Testament & Death Angel Rounded out Strong Lineup
Band Photo: Testament (?)
Anthrax’s Big 4 thrashin’ glory had not graced the halls of Texas’ capital since joining Pantera in 1997. During the last fourteen years, Austin’s avid devotees to the cult of NOT were forced to travel the hour-plus journey to find their selves “Caught in a Mosh.” This last appearance was the “American Carnage” tour with Slayer and Megadeth during the summer of 2010—the same lineup as the “Clash of the Titans” tour in 1991. Tonight’s lineup may not have featured three of the Big 4 thrash icons, but with Second Wave thrash staples, Testament and Death Angel, this tour surely featured enough neck-wrecking force to wear the “Clash of the Titans” title.
While there was no shortage of banging heads, the evening could have stocked up on banging bodies. Sure, Anthrax put the crowd in motion a number of times, but the place wasn’t a “Madhouse” like the footage relayed from their 1980s performances. The concert hall was vast enough that pits would have evaded my eyes, but I don’t recall seeing any significant movement during Death Angel, and the pit widened when Anthrax took the stage with “Earth on Hell,” but the circle shrank after the first track. Of course, their classic war-dance breakdown during “Indians” and closer “I Am the Law” instigated more rowdiness.
Stage diving wasn’t allowed, so there is no meter for that activity, but the fans from Anthrax’s popularity peak in the late eighties to early nineties are twenty years older and no longer possess that teen angst. Even though plenty of younger fans showed up, they either weren't in force like their older fans or just didn’t bring the energy like the thrashers of yesteryear. Testament never seemed like a mosh band, at least that’s what the crowd’s actions stated in every show I’ve seen. Here, fans wore out vocal chords instead of lungs and limbs.
The doors opened around 7 and Death Angel took the stage around 8. Guitarist Rob Cavestany is the sole remainder of the Filipino cousins that started the group. Mark Osegueda still grips the mic, so the core of the band is still intact. Osegueda commanded the stage, assuming bold stances during spot-on vocal performances. Like the writhing snakes forming Medusa’s hair, Osegueda’s dreads took on a life of their own during hard-driven musical breaks. The mix could have been clearer, but the group played passionately and Osegueda’s voice was in top form. Their half-hour set catered to a wide expanse of material, which climaxed with “Thrown to the Wolves” from the 2004 album “The Art of Dying.”
Death Angel left the stage, but would return to the stage when Testament wished Rob Cavestany a happy birthday. The Testament crew brought out a cake and Chuck Billy led the crowd in singing happy birthday.
Much like Death Angel, fellow California Bay Area act, Testament took a long hiatus due to Chuck Billy’s health issues. Since releasing “The Formation of Damnation,” Testament has been on a tear. Having joined Megadeth and Exodus on the “Rust in Peace” 20th Anniversary tour, this would mark their second consecutive year in Austin. The Megadeth tour worked on the theme of classic albums—Megadeth performed all of “Rust in Peace,” while Testament unpacked “The Legacy.” Because Testament devoted most of their time to “The Legacy,” the group didn’t offer much in terms of new material. Tonight’s set list focused more on new material.
Even though “The Formation of Damnation” was one of the comeback albums of the decade, and the group showcased some of its best songs such as “More Than Meets the Eye,” the fans came to hear classic material. “Into the Pit,” “The Haunting,” “Envy Life” and essential “Souls of Black” got the nostalgia factor flowing. “Electric Crown” was an expected surprise from the overlooked and underrated “The Ritual” album. The ballad-heavy and flashier style turned off many fans and was Alex Skolnick’s swan song until his recent return. However, this was arguably Billy’s best vocal performance. “3 Days of Darkness” and “D.N.R. (Do not Resuscitate)” recalled material from one of the highlights of the ‘90s—“The Gathering.”
Watching Gene Hoglan (ex-Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory) play the Dave Lombardo drum rhythms of “The Gathering,” was surely a treat, and "Gene Gene The Drum Machine" was up to task. It was also a treat seeing the return of Alex Skolnick from the group’s initial lineup. The white-stripped, black-haired guitarist showed why he is considered one of the world’s great guitar shredders. He played no Christmas music tonight (probably saving that for December), just slick leads and brawny riffs. Although Chuck Billy voice was nothing short of monstrous and his onstage banter, often standing next to Hoglan on his elevated platform, stirred up the electricity in the audience. Even though he never sold me on his mic-stand-air-guitar technique, his glowing, moble mic stand related a cool Star Wars effect during dark interludes.
Following cue from Testament and Death Angel, Anthrax opened with a barrage of new hits. Also, like their predecessors, the new material was great but fans came out to for the oldies. Chorus-charged songs “The Devil You Know” and “I’m Alive” were an indicator of Joey Belladonna’s voice. Questions were in abundance regarding Belladonna’s return. He had been absent for nearly twenty years. All these questions were put to rest. Classic songs “Indians” and “Metal Thrashing Mad” were tests of range and he passed with an A (for anarchy). He devoted the later track to die-hards who were there since the “Fistful of Metal” early days. This track was a bit of a surprise, seems how the group rerecorded and released a video for “Deathrider.”
The biggest surprise of Anthrax’s set was a cover of Sepultura’s “Refuse Resist.” Using the comedic wit that characterizes Anthrax, Scott Ian introduced the song by saying, “This is something we’ve been working on.” Belladonna joined Benante at the drum kit, hitting the snare and recreating the tribal vibe of the original.
More madness came in the form of “Madhouse” from the “Spreading the Disease” album. The audience tested their voices on “State of Euphoria” essentials “Be All End All” and “Antisocial.” The group represented “Persistence of Time” with their rendition of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time.” They put a spotlight on “Among the Living,” their breakout record, playing “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” as a second encore and ending with expected closer “I am the Law.”
The show started with poor sound, but was soon rectified. Those bemoaning the closing of Emo’s downtown soon forgot about the club upon hearing the superior sound and seeing the massive stage of Emo’s East. Emo’s East destroyed Emo’s in every regard except the east side “EAST SIIIDE” location. Testament and Anthrax battled for the best performance of the night, which is a tough call because both bands played hard. Both singers were pitch-perfect—Belladonna is clearly the best singer of the Big 4. He was back in the group’s height of popularity and he is now. Don’t expect to see another Dan Nelson mess anytime soon!
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