earth is on Hell and Fight ‘Em ‘Till You Can’t, proving that the band, celebrating their 30th year, still have plenty of fire in them and plenty to prove to the world. Charlie Benante created a militant beat as well as dropping percussive bombs throughout the venue as the set began. Caught in a Mosh got the not so young punks on the floor to swinging their knees and elbows. We chanted along with Belladonna “I ain’t gonna live my life this way/ Cold sweat, my fists are clenching/ Stomp, stomp, stomp, the idiot convention.” Anthrax made Antisocial one of their signature songs decades ago, a call to arms and a theme for acceptance in an intolerable world. The Devil You Know is one of the catchiest songs on Worship Music, again incited fans to move and yell along, the song full of melodic changes and hackle-rising moments. The band was just warming up as they introduced Indians, still so vital years on, one of the band’s more socially conscious songs. The pit opened up, heads banged and the crowd roared along with Belladonna “Love the land and fellow man/ Peace is what we strive to have” and “…A flag of many colors is/ What this land is all about.” In the End, the closer on the new album came next. A dark number as close to mid-tempo as Anthrax get, the song was emotional and epic, with ominous drums and swirling and uplifting guitars. It shows Anthrax are just getting better in the song-writing department and was a glory to experience in a live setting, with the vibrations washing over us.
Exhibiting their humor, Frank Bello’s vibrant bass riff introduced Joe Jackson’s Got The Time, it was a fun two minutes, taking me back to he 1990’s, seeing them on the Persistence of Time tour with Public Enemy and Primus, yet tonight I was shoulder to shoulder, smiling along with fellow fans. They dusted off Medusa from 1985’s Spreading the Disease, a song owing more to Iron Maiden than anything the band did afterwards, a welcome blast from their youthful past. More dust was kicked off Metal Thrashing Mad from debut album Fistful of Metal when some of the band were barely out of their teens and Thrash wasn’t yet known. Belladonna wailed on the high notes (“Whoooooaaaaoooooooyeah” Meeeeeeeeeeeetaaal!”) and the song wouldn’t sound much out of place on the Sunset Strip with Motley Crue and the local hair metal bands of the day. You don’t have to be a comic book fan to appreciate I Am the Law, but the song is inspired by the future cop anti-hero from the 80’s that is getting a movie remake starring Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, RED). Benante and Bello layed out a swinging rhythm, Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano tore through some killer solos, the fans fell on the sweat-soaked pit and vocal chords were ruined chanting the song title. But just when we thought the band was done, Benante slung out a hip-hop beat and Ian chugged into the Hava Nagila riff for a bit of I Am the Man. Bello sneered into his microphone the poorly rhymed lyrics, Ian commenting that even after 30 years together, Benante still had to “Watch the Beat”! Anthrax finished off the night returning to I Am The Law, leaving us tired, sweaty, hoarse, sore and happy to have the chance to experience the might band in such intimate confines. The guys stayed on stage bowing and clapping, taking pictures, throwing out guitar picks and drum sticks in appreciation of the fans that have kept them going for three decades.
(Review and Photos by Bret Miller)