Anthrax and Testament Tear Up Baltimore On Second Leg of Tour
Band Photo: Testament (?)
Anthrax, Testament, and Death Angel recently wrapped up their second leg of U.S. tour dates earlier this month. Baltimore was the second to last stop, on February 7th, and after missing the first leg of the tour in Silver Spring, Maryland, a show at Ram's Head Live was one I couldn't pass up. Despite having stopped in Silver Spring not too long ago, Ram's Head Live was packed pretty close to capacity, if not sold out.
The crowd was noticably older - mostly in their upper thirties and fourties - and for once I didn't feel like the old guy at a metal show. That is, until I saw those who made the show a family affair and brought their teenagers or younger kids. It seemed a little surreal, but bringing my teenage sons is something I could see myself doing in the not too distant future.
When I arrived, Death Angel was already well into their set, despite it being five minutes before they were supposed to take the stage. Having missed the opportunity to photograph the band, I grabbed a beer and enjoyed experiencing their brand of old school thrash. While Death Angel has been around since the 80's thrash scene, I didn't grow up listening to them like the "big 4," so this was my first time seeing the band live.
Death Angel played tight, aggressive thrash. With vocals that are harsh and less melodic than their more successful peers (including the other two bands on this bill), the songs blended together a little to the uninitiated (like me). The band blasted through several songs full steam ahead, with most of the points of interest being the leads and solos, some of which were intensive bouts of shredding. Before I knew it, the band was announcing their last song, which would be "Thrown to the Wolves." It was a fitting closer, with a frantic thrashing groove that got the crowd going some more.
After Death Angel taking the stage early, it would be well over an hour before Testament finally came on, thanks to a fan (presumably on the balcony) who spilled beer on the sound board. With a younger crowd this might have been a serious problem, but this crowd was fairly patient with the delay, if not frozen in place from the stiffness of standing in place for so long. Testament finally took the stage and explained the situation, and seemed genuinely as glad to be able to play as the fans were.
Testament kicked off with "The Preacher" and favored their older material in the early part of the set, even though they threw "The Persecuted Won't Forget" in the mix as the third song. The band continuted playing songs from each and every one of their albums. "Souls of Black" stood out as one I hadn't heard in a while and was a highlight. I don't think I've ever heard the band play anything live off of "The Ritual," so I was very happy when they played "Electric Crown." The execution was great and it came out sounding even heavier than on that overproduced album.
The band members really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Alex Skolnik had a smile on his face, as did Chuck Billy, who spent his time, when not singing, running around the stage and playing air guitar on his quarter mic stand. Appearing so happy while playing such angry music is a paradox I first witnessed seeing Slayer on their "God Hates Us All" tour, but it was no less on display with Testament and Anthrax this evening. The music may be harsh and aggressive, but it's still refreshing to see the musicians having a good time and feeding off the crowd; it helps create a connection with the musicians themselves, rather than just the music, and made for a fantastic and memorable show overall.
With Paul Bostaph out with an injury, Gene Hoglan was pulling double duty by filling in for both Testament and Anthrax. His drumming on Testament's set was seamless, including the faster songs near the end. One of the bands, I believe it was Testament, commented that "Gene is a machine" and that he is. Even after Anthrax's set, he didn't seem tired.
Later in the set, Testament returned to some newer material off their latest album, "The Formation Of Damnation" and the mordern classic "The Gathering," which was fitting to end the set on a higher intensity note. Towards the end of the set, the volume was inching up ever so slightly toward the "too loud" end, which is my only complaint about seeing Testament live. They like to crank it up loud, but often at the expense of sound quality.
While Testament has a new album coming out this year, I was disappointed they didn't play any new songs for us. But they'll surely be out on the road again later in the year to support the new album.
Here is Testament's full set list:
The New Order
The Persecuted Won't Forget
Practice What You Preach
Over the wall
Souls Of Black
Into The Pit
More Than Meets The Eye
Disciples Of The Watch
3 Days In Darkness
Formation of Damnation
Anthrax kicked things off with the intro and a couple tracks - "Earth On Hell" and "Fight 'Em Til You Can't" - from the band's latest album, "Worship Music." Their sound was tight and crisp and very heavy on the low-end. Then there was Joey Belladonna hitting all the notes and delivering a spot-on performance. I was a little surprised at just how great they sounded. The older material sounded revived by this full sound as well when the band broke into "Caught In A Mosh" and then "Antisocial" before heading back into new territory with "The Devil You Know."
It's worth noting that Scott Ian, who had missed some dates in January due to a viral infection, was back on the tour by now. Charlie Benante left the tour to be at home with his terminally ill mother, as did (nephew) Frank Bello. The band didn't miss a step with Hoglan and Armored Saint's Joey Vera filling in, however. As previously stated, Hoglan is a machine and Joey seemed to hold his own on stage as well.
Despite all the adversity Anthrax has been through on this tour, the band members still seemed to be having a great time, perhaps in part due to the reaction received by the Baltimore crowd. Joey Belladonna ran around like he was 20 years younger, interacting with his bandmates as well as the crowd. Scott seemed be enjoying it all as well, and it made for a fun vibe overall, which is fitting for Anthrax's music - they always did seem like the the more fun thrash band as opposed to being all grim destruction. Just check out the photo gallery - you can see it on their faces.
As Anthrax's set went on, I was struck by the pure heaviness, and again the crispness, of "Deathrider." It sounded amazing, as did "Among The Living" a couple songs later. We capured both of these songs on video, and while the videos are of decent quality, they just didn't capture the heaviness of the performances. The only blemish on the set was "Medusa," which the band has been playing again since Joey Belladonna returned to the fold. It's not a bad song, but it just isn't on the same level as the many classics that band has written over the years, and it shows in the crowd reaction every time.
Still, the energy of the band and the crowd was great. The show running much later than usual for this venue, Anthrax still came out to play an encore to a game crowd, performing "Madhouse," "Metal Thrashing Mad" and "I Am The Law."
Anthrax's complete set list was as follows:
Earth On Hell
Zombie Intro - Fight 'Em Til You Can't
Caught In A Mosh
The Devil You Know
In The End
Got The Time
Among The Living
Metal Thrashing Mad
I Am The Law
The older crowd really did change the feel of the show. Despite three thrash bands tearing it up, there was not nearly as much moshing or crowd surfing as one would see at a show drawing a younger crowd. Still, the crowd was appreciative and the bands returned that appreciation in their performances and verbally.
Young or old, get off your couch and out to see these thrash legends next time they tour. Anthrax and Testament especially put on fantasic shows.
Anthrax is set to appear on this year's edition of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival.
Testament has not announced any new tour plans, but should be heading out on the road again once the new album, "The Dark Roots of Earth," is released.
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